On the east coast of Mauritius is the beautiful Belle Mare Plage resort, home to two 18-hole championship courses, one of which – the Legend – hosts the Mauritius Open each December. This 6,003 metre, par 72 layout was designed by South African Hugh Baiocchi, once a serious competitor on the European PGA tour and still plying his trade on the Champions tour in the US.
This gorgeous course was opened in 1994 and plays along fairways lined with indigenous trees and shrubs. Though the course is not close to the ocean, there are plenty of water hazards to keep you on your toes – never more so than at the signature, 152 metre, par three 17th which requires an accurate tee shot to a green surrounded on three sides by the placid waters of a large lagoon.
Almost as lovely and equally demanding is the hole that follows, the 477 metre, par five 18th, which dog-legs right around a large lake that then wraps itself around the green, set in front of the picturesque clubhouse, on three sides.
The course plays through the heart of an ancient deer reserve and you can often see whole herds of deer camped out in a clearing on the other side of the lake to the 18th green. This is an amazing sight and a great finish to a course that continually tests the golfer’s ability without making him think of taking up another sport. Good shots are rewarded and bad shots are punished whilst the layout’s natural beauty – as well as the area’s variety of wildlife, including the aforementioned deer and a host of different species of brightly coloured birds – will remind you of how lucky you are to be playing golf.
But it’s not just the finish of this great course that is special as there are plenty of other tremendous holes to make your round a special occasion. The stretch from the 4th to the 6th – comprising a 389 metre par four that is stroke index one on the score card: the toughest hole on the course, sandwiched in between two par fives – is both beautiful and demanding. If you emerge from these having played them in level par, you can consider yourself a pretty good golfer.
The short par four 9th and 10th, 343 and 339 metres respectively, are both lovely holes that are good birdie chances – a great opportunity to turn a bad score into a much better one. And the slightly downhill, dog-leg left par five 13th also offers a good chance of a birdie at just 456 metres from the back tees. It’s also so tight that double bogey or higher is quite possible.
With water in play on almost every hole, the Legend course at Belle Mare – though relatively short in length by today’s standards – is still a tough challenge, especially from the back tees.
And the entire resort at Belle Mare Plage is now so good that it has won the accolade of ‘Best Golf Resort of The Year Outside Of Europe and North America’ by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO).
It is also – as mentioned earlier – a worthy home to the Mauritian Commercial Bank Open golf tournament which, in December 2009, opened the European Seniors tour. This was the first time that Mauritius had hosted a tournament on any professional tour, although the Legend course has hosted the unofficial Mauritian Open for many years, attracting the likes of Sam Torrance, Mark Roe and Nick Dougherty.
Unfortunately you can only play the Legend course at Belle Mare Plage if you’re staying in the luxurious resort of the same name or the ultra-luxurious Le Prince Maurice – a sister hotel, part of the Constance Group, that lies a little further north along the east coast. That said, it may be worth calling up if you’re not staying at one of these two establishments – especially if you’re a single figure handicap and can prove it.