By: Craig Rodney
It took over five hundred rounds of golf, across more than a hundred different courses, for me to finally realise what makes the perfect course, and the realisation hit me when I played Mont Choisy, a five-minute drive from Club Med La Pointe aux Canonniers resort in Mauritius.
It’s a challenge every golf course developer faces when they first stare out over that empty stretch of land. The nearly impossible challenge, created by us golfers, is to build a course that delivers the two opposites of truly challenging every aspect of our game while still allowing us to play well.
We’re a fragile bunch us golfers, with egos that need to be carefully managed. How we feel when we walk off the course is what matters most, and we want to feel like heroes! If a course is too ‘easy’ we won’t value a low score, and if it’s too tough we’ll rue the hiding.
Either by design or luck, Mont Choisy has managed to balance these two opposing requirements. You’ll look at every shot and know that it will require your very best. Black volcanic waste bunkers, speckled with thick patches of gorse grass, border thin strips of perfect green fairway, with the pristine greens protected by pure white bunkers.
Your eyes will tell you that every shot requires nothing but your very best, but the truth is far less daunting. The course looks tough but is far less punishing on bad shots than your eyes would believe. It rewards without being too penal.
The undulating layout will also ask questions of your game that have probably never been asked. 4 irons from black volcanic waste bunkers, undulating bump-and-runs, daunting false fronts, and just enough craziness on the greens to test your flat stick and your imagination.
It’s incredibly rare when you play a course that both challenges every element of your game while still allowing you to play well. It’s so rare in fact, that this genius design puts Mont Choisy firmly in my top 5 favourite courses on the planet, and I’ll forever be thankful to Club Med in Mauritius for recommending the course.
I need to be careful to not knock other courses too much, because each course chooses its design carefully, and not every course want to offer what Mont Choisy offers. Golf course designers all want to create amazing courses, and each designer needs to start by choosing what they want to create. They generally have to choose between three design categories:
1. A local course needs to be friendly and easy enough to move a lot of golfers through the course without disruption.
2. A resort course needs to wow the eyes and allow the average golfer to play well on their holiday and feel good about the day.
3. A championship course needs to present a challenge to the best golfers in the world, a course that will not easily be dominated.
A local course will almost always err on the side of friendliness, with a focus on fast, enjoyable golf. Local courses rarely need to attract major tournaments so they exist to make their members happy, and helping members shoot low is the key to happiness. In fact, the most important design on a local course is an enjoyable 19th hole.
Championship designers rely on prestige and difficulty to be their trademarks and accept that average golfers will likely struggle. If you’re a low handicap then there’s no downside to a championship course, but mid and high-handicap golfers often struggle so much that they don’t enjoy the round.
A resort course has to please mid to high-handicap golfers so that it’s an experience the average golfer can enjoy. To achieve this they risk not being able to challenge good golfers. As ego driven creatures, a good golfer shooting low on an easy course often doesn’t count in our own minds.
The balance lies in creating a visually challenging course that tests your mind first, a layout that requires a massive range of different golf shots without favouring any specific one, and a genius design that reduces the level of punishment for average shots.
Mont Choisy has somehow managed to create a hybrid between a championship course and a resort course. It is striking in its beauty and how it challenges your eye.
Your brain tells you to bring your best, but the giant grassy mounds are positioned to only punish your very worst shots, and hide much of the open fairways from your eye line. The black sand waste bunkers focus you into hitting great shots, but aren’t punishing if you land them in. Every hole challenges you to bring your absolute best, but doesn’t unfairly punish you if you don’t. Somehow, through some crazy design magic, Mont Choisy allows you to play well while still being an incredible course.
One thing I feel every golfer who intends on heading out to Mauritius for a round or few should know – golf bags fly free on Air Mauritius as part of their Travel Smart programme.