Journeys to the 1st tee are, in my experience, a relatively hair-raising experience. The younger generation at Royal Cotswolds appear to enjoy arriving at the club well before their tee time, smash balls off a plastic mat into a net, hole 145 consecutive putts on the practice green and undergo a spot of aerobics with their driver before daring to place club behind ball.
I prefer my tried-and-tested method of swinging the Merc into the Handicap Secretary’s parking space (he is the wife’s cousin, so wouldn’t dream of pulling me up), slipping on my FootJoys on the back seat and marching to the tee while unsheathing my driving iron.
In contrast to that well-worn route, my journey to the 1st tee at Le Touessrok is a rather more sedate affair – not least because it is being made on water. This Bernhard Langer-designed course is on Mauritius, that idyllic island in the Indian Ocean whose name instantly conjures up images of white sand and blue water.
And Le Touessrok is on a tiny island just off the main (but still tiny) island, so the only way to reach it is by boat. And we’re not talking about a P&O-style vessel, this is a proper little dinghy-like affair. But fortunately, the water is dead calm, otherwise I fear I may have seen the eggs and salmon I demolished at Long Beach, my sumptuous hotel, an hour earlier.
So it is we arrive at the jetty feeling invigorated rather than unsettled by our unusual mode of transport. Nevertheless, one is pleased to feel terra firma beneath one’s sandals as the leap to dry land is accomplished without too much alarm. A buggy whisks us to the clubhouse and there is time to enjoy a cocktail on the shaded verandah while others in our group head for the practice ground (I’m told it was first class). No, my long drink under the overhead fan is the perfect way to prepare for the round ahead of us.
A helpful Mauritian gives me a nudge to tell me it is our time imminently – which was timely, because my mind was wandering towards another Mojito if I am perfectly honest – and onto the 1st I wander.
You will, quite understandably, be thinking this will be resort golf and the scene which greets me is a sea of fairway. You would be hopelessly wrong. Because as I stand back after thrusting my tee into the pristine turf to assess what I must do with with my first blow of the day, what I see is rather different from the mile-wide fairway I was expecting.
Le Touessrok might be attached to a five-star resort and be played by tourists more or less all the time, but don’t forget who the designer is.
One could not help but muse the management missed a trick when selecting the meticulous German to lay out their course in some of the most scenic land on earth. He might be the perfect foursomes partner and he might have been a wonderfully thorough Ryder Cup captain, but he is not a man you want to set tests for slightly sunburnt, slightly merry tourists. They should of course have sought out John Daly to do their course. Or Phil Mickelson. Or dear old Seve.
It has been a most different holiday golf experience, of that there is no doubt. You have to play proper golf at Le Touessrok to enjoy it. But enjoy it we did. That trio would have loved cutting back this jungle, in order that they would never have had to hit an approach shot with a tree up their rear end whenever they visited.
No matter, we are here now and we will not be beaten. So we choose our tees wisely – if you need to hit anything more than a lofted fairway wood off the tee, you’re too far back.
We swallow our pride and move up a tee; it was the second best decision I made all holiday (I cannot reveal the best, lest my doctor be reading this despatch). From there, we persuade 4- and even 5-irons down the fairway and attack greens with 9-irons and wedges. If it sounds a bit tame, you are again profoundly wrong. Langer, the rascal, has created the smallest greens you’ve ever missed. And if you miss them, even by three feet, you may have lost your ball.
It is at times overly penal, but it is always fascinating. As it happens, we play quite nicely, all the while delighting ourselves in the knowledge the pros who are competing in the Standard Bank Mauritius Open the following day are playing this brute off the tips.
Last year, Tom Lewis – fresh from his victory in Portugal, heroics in the Open and generally making golf seem uncommonly easy – breezed round here in level par. The following day, with victory seeming a mere formality for the fresh-faced son of Welwyn, he butchered two holes by all accounts and couldn’t break 80.
So I was in good company as I butchered 18, a thinned 8-iron from the middle of the fairway never threatening to find the green. “Too long,” shouts Henry, straddling a cactus plant on the right of the fairway. My ball is never seen again. Frankly, I do not care. We deposit our buggy and take refreshment. It has been a most different holiday golf experience, of that there is no doubt. You have to play proper golf at Le Touessrok to enjoy it. But enjoy it we did.
Three glasses of local brew and a club sandwich (a little heavy on the mayonnaise but a pleasing slab of gammon) later, we are back on the boat. The 10-minute sailing gives us time to reflect on the unique experience; no-one has a negative thought.
That may, of course, have something to do with the knowledge of what awaits us at our hotel, Long Beach. The buffet.
Not just any buffet, either. This one is immense. The Royal County Down of buffets. The Royal Melbourne of buffets. It almost pains me to recall how good it was (as well as my cords pinching a bit after too many trips to… the buffet).
The buffet (at Le Marche) is one of five eating options at Long Beach. To give a balanced view, we did of course try them all. But the buffet – encompassing everything from Mauritian favourites to Asian food – was the best. However, if you like Italian, Japanese, Chinese or steaks, you will be well catered for. Afterwards, we watch entertainment – including dance routines which made one feel distinctly unathletic and lazy – while savouring some of Long Beach’s short drinks.
Long Beach is a relatively new hotel and is part of the same group, Sun Resorts, which run the hotel and course at Le Touessrok, which is just a 10-minute transfer down the coast.
It is a chic, stylish and modern resort for chic, stylish people. So why was I there, I hear you ask? A mistake with the booking. But I must say it was first class and I could find no fault with it.
Word has it – and you won’t be surprised to hear I’m afraid I cannot confirm their existence – that tennis courts, a gym, climbing wall and extensive water sports are all available to sate the thirst of the energetic. I can confirm that there are numerous well-appointed pools and lots of comfortable sun beds. And a spa.
The waiter service is also commendable; there is no waiting for half an hour for your drink here. Five minutes after ordering my Rioja and a tall Mauritian was standing over me with said beverage (wearing a smile which said ‘By your appearance, I think you have quaffed a few of these down the years, Sir’).
The service at Long Beach is outstanding. This is helped by the fact the Mauritius people are inherently friendly and helpful and these characteristics transfer perfectly to making guests feel at ease.
Indeed, the reinvigoration of a week at Long Beach lasted long after the 11-hour flight back to London Heathrow. Just until the usual dash to the 1st tee at Royal Cotswolds in fact.