Nicklaus Design has announced the opening of Michlifen Golf and Country Club, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Course located in the stunning Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco.
This is the company’s first golf course in the North African country. Already being heralded as Morocco’s top golf course, the 18-hole facility wraps around picturesque mountain landscapes and lush forest land, enhancing and protecting the local environment. Construction on the massive project officially began in 2014 and opens with the famous “Coupe du Trone / King’s Trophy” tournament presented by the Moroccan Golf Federation.
“The site in Ifrane for the Michlifen Golf & Country Club is one of the most scenic, beautiful vistas you will find for a golf experience,” Nicklaus said. “My team and I are pleased to have worked alongside many great people throughout this design and proud that Michlifen represents our first Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course in Morocco.”
“I have been fortunate to work closely with Jack on numerous projects over my 28 years with Nicklaus Design,” said Senior Nicklaus Design Associate, Dirk Bouts. “This is a truly special course in a spectacular setting – a course that sets the standard in the region that people will enjoy for both its challenge and its beauty.”
Nicklaus Design was tasked with integrating the 18-hole golf course with the existing terrain. “Preserving as much of the natural features at Michlifen was most certainly a daunting task” commented Bouts. “However, with the proper equipment and staff, we were able to work with it and shape the golf course as desired by Jack. As much as possible, Jack prefers not to disturb what Mother Nature provides us – he wants the course to blend naturally into the environment.”
Ifrane, also known as “Little Switzerland” for its alpine features, sits between Fez and Meknes at an altitude of 5,400 feet (1,646 meters). The surrounding mountains are draped with evergreen and cedar forests and provide a stunning display of landscape for the golf course.
“The golf course has tremendous balance and variety to it,” Nicklaus added. “You go from playing across open areas to playing around rock outcroppings to playing through wooded forests with mature trees, and then you end each nine of the course with spectacular, breath-taking views over the valleys.”
With the combination of high elevation and cooler climate, Nicklaus Design and the agronomic team chose cool-season grasses for the Michlifen course. Distinctly unique for Morocco, Creeping Bentgrass covers the tee and green complexes, while the sand-capped fairways and roughs are predominately Kentucky Bluegrass. Additionally, Fescue and native grasses were incorporated for the outer rough areas.
“With a cold and wet climate during the winter, the sand capping of fairways and roughs was very important,” said Bouts. “These extra measures enable the course to tolerate extended play into the fall and allow for golf to start earlier in the spring.”
A partner to the Nicklaus Companies, Toro installed a state-of-the-art irrigation system throughout the course which is a ‘hard-line’ design, meaning only the areas requiring water are being irrigated for water conservation. Local Moroccan construction companies were used, while a team of shapers, finishers and other specialists from various countries were selected by the Nicklaus Design team. All materials used for the USGA-specification greens, tees, bunkers and fairways were sourced locally from the North African country.
“Perched on a hilltop, the clubhouse overlooks the ninth and eighteenth greens with sun setting in the valley – it is a spectacular view that must be experienced by all,” said Bouts.
This five-star resort also features a stylish chalet style hotel with a 3,500 m2 spa, and a wide range of activities including a fully-equipped fitness room, multi sports room, full service spa, swimming pool and tennis courts.
Michlifen Golf Resort, Ifrane National Park, Middle Atlas Mountains, Morocco, photography Alan Keohane www.still-images.net
Michlifen Golf and Country Club www.michlifen.com
Nicklaus Design www.nicklaus.com