While parts of Europe touched minus degrees Celsius earlier this month, some of the continent’s ace golfers found warmth at the beautiful Legends Course in sun-kissed Mauritius.
Barely a few hundred metres from the prestigious course, some people lay by the pool, walked the beach and took in the gentle December breeze of a country that is the closest thing to paradise.
Then, back on the lush greens, it was down to business for the 11th edition of the MBC Tour Championship, the season-ending event on the European Senior Tour calendar.
The tournament gains immensely from the significant role that golf has played in the development of Mauritius’ tourism industry in recent years.
The stunning courses – 11 in total dotted around the island – with all the modern infrastructure and an unmatched hospitality add to the Indian Ocean island nation, one of the few places on earth that is paradise.
One of the key people to drive this incredible growth of the sport is Michael Geerdharry, a founding member of Mauritius Golf Tourism Association.
“We understood the potential golf of golf and wanted to keep it at the forefront,” said Geerdharry.
“It is proven that golfers like to spend 20 to 25 per cent more than normal traveller.
“The number of tourists coming into Mauritius annually is at 1.2 million, out of which sixty thousand are golfers.
“People come from Europe around this time of the year, which is the peak season, and from May to September, our low season, the Asians come. We are trying to increase the numbers in low season.”
Thailand, Ireland, Turkey and Portugal are among some countries to have enjoyed strong growth to the economy on the back of their world-recognised courses.
Nevertheless, Mauritius is an intriguing entrant into this world of golf. The island nation, which lies to the south of Africa, is tiny – just 2,040 square kilometres.
It has a population of 1.5 million with over 60 per cent of them of Indian origin. But there are substantial numbers from Africa, France and England to make the mix on the island a vibrant one in terms of language, cuisine and general ambiance.
A secure and peaceful island, the four-hour time difference to Europe, and being on the same time zone as Dubai, is ideal.
In almost all of them, the golf courses workers have tried to ensure that the brilliant backdrop of the blue Indian Ocean gives the golfers a memorable experience.
With some stellar courses on hotel door steps – like Constance Belle Mare Plage – it takes the resort to another level in that the average person doesn’t have to walk or drive more than five minutes before arriving at the club.
Moreover, it is continuing to go from strength to strength, according to Constance Belle Mare Plage Golf Director Sebastien Pilot.
“The golf tourism has increased in Mauritius in the last ten years when Constance Hotels started its collaboration in 2009 with the MCB and the European Senior Tour,” said Pilot.
“It all started in 1994 with the Legend course, which was the first Championship golf course in Mauritius and the target at the time was to attract tourist golfers at the Constance Belle Mare Plage Hotel.”
The design of the Legends Course – home to the MCB Tour Championship – is unique and exciting, with some breathtaking views along the way, and has attracted former Major winners, Ryder Cup players and a myriad of other leading golfers over the years.
“With this success, Constance Belle Mare Plage decided to open the Links course in 2002 and we are now doing 60,000 rounds per year with 80 per cent of the rounds from the Belle Mare Plage hotel,” said Pilot.
“You have beautiful golf courses around the world, but what differentiates Mauritius is people. We do not only have beautiful courses, we have friendly and welcoming staff who are passionate about golf and welcoming the golfers. And the Legend and the Links courses are attached to a wonderful resort with fantastic facilities and culinary experiences, which is very important for the golfers.”
Nevertheless, on all greens and tees, the underlying theme was enhanced by the beauty of the course.
In fact, even the Legends and Links Courses, nestled in the heart of an indigenous forest, provided for a spectacular view of the Ocean.
Indeed, you are never too far from the ocean and golf in Mauritius is designed to constantly remind the golfer of the pristine beauty of its nature, while giving you some well-needed downtime.
For tournament winner, Jarmo Sandelin, it was an understandably emotional weekend as the Swede returned to the winner’s circle for the first time in 18 years.
“It’s been a long wait with a lot of struggle and a lot of bad shots. It shows you that golf is an amazing sport to play. You can compete at any age because although this is the senior stage it is a very tough competition,” said the 52-year-old.
“Mauritius is a very special place with lovely people and I can’t wait to be back in 2020. We are very fortunate to play a great golf course and enjoy amazing hospitality because Constance Hotels are very special.”
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