Move over Portugal and southern Spain—Morocco and Marrakesh are here. While the Algarve and Costa del Sol have dominated the Mediterranean golf scene, Marrakesh is rapidly becoming the new golfer’s destination. And with 300-plus days of sunshine annually, why not? There are no less than six golf courses within a 20-minute drive of downtown Marrakesh, with almost as many courses under construction to open by the end of 2015. If you are not up for a full 18-hole, 72-strokes course, try Atlas Golf, a nine-hole, par-three bit of fun. Views of the Atlas Mountains (frequently snow-capped during winter months) contrasted with palm, olive and eucalyptus trees are worth the walk alone. Green fees run about $85. Most clubs will rent full golf bags ($30-$40) and golf carts ($25-$50), and caddies are usually compulsory, costing about $15. Below, find my golfing husband’s top five choices in the Red City (but don’t count out Assoufid, Domaine Royal Palm, Noria Golf and nine-hole Atlas Golf).
Royal Golf Club
This golf course, commissioned by the Pasha of Marrakech, opened in 1933, making it the oldest golf course in Morocco. Churchill and Eisenhower have played here, too, so you’ll be in good historical company. Another nine holes where recently added to the original 18 holes. Royal Golf has the most mature plantings, with towering trees lining most holes and providing shade for restaurants and outdoor seating area.
Al Maaden Club
This club features 18 holes of golf raised to an art form. Besides a superbly beautiful landscape, Al Maaden’s sculpture park of 12 large-scale installations decorates the course landscape. It’s located just five minutes around the corner from Royal Golf, too, just in case you want play 36 holes in one day.
Samanah Country Club
Villas and townhomes surround this 18-hole, 6,800-meter, par-72 course. This is a “Desert Golf” design; fairways and several feet of rough on either side are lush, but outside of that playing zone there is typically only sand, rock, scrub brush and cacti. Two large lakes add to obstacles. Watch your aim!
Amelkis Golf Club
Just across from Royal Golf, discover a completely different experience at Amelkis’ 27 holes. Another “Desert Golf” design—and lacking the trees of the Royal Golf—Amelkis’ beauty comes from landscaping and plantings around luxury villas lining the fairways. It was designed by Cabell B. Robison, one of Europe’s top golf architects, who worked for Robert Trent Jones, Sr. (designer of the Palmaraie golf course). Relax afterwards with a cool drink at the clubhouse.
Keep your slice or hook in check—or bring lots of extra balls—if you’re playing here, as there are 11 lakes on the 27 holes. Designed by Trent Jones, Sr., this course surrounds the Golf Place hotel complex. Bring the whole family to the hotel and when you tee it up, the rest of family can swim, play tennis or enjoy the restaurants while play the course.