Peter Matkovich has kept himself active as a course architect with several attractive projects in Mauritius the past decade. His fourth and latest creation, La Réserve Golf Links, in the south of the island, has received fulsome praise prior to it hosting the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open in December.
The course, officially opening in December, and still growing in, is a novel design, one which most golfers dream about playing. The first tee is isolated high in the hills overlooking the Indian Ocean, and the 18 holes meander downhill from there to the clubhouse. I visited the site in the first year of its construction, 2019, and the views from all over the layout are spectacular. This is pristine rolling countryside, unblemished by development, situated alongside a biosphere reserve.
A special destination therefore with the potential to be acclaimed as one of the Greatest 100 Courses in the World outside the United States. The course will only add to the growing stature of Mauritius as a golfing paradise. Access though will be exclusively for members and their guests, and anyone staying at one of the luxury hotels belonging to Heritage Resorts. La Réserve belongs to the Heritage Resorts, a second course to its sibling (Le Château) built by Matkovich almost two decades ago.
Another unique feature is the links-style look and feel, appropriate given this can be a windy site, exposed to the elements. On what used to be sugarcane fields there are artificial dunes, pot bunkers with revetted faces, rugged rough and waste bunkers, and long indigenous grass waving alongside the fairways. A quirky design touch is a pot bunker built in the middle of the 13th green. Heritage Golf Club general manager Jonathan Menteath compares the par-3 17th hole, with its green enfolded by dunes, to a similar par 3 at the famous Waterville links in Ireland.
One strain of grass, Dynasty Paspalum, has been used from tee to green. It proved a success at Mont Choisy, another Matkovich design which hosted the 2022 Mauritius Open.
Matkovich originally thought he would be designing a parkland-type layout to complement Heritage Le Château, and could hardly contain his excitement when briefed by Ryan Dodds, head of golf projects for The Golf Company, that the resort had instead conceptualised a links design for La Réserve as a distinctive separation of symphonies. The undulating terrain naturally lends itself to that, with steep runoffs from the greens on the more challenging holes.
Shaper Ryan O’Connor has done some creative sculpturing of the earth with his machinery to conjure up a series of visually enchanting treats for those lovers of links golf.
“It’s clearly not an authentic links because there’s no sandy soil, but the look and the strategy required is what you would expect at a links,” says Matkovich.
Not every hole is downhill – the drop in height from first tee to clubhouse is 190 metres – and the course maintains its design variety and balance by having some uphill approach shots to raised greens. There are only two holes where there is a significant elevation drop from tee to fairway.
Matkovich had a co-designer for the project in Louis Oosthuizen, who did a site visit. They have previously collaborated at Nkonyeni in Eswatini. There’s a possibility Oosthuizen will make his second appearance in the Mauritius Open from December 14-17. He had a top-10 at Heritage Le Château in 2017.
The back nine, with three Par 5s, three Par 4s and three Par 3s, has an unusual sequence of holes, 4-3-5, 4-3-5, 4-3-5 from 10 to 18, something I have never previously encountered, although Ernie Els came close on Oubaai’s back nine. George GC and Simola in the Garden Route, and Highland Gate in Mpumalanga, are South African layouts with an equal number of 5s, 4s and 3s on the back nine. All told there are 5 Par 5s and 5 Par 3s at La Réserve.
Five different tee markers on every hole will ensure the course is playable for all. From the black championship tees, named the Louis Tees, it’s a sturdy 6 727 metres, and that includes two short par 4s of 284 and 302 at No 6 and 13 respectively. The 18th is a 564-metre par 5. The white (6 035) and yellow (5649) tees will be popular.
It’s good to hear that golfers will be allowed to walk the course, although most will probably prefer taking a golf cart.
Peter Matkovich and Louis Oosthuizen on site at Heritage La Réserve.
DP World Tour ‘Opening Swing’
The AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open will form part of the new “Opening Swing” schedule on the 2023-24 DP World Tour. It’s the first of five different swings around the globe. The “Opening Swing” begins with the Joburg Open at Houghton from November 23-26, followed by the Investec SA Open at Blair Atholl (November 30-December 3) and Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek from December 7-10.