Today we return to the northern latitudes, but with a late afternoon flight, we had some spare time. What to do? Play more golf, of course.
Having played most of the new courses this week only a few remained. It came down to either Royal Palm or Al Maaden. In an ironic twist of fate, we ended up at Al Maaden.
Why ironic? Because just yesterday I complained about the geometry at Noria, and here at Al Maaden geometry is again the main story.
The geometry story at Al Maaden is different, though. Here the geometry consists of two large lakes, over which a rectangular grid of three-foot-wide walkways have been laid out. The whole thing is supposed to remind you of a Moroccan garden.
Be that as it may, the point is that this rectangular grid doesn’t affect the shape or playability of the holes in any way.
The first nine give you a good feel for the course right from the start. First of all, there are five different tee boxes to accommodate all levels of players. Second, wide fairly forgiving fairways, although with strategically placed bunkers to make it harder for the better players. Third, lots of very well-bunkered elevated greens. Altogether a design that makes the course playable by everyone, but not too easy for the low handicapper. A good design.
You encounter the first “geometry lake” on the par 4 fifth hole. Your tee shot needs to be long and accurate, with bunkers to the left and water to the right. Your approach then needs to cut slightly over the lake since the green juts out into the lake. A nice hole where you can admire the geometry if you like it, and ignore it if you don’t.
The water also comes into play on the next hole, a short par three, but after that, there is no more “geometry water” until you get to hole 12.
The second nine are generally the better holes. Starting at number 13, the course becomes more undulated, and the greens even more elevated. This is especially true on the par-3 fifteenth, with an elevated green guarded by three bunkers in front. From the tee, it looks like a challenge if you focus on the bunkers, but as pure delight, if you lift your eyes a bit higher to admire the snow-capped Atlas Mountains that provide the backdrop. A beautiful hole with a beautiful view.
At the finishing hole, you run into the other geometry lake. This time it comes into play, as you are tempted to shortcut across it. This is however not necessary, since the approach is manageable even if you don’t. Provided you remember that the green is guarded by a near-invisible burn. We didn’t remember 🙁
The full-service clubhouse is very modern and is the last outpost of a major real estate development, almost a small town. But you don’t see too much of the villas, as they have, like at Samanah, mostly been kept at a reasonable distance from the course.
Much has been written about the course and the geometry lakes, some of it highly critical. Contrary to Noria, though, in my opinion, it works very well in symbiosis with the golf course.
I think Al Maaden is one of the best courses in Marrakech, and I would gladly play it again and again.