Tee up in paradise: Mauritius proving hot spot for golfers

Though more famous for its beaches than birdie opportunities, the island of Mauritius is proving itself a hot spot for golfers seeking to tee up in the tropics. Richard Holmes scouts out a few courses worth adding to your scorecard this year.

Golfers teeing up at Ile aux Cerfs enjoy a boat ride to the clubhouse. Pictures supplied

Take my advice. If you play just one golf course in Mauritius, make it Ile aux Cerfs. Spread out across an island cast adrift in the sparkling bay of Trou d’Eau Douce, this remarkable track by Bernhard Langer presents one of the most memorable golfing experiences Africa has to offer.

For starters, the island vibes begin long before you tee up on the 1st. To reach the clubhouse of Ile aux Cerfs – the ‘Island of Deer’ – you’ll step aboard a speedboat for a short but memorable transfer to the clubhouse jetty.

Allow plenty of time before teeing up. Not just for the ride across the warm lagoon waters, but you’ll want to factor in some time on the range for a warm-up. Although this may be a scenic resort course, Langer puts accuracy and length to the test with narrow fairways, mangrove forests, long carries and plenty of water lurking in wait.

But it’s a hugely enjoyable course to play, with a choice of four tee boxes that make the track slightly more accessible for those with high handicaps. Have your camera ready at the par-4 5th, where pristine tidal waters protect the green, as well as the glorious 11th that stretches between palm-lined beaches and mangrove forests.

It’s a course you’ll want to revisit, so book a room at the wonderful Shangri-La Le Touessrok Resort and Spa just across the bay. Here some 200 rooms are spread across a private peninsula, and while families will enjoy the Hibiscus wing, with easy access to the resort’s main pool and beach, couples and honeymooners should rather book a suite in the secluded Frangipani wing. What’s more, guests staying more than five nights enjoy complimentary green fees at both Ile aux Cerfs and Anahita.

With tight fairways and long over-water carries, the Bernhard Langer layout of Ile aux Cerfs will challenge even low-handicappers.

Just across the water from Ile aux Cerfs is the spectacular Anahita Golf Club, an 18-hole championship course laid out by Ernie Els. But the Big Easy certainly doesn’t make things easy here, with the course stretching to a lengthy 6,828m off the back pegs.

The par-5 4th is the signature, and the standout, with a dramatic approach to a seaside green. But truly, there are no bad holes on this course. Throw in tidal mangroves to snag wayward shots and six oceanfront holes to distract you and you’ll soon discover why this is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding courses on the island. Guests at the nearby Four Seasons Resort Mauritius at Anahita also enjoy free green fees at Anahita and Ile aux Cerfs.

Further up the east coast, Constance Belle Mare Plage delivers a superb combination of golfing facilities and family-friendly escapism. This five-star family-oriented resort boasts 214 stylish rooms, suites and villas laid out in attractive double-storey blocks fronted by palm-lined gardens. And with two kilometres of beachfront, you won’t be short on a sea view. Despite its size, there’s a welcome serenity with a range of pool and beach-front areas ensuring you’ll never feel crowded. Instead, you’ll find all the charm of a boutique property that boasts the facilities of a large resort, not to mention a choice between two golf courses on the doorstep.

The Legend Course is right across the road from Constance Belle Mare Plage. Designed by South African golfing legend Hugh Baiocchi, it has, since 1994, been offering an entertaining and accessible round that’s hugely enjoyable for high-handicappers. At the Links Course, reached by a short transfer, it’s clear why this challenging layout plays host to the MCB Tour Championship, a fixture on the European Seniors Tour. With maddeningly tight fairways and heavily guarded greens, this is a course that will test your long and short game, where careful course management will always win out over bravado. Guests at Constance Belle Mare Plage enjoy complimentary green fees at both tracks.

At the championship quality Legend Course at Constance Belle Mare Plage, course management is key.

Most golf courses in Mauritius are on the coast, taking advantage of both sea views and tidal waters to create an unforgettable tropical golf experience. But the island’s newest 18-hole course tempts golfers inland.

Mont Choisy Le Golf is the first championship course in the north of Mauritius and has been laid out across former sugar-cane plantations. Although it’s just minutes from the beaches of Trou aux Biches and Grande Baie, it’s a track that feels distinctly different, embracing the rich plantation history of Mauritius.

Designed by acclaimed golf architect Peter Matkovich, Mont Choisy intrigues in its structure as a course of two distinct personalities. On the front nine you’ll find a tropical expression of Scotland’s classic links-style courses. Any wayward tee shots will land in grassy swales, thick rough and lengthy black-sand waste bunkers. The back nine is perhaps more rewarding and easily enjoyable, a tropical parkland approach that celebrates the history of Mauritius.

Restored plantation buildings flank the greens, while palm trees and sugar-cane fields frame distant sea views. The par-3 15th is particularly memorable and a 200-year-old chimney from the estate’s original sugar mill provides a marker for your tee shot to the green.

Even away from the sparkling lagoon, with Le Morne-Brabant Peak as a backdrop, the historic course at Paradis Beachcomber Golf Resort & Spa offers a remarkable round.

Although the course revels in its lush island atmosphere, the beach is only 10 minutes’ drive away. Trou aux Biches Beachcomber Golf Resort & Spa is the preferred hotel partner for the course and guests enjoy pre-booked tee times, preferential rates, branded golf carts and dedicated locker space in the elegant clubhouse.

Guests at Trou aux Biches also have access to the wonderful 18-hole course at Paradis Beachcomber Golf Resort & Spa. In the south-west of the island, Paradis golf course sits in the shadow of the iconic Le Morne-Brabant Peak, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

First laid out in 1965, Paradis is also one of the oldest golf courses on the island, as well as one of the shortest, clocking in at 5 924m. But there’s plenty to contend with on a course that’s sandwiched between the Black River lagoon and the mountain.

It’s a spectacular setting, with views on every tee box. It’s also a course that requires careful play, whether you’re negotiating tidal channels to hit the greens or judging risk-reward carries. That certainly applies at the signature 16th, a long par-5 that curls around the lagoon to a distant postage-stamp green.

Cut the waters to go for birdie or play it safe along the fairway? Tough choice but that’s all part of the fun. There’s a charming clubhouse for a drink afterwards and extensive practice facilities on site, while the convenient location alongside two Beachcomber resorts makes this a fine destination for travellers looking to pack plenty of golf into their island escape.

On the south coast, the Heritage Golf Club offers lush tropical golfing at its finest.

From here, it’s a scenic drive to Heritage Golf Club, on the southern shore of the island. Another memorable design by Peter Matkovich, this course shows the value of a golf cart, as fairways scramble up from coastal plains to mountain foothills. Matkovich has taken full advantage of the topography, with dramatic elevated tee boxes amid lush tropical landscapes.

If you’re a big hitter feeling brave, charge the green at the 9th. It’s a short par-4, with a long falling fairway and a rare chance to post an eagle on your scorecard. Alongside the course there’s a family-friendly mashie course, while the surrounding estate’s hotel accommodation and private villas give you excellent options for extended stays.

Such are the charms of this southern coastline that many South Africans are investing in second homes here; Villas Valriche is made up of elegantly classic and contemporary homes across the Heritage Bel Ombre Estate. Designed by South African architectural firm Scott + Partners, the villas boast spectacular views of mountains, lagoon or the golf course, with a selection of footprints and villa configurations.

And the allure is plain to see. Mauritius is a golf destination that rewards at least a week, perhaps two, spent swinging your way across the island. From seafront fairways to island greens, Île Maurice will keep you coming back for more.