There is no doubt there is a bit of snobbery around courses that are part of resorts. And with decent reason. We’ve all played courses that are little more than flags stuck in the middle of fields. I personally find even the most basic of course is fun to play. It’s still golf. But there are definitely plenty of rudimentary places to play the game out there.
Tarring all resorts with that brush is however ridiculous.
As our list of the world’s best golf resorts shows, there are some magnificent courses that are part of wider complexes.
There are courses that have posted The Open, the US Open, the Ryder Cup, the USPGA, and are regarded as some of the greatest courses in the world. Is it also unquestionably the case that some of the world’s most beautiful, dramatic and breathtaking courses are part of a resort.
To that list, we have a new name: La Réserve Golf Links, which is part of Heritage resorts in Mauritius.
This new course, co-designed by Louis Oosthuizen and Peter Matkovich, is set down on hills and valleys a mile inland, but views of the Indian Ocean are a virtually constant companion throughout the round full of drama and Insta-worthy moments. For guidance, I would rank it just behind Old Head of Kinsale and level with Kingsbarns, Doonbeg and Castle Stuart in terms of setting and thrills.
The site’s significant changes in elevation will have given former Open champion Oosthuizen and design partner Matkovich headaches over the routing, but they give the course spectacular moment after spectacular moment.
There are elevated tees, infinity greens and panoramic views over Mauritius’ tropical bays and southern shores, especially on a thrill-a-minute front nine; the sporty par-4 3rd plays to an elevated green that offers a breathtaking view of the ocean and the back nine below; the short 4th plays across the site and is a gem of a par 3; and the par-5 5th begins with an exhilarating elevated tee shot.
It will be the most spectacular canvas for the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open in December – arguably the most jaw-dropping setting for a DP World Tour event in 2023.
Abu Dhabi’s Yas Links, St Francis Links in South Africa, Sweden’s Ullna and especially Crans sur Sierre in Switzerland would have their supporters, but we don’t think any of them tops La Réserve Golf Links.
Television pictures and images in the written and online media of La Réserve Golf Links’ holes during the co-sanctioned event between the European circuit and the Sunshine Tour will be a dazzling and welcome contrast to the grey of a British winter.
Former Open champion Oosthuizen, who will play in the Mauritius Open, said: “La Réserve Golf Links is everything I dreamed it would be – a dramatic, challenging golf course in an extraordinary setting overlooking the Indian Ocean.
“The landscape and environment are second to none and we’ve worked so hard to create a course that captures the spirit of links golf, the purest form of golf, while using native grasses and sensitive design to ensure it remains authentic to the land around us.”
La Réserve Golf Links is part of Heritage Golf Club, which is attached to the Awali and Le Telfair hotels that sit side-by-side on a white sand beach on the edge of the ocean.
The resort – set within the lush, tropical 2,500-hectare Bel Ombre estate, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve – already has Le Chateau as its golf offering but the addition of La Réserve Golf Links will mean the resort moves from its current position of No.41 in our World Top 100 Resorts listing when it is refreshed at the end of this year.
Matkovich also designed Le Chateau, and they make the perfect pair for a resort. It is always a mistake when resorts build courses that are too similar to each other.
Here they could not be more different. And it will be intriguing to find out in two years time which course gets the most play. That is slightly skewed by the fact La Réserve Golf Links will be solely for the use of Heritage guests whereas other golfers staying on the island can play on Le Chateau.
Nevertheless, on one side, you have La Réserve Golf Links, which is aesthetically pleasing to a staggering degree, but also, because of the likely chance of wind, more exacting. Down below, winding between lush native vegetation that provides shelter from any breeze, is Le Chateau.
Matkovich really got it right here; Le Chateau that’s plenty enough to challenge the stronger player – it has also hosted the European Tour – that is super playable for the higher handicapper or even beginner. My partner is a relative beginner and played the round of her life here. She had to hit good shots to score well of course, but Le Chateau gives you something back. It gives you every chance to score well.
The hotels are nowhere near as distinct, only slightly differing in pace and in look and feel. Le Telfair, with its elegant whitewashed wood buildings and colonial feel, is perhaps a little more sophisticated. The thatched roofs of Awali gives it a more authentic African island feel, and as an all-inclusive family-friendly resort its generally more lively. But, make no mistake, Le Telfair has a lovely vibrant atmosphere of its own, and nothing demonstrates this more perfectly than The Cavendish bar. Ideal for pre-dinner drinks, this airy, refined bar is the ultimate place to live life to the full.
From there you face a difficult choice of where to dine. Annabella’s is 10 yards away and offers exquisite food in formal but relaxed surroundings. It’s named after the wife of Charles Telfair’s wife, who created the plantation on which the hotel sits.
Or you may choose Ginja’s, the place to go for your fix of pan-Asian food. Le Palmier is located right next to the beach and specialises in seafood and cocktails, offering delicate cuisine in a tranquil atmosphere.
Set out on its own a leisurely 10-minute stroll from the hotels, Le Chateau de Bel Ombre is a 19th Century plantation house that has been beautifully restored. Its interior instantly transports you back in time, while the menu offers a ‘from farm to plate’ philosophy, served with a gastronomic twist.
Next door at Awali, Indian restaurant Zafarani offers an exceptional evening feast, while lunchtime has to be spent at Infinity Blue. Overlooking the Indian Ocean and offering a ‘floor’ of sand, it’s truly the definition of barefoot luxury.
Both hotels boast extensive ‘Seven Colours’ spas, offering everything from coconut massages to flower-scented baths, while the crystal clear Indian Ocean is the perfect spot for kayaking, kitesurfing, scuba-diving, stand up paddling and water-skiing. You can also SUP and kayak past your room at Le Telfair on one of the inlets from the ocean, and complimentary snorkelling boat trips run twice a day.
Bel Ombre estate itself is worth exploring and the resort, unlike others, are always keen to enhance guests’ visits with excursions beyond their gates. The quad bike tour of Bel Ombre, for example, comes highly recommended.
Or you may want to just laze by the pool or on the beach and listen to the birds sing as they perch in the trees and the waves lap the white sand.
Whatever you want from a holiday, Le Telfair and Awali can provide it. And, whatever you want from a golf course, this super resort can also now serve that up too.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
He was born and brought up in Dumfriesshire and has been a sports journalist since 1996, initially as a junior writer with National Club Golfer magazine.
Chris then spent four years writing about football and rugby union for the Press Association but returned to be Editor and then Publisher of NCG before joining Golf World and Today’s Golfer as Senior Production Editor.
He has been freelance since 2010 and when he is not playing and writing about the world’s finest golf courses, he works for BBC Sport.
A keen all-round sportsman, Chris plays off 11 – which could be a little better if it wasn’t for hilariously poor lag putting which has to be seen to be believed.
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