Nestling on the Atlantic seaboard, an hour’s drive south from Casablanca, lies the resort of Mazagan. The name is what El Jadida (the “New”) was called under the Portuguese, just as Essaouira (the “Picturesque”) was known as Mogador. Covering 250 hectares and employing some 1,200 souls, its modernity contrasts starkly with the walled town Azemmour (the “Olive”) a few orchards further North, still painfully trying to adapt its mediaeval glory to the harsh realities of today.
This contrast may not have been at the forefront of Salamander golfer’s minds as they ran the gauntlet of one armed bandits in the Casino to reach the relative haven of the Jockey Bar on the Sunday evening, our indicated assembly point. (With some dozen restaurants and bars in the hotel, it was deemed judicious to have one single meeting place, lest anyone spend the three days trying to find the group.) Any misgivings were however quickly assuaged by sufficient quantities of Meknes wines and the ambient bonhomie.
After a good night’s sleep to the lull of the breakers (for those lucky enough to have rooms with Ocean views), and a feast on the sumptuous multi cuisine breakfast, it was time to saddle up in a buggy and confront the golf course, reputedly a monster. True, there are some longish carries, and the deceptively tame look “rough”, resplendent in yellow and purple spring flowers, swallows up greedily every ball chancing its way. However, once reached, the fairways are relatively wide, and the greens playable, once one has adjusted to the speed worthy of a Major course. Some spectacular net scores were recorded therefore by pairs, despite contending with a stiff sea breeze. The reward was a tasty dinner served in the Moroccan restaurant of the hotel, with appropriately an accomplished lutist strumming away the while.
Saturday, the Royal Al Jadida, proved a complete contrast. Quite close, but inland and set in the forest, it has the feel of an old established course. As opposed to the Mazagan, where the Gary Player open layout affords views of most holes, each fairway of the Royal is separated from the next by dense undergrowth. In the place of the buggies, Caddies rule the course, apparently breaking the boredom of watching golfers less adept than themselves by taking wagers. The course meanders around various lakes and other hazards, up hill and down dale, finishing with a spectacular sea view. Scores were honourable, with Caroline Edwards taking the ladies net and Baudouin the men’s.
Antoine driving the green at Al Jadida
Following a scrumptious dinner, in the Seafood restaurant this time, animated by a pantomime demonstration by Chris & Gunther of how a St. Andrew’s Greensome should be played, we were all back on the Mazagan course at dawn on the Sunday. The hypothesis that this formula was quicker than a scramble was largely proved, and did not prevent Ruedi & Bernard returning 42 stableford points. So we made it back to the clubhouse in time for lunch, on this occasion three courses rather than the frugal soup & sandwiches of yore. And not without regrets to be leaving the cloudless skies, the ocean breeze, the swallows swooping all around on their journey north and the kites circling on high.
Whoever had the idea of creating the Mazagan resort should be congratulated, as should the two intrepid members of our group to rise to the challenge of a dawn dip – Michael and Tim.