Mauritius is a destination many know of, yet few have had the opportunity of visiting its shores. A short flight for South Africans, long white beaches around every bend and an ever-growing number of reputable golf courses are but a few of the reasons for its attractive destination status. This is why it is fast becoming a sought-after destination in the global golfing community for professionals and amateurs alike, and why the Europeans Senior Tour makes its final stop of the season in Mauritius for the annual MCB Tour Championship.
Constance Belle Mare Plage, part of the Constance Group of Hotels, plays the opulent host. With luxury hotels in Seychelles, Madagascar, Maldives and Mauritius it is a brand linked to beauty, luxury and five-star service. Located on the east coast of Mauritius, it is a short 60-minute drive from Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport in the southeast corner of the island. From the moment you arrive, the silver lining throughout your stay starts on the face of the security guard who greets you. Staff from the chef, concierge, barman or starter at the golf course all come with a huge smile and what seems to be a never-ending desire to satisfy your every request.
The service is supported by a vast array of restaurants, water sports – ocean and swimming pool – tennis courts, kiddies entertainment area, wellness centre, spa, bicycles, and so the list goes on. This is over and above the 2km long beach with straw umbrellas, soft incliners and the warm 28 degree Indian Ocean lapping at your toes. The cliche ‘it has something for everyone’ rings true at this resort.
Then there are the two golf courses on offer, free to residents, and a few notches above what you would expect from a resort course. The more difficult of the two, and host to the MCB Tour Championship, is the Legend Golf Course, only a short walk from the hotel. The second option, only a five-minute shuttle away, is the more open playable Links course. Shorter in length with less water and wider fairways, this would be the better option for the casual golfer. The Legend course is a par 72, 6 018m Hugh Baiocchi design, and is anything but an easy resort course. Narrow fairways surrounded by unforgiving bush, ample water and the added guarantee of some wind, accuracy off the tees is crucial. Cut out of indigenous forest previously used for breeding deer, the odd sighting adds to the uniqueness of the layout.
The course has recently seen a number of changes for aesthetic and practical reasons. Some trees and bushes were removed as they were encroaching on the already tight fairways, as it was felt that the intimidation factor was a little too high for amateur golfers. The course has ample water and needed to have fair landing areas according to local representative and European Senior Tour member Marc Farry.
Other changes were to a number of greens surfaces receiving attention with a view to softening them up and reducing the influence of strong grain on certain holes. With the new open look the coastal breeze, common on the east coast, adds further intrigue to shot making and club selection. With the changes the course was considered to be in its best condition ever for the 2015 MCB Tour Championship. The downside, according to Farry, were the changes meant any local knowledge of the course was greatly reduced.
The 53-man field for 2015 was reputed to be the strongest in the five-year history of the event with a number of big names. Leading the pack was evergreen Colin Montgomerie coming off an exceptional year and arriving with the Order of Merit title already his. Last year’s winner Paul Wesselingh also returned in the hope of clinching his third consecutive trophy. Barry Lane arriving as Monty’s closest rival, and the man who lost a six-hole playoff the previous year and runner-up on four previous occasions as hoping to end his season on a high. Other notables in the field included David Frost and Andrew Oldcorn, who was hoping to earn the Rookie of the Year title.
The three-day tournament dictates that players need to start quick and not allow for too many drop shots, and this is exactly what South Africa’s David Frost did on the first day. A number of players had good starts, with Andrew Sherborne having three birdies on the front nine, but was unable to keep it up on the tough back nine. England’s Paul Eales set the early clubhouse lead with an impressive five-under-par 67. South Africa’s Chris Williams, and Colin Montgomerie, finishing one behind with a four-under-par 68. Frost, however, was the leader of the day turning with a somber one under par he gave no sign of the fireworks to come. With four birdies and an eagle on the par five 18th he signed for a stellar seven-under-par 65, two clear of his nearest rival.
Day two started with ominous clouds on the horizon and the possibility of rain, promising a challenging day’s golf. The rain did arrive but barely lasted for one holes play and moved on with the ever-strengthening breeze. Williams showing consistent form signed for another four-under-par 68. Unfortunately for Frost his consistency lacked resolve when after playing solid for 14 holes found water on the par-four 15th, which saw him slide down the leader board. The day belonged to Monty who equalled the course record of 64 and as if five birdies were not impressive enough, the Scot holed out for eagle on the par-three 17th.
With a four-shot lead on the final day, held by a man with Montgomerie’s credentials, it seemed a done deal. After nine holes, however, the playing fields between Monty and Frost had been levelled. The former having somewhat stumbled with Frost firing a three-under-par front nine and seemingly having the bit firmly in his teeth. Conversely Montgomerie dropped shots on the par-five 6th and par-three 7th and truth be told was incredibly lucky to get away with it. On the long par five after finding bushes from the tee he was forced to reload and once again found trouble, but unbelievably bounced back onto the fairway and then sunk a putt from off the green for six. On the 7th he had to play a left-handed shot after missing the water and landing flush against a palm, again managing another lucky bogey.
As in most golf tournaments the back nine on the final day decides who will lift the trophy, with the final three holes specifically proving to be the decider on this occasion. Frost having two bogeys on the back nine lost momentum, while Monty finished with three consecutive birdies and a seemingly easy win – entirely not the case. It was the final three holes that made all the difference, which over the three days he played in nine under par. In his post-tournament conference he confirmed that 16, 17 and 18 played a pivotal role in the win, as well as his ability to find fairways on the tight Legend Course. This performance tying up a near-perfect season for the Scot by surpassing the tournament winning total and his previous record earnings for a season on the seniors tour.
Prize giving once again allowed Constance Belle Mare Plage the opportunity to showcase its ability to put on a fantastic party. Although rain did not allow for the normal outdoor festivities and the closing fireworks display, it was still a memorable occasion. And so as the season for the European seniors comes to an end and as they pack up to depart the hotel quickly prepared for another fully booked bumper festive season. The silver lining of friendly can-do staff looking forward to welcoming families from across the globe, all to familiar with what to expect from a this great destination. A white Christmas theme been redefined by glistening white beaches and towering Palms replacing the mistletoe, it is a destination deserving of its bells and whistles status.