Mr Hicham Khouatmi is the manager of Amelkis Golf Club, one of two resorts in Marrakech, Morocco, hosting the Lalla Aicha Tour School for 2013. Mr. Khouatmi occupied many posts at Amelkis for a decade before he became manager this year. Here, he discusses the courses development.
Mr. Khouatmi: tell us a little about Amelkis Golf Club.
This course was inaugurated in October 1995 by the architect Mr. Cabell B. Robinson, a very prestigious golf course designer from America. He has built many golf courses in Spain, Morocco and Portugal.
What was the concept of this course?
This is a golf course with an American Style, with many slopes and hills. The original terrain was plain, but they have made a lot of slopes and reshaping. The architect wanted to feature the greens so they are all very well defended by the bunkers. We have a very significant number of bunkers, around over 250 bunkers. And there are also many lakes and water hazards. We have 27 holes (three sets of nine holes) and each course has a colour: red, blue and green. The Lalla Aicha Tour School is being played on the Red and Green courses. For example, there are seven water hazards in total on these 18 holes that we’re playing: four on the Red nine and three on the Green nine. But they are big water hazards and some of them you see over a number of different holes.
What can you tell us about the greens?
We would need to differentiate between the greens on Red and Blue courses. Red and Blue were built in 1995 and these greens are medium sized. The Green course is most recent (from 2007) so the greens are huge: this is in line with the new American preference for large greens.
Do you think the Amelkis course is playing is long, medium or short for the tournament?
I think it is medium distance, around 7,000 metres, and it’s a par 72. This is Red-Blue…but the positive of having three 9-hole courses is that you can play as many combinations as you like: Red-Green, Red-Blue, Blue-Green…so each combination is a different 18-hole course and different level of difficulty. That’s good for our clients and members so they are able to choose the level they want to play depending on their handicaps and also, they have the impression that they play on more variety of courses.
Is it difficult to maintain same level of maintenance and quality on all three 9-hole courses?
Yes, of course, the same people, same machinery and same preparation on all three 9-hole courses.
Is this course only for tourists and green-fees or is it a members’ club?
Well, we work with both types of clients. At the beginning we were a commercial golf course and we only had green-fees. We sell around 30,000 per year. Now, owing to the demand of our residents golfers living in Amelkis, we have a limited number of members, not exceeding 200. Most of our members are proprietors of villas in Amelkis.
Regarding the green-fees, the majority come from France, England and Germany. The rest come from all over Europe and the world.
How many golf courses are there around this area in Marrakech?
There are seven golf courses already operating and some three others are probably to be opened.
Regarding the weather, is it always nice like this (sunny and around 15-20 Celsius degrees)?
Well, it is not very usual here to see the rain. And even when it’s raining, you could still play golf because it’s not that cold. Now we’re in the middle of the winter and this is the normal temperature. May is the best month for golf and it starts to become really hot in mid June until end of August, when we have around 45-49 degrees Celsius. The advantage that we have here is that it’s not as humid as for example, Casablanca, where you can’t stand the high temperatures same as here.
The type of grass that you’ve got here can resist high temperatures…what type is it?
The main variety on the fairways is Bermuda grass over seeded with “Ryegrass” in winter and on the greens we have “Penncross.”
Q: What other important tournaments have you hosted here on this course?
The biggest event that we have organised here with the collaboration of ATH was the Open de Maroc in 2000. This was a professional golf event for men and we had Sebastien de La Grange, Thomas Levet and many other international players. We have also organised some events on the Atlas Pro Tour the EPD Tour, which is a German professional tour, during the last three years.