This week, the European Tour visits Morocco for the Trophee Hassan II. The tournament has me excited because it is held at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam, a course I played on my trip to Morocco in November 2016. It is always exciting for me to play courses used for top level Championships, and it is even better to be able to see the course played on television. Among those on my “trophy wall”: The Colonial, Torrey Pines, Oakland Hills, Erin Hills, Blackwolf Run (US Women’s Open), Indianwood (US Senior Open), Harbor Shores (Senior PGA), Emerald Bay (Web.Com), and Royal Golf Dar Es Salam (European Tour).
Royal Golf Dar Es Salem is in Morocco’s Capital, Rabat. It’s a Robert Trent Jones design with an interesting back story. In the excellent Robert Trent Jones, Sr. biography, A Difficult Par, James Hansen wrote about Jones’ construction of the course:
In 1969, King Hassan II of Morocco asked Jones to design a golf course for him near his summer palace in Rabat, the nation’s capital. The king, to put it mildly, was a golf nut. He first became interested in the game in 1968, after his physician recommended that he give up tennis because of a cardiac condition. Plunging into the game, he brought Claude Harmon, who he was told was the world’s greatest golf instructor, to Morocco for weeks of lessons. When he decided to build his own royal golf courses, he asked who was the world’s greatest golf architect and was told it was Robert Trent Jones. So the monarch dispatched a messenger to bring Trent Jones to Rabat. Trent brought his son Bobby with him, and when they first met the king, they “found him inside the palace walls playing golf on a little course he had constructed there, pausing every once in a while to sign some papers.”
During that first visit, the King told Jones he wanted him to build the “most magnificent” golf courses the world had ever seen …
Between 1969 and 1974, Jones built two 18 hole layouts plus an additional nine at Royal Dar Es Salaam, seven and a half miles southeast of Rabat in the Temara Forest. The courses were built by the Moroccan Army. The Red Course, completed in 1970, was an extremely long course, 7, 523 yards from the back tees and played to an unusual par of 73. The Blue Course, finished in 1974, was not nearly as long, but hardly short at 7, 685 yards. Both courses lay on undulating terrain covered by more than a thousand acres of cork oak forest.”
I thought that Royal Golf Dar Es Salam fit Robert Trent Jones’ design philosophy very neatly: For the pros, the holes should be a difficult par, but an easy bogey. The course is quite long and made strategically difficult by RTJ’s bunkering and greens complexes.
A photo tour of Royal Golf Dar Es Salam follows: