Teelal – Golf Saïdia

Ninth hole, 500 yards, Boomerang; Making the second shot matter on a par 5 is an architect’s duty. Even on Golden Age courses, too often the second shot devolves into merely advancing the ball some 200 yards down the middle of the fairway. That constitutes dull golf. One way to imbue lasting strategy into a three shotter is to crown it with a boomerang green that wraps around a central pit. In this manner, the golfer needs to be cognizant of the hole’s location and direct his second shot appropriately to the side of the pit the hole is located. George Thomas unveiled this concept at the first at Riviera, then Gil Hanse and Geoff Shackelford borrowed it for their thirteenth at Rustic Canyon, and now you can find a delightful rendition in … Morocco!

The bunker 60 yards short of the green is actually more penal than …

… the greenside one where a good player can readily use the steeply banked green to escape without undue harm.

Tenth hole, 480 yards, Algeria; The rotation of what is asked of the golfer is excellent. As previously detailed, the second and third greens could not be more different and the approach to the long slender fifth is followed by one to the uber-wide but shallow sixth. Here we go again: compare the large ninth green with its boomerang and steep banks to the crowned tenth which falls away on all sides. Though this is the longest two shotter on the course, it plays to the smallest green. Downwind, the landing zone becomes an area ~twenty to thirty yards short of the green from where the ball can bumble along the ground and onto the open putting surface (i.e. in fine contrast to the aerial approach at nine).

This view from the clubhouse is over the Atlas putting green with the 10th hole in the distance.

Eleventh hole, 490 yards, Split; Homes per se aren’t the enemy of golf course architecture, it is the resultant lack of playing width that comes from residential areas that renders countless such courses devoid of much interest. Here, Joakimides inherited a routing done several years ago by another architect and by the time course construction commenced homes had been built right and left. The good news here at eleven is that the playing corridor measures a whopping 160 yards from edge to edge. In fact, the original architect intended two holes to play back and forth in the same playing corridor that Joakimides only built one!  With loads of room at his disposal, Joakimides designed a fairway that splits left and right around a dune. The shorter, more advantageous route to the right comprises the narrower passage.

The above dune is the author’s very favorite sort of hazard, as it is centerline and surrounded by short grass, so it plays even bigger than it looks. Like any truly great hazard, it is always in play.

Twelfth hole, 355 yards, Wooden Fence; Why hire an architect at the beginning of his career? Attention to detail is one reason. More likely than not he won’t be working elsewhere and a developer can rely on him to be on site and to get the fine points right. That is precisely what occurred here with Joakimides’s inspired selection of wood fencing. It can be seen around the border of the property, especially at the first three holes and here. The wooden stakes, all the course signs, and benches are made from Eucalyptus, an abundant local wood. Joakimides used the stakes to create an abrupt linear line left that has a jarring effect similar to the cops at Hoylake. Left is out of bounds but alas, that’s the side the golfer hopes his tee ball finishes. A deep bunker front right and the tilted green complex (whose right side is eight feet (!) higher than the left) mean that a tee ball played long left provides a stark advantage for the next shot over a tee ball played one safely right. The tension created by the rustic fencing is excellent, especially coming on the heels of the large scale eleventh.

A drive slotted between the fencing left and the central bunker right nicely …

… opens up the approach.

Fifteenth hole, 525 yards, Angles; The course ends with a reachable par five, a medium length two-shorter, another reachable par five and a bumptious four par. All sorts of outcomes are possible at this highly entertaining finish. Again, there is tremendous variety: the fifteenth green lies in a field, sixteen sits behind a stone wall, the seventeenth is defended by two mounds and the Home hole is located behind an offset, sleepered bunker. At both three shotters, the devil is in how the rear of the green is lower than the front. Joakimides clearly avoids the mistake that Max Behr groused about that too many greens slope prosaically from back to front with such monotony requiring little thought. At Teelal the golfer needs to de-program what he’s become accustomed to at less inspired designs. A bowl or thumb print eats up the middle back section of the fifteenth green, creating left and right wings. The higher level of the green becomes a reverse boomerang, giving way to a lower bowl. Wherever the hole is located, the peril of going a smidgen long and being sucked into the bowl is present. Outstanding architecture.

The sketch shows how the hole got its name ‘Angles’, as the back bowl creates all sorts of intriguing hole locations.

This view from the clubhouse across the Home green captures the soon to be infamous back bowl in the 15th green.

Sixteenth hole, 390 yards, Wall; Joakimides is quick to praise the resort and his friend, the General Manager. He notes, ‘I had no restrictions except the clubhouse position. For example, they were okay to build a 400 yards long stone wall as long as I was within the budget. I just needed to justify that length which gives the course an old world feel right away.’ One might think that North Berwick and its walls played a critical role in the creation of this hole but one would be wrong: Joakimides is going to see North Berwick for the very first time in July 2018, a year after the course was built! Nonetheless, the wall fulfills his hope: not only does it lend the hole an old school ambiance, it makes the sixteenth standout in the golfer’s mind long after the round is concluded.

The sixteenth where the sun glints off the newly constructed stone wall bends right over broken ground. A white maintenance building in the background will soon be shrouded by vegetation (and the sooner, the better).

The wall runs down the right of 16 before …

… crossing in front of the green. The open gap is a nice touch that …

… provides playing flexibility as well as revealing one of the course’s more rolling putting surfaces.

Seventeenth hole, 475 yards, Hidden; Several of the author’s favorite three shotters (eighteen at Yeamans Hall, fifteen at St. Louis Country Club and six at Piping Rock) become measurably harder when upper back hole locations are employed. The reason for that is twofold: the holes become 30+ yards longer and the targets are narrowed. Teelal’s penultimate hole is similar in that back hole locations become more difficult but for wildly different reasons. Forward hole locations are in the cleavage between two mounds and enjoy a punchbowl effect whereby balls gather but the green expands left and right behind those mounds as it stair-steps down two feet to a lower section. These back hole locations are more exacting and difficult to judge since the base of the flag stick is always ‘hidden’ from view.

Lots of good can occur to the golfer when the forward hole locations are used. The majority of the green is out of sight, over the ridge.

Eighteenth hole, 465 yards, Rabbit Holes; For variety’s sake, the best finishing hole for any course is the opposite of what has preceded it. If the course features a bunch of tough two shotters, what’s a better finish than the Home holes at Prestwick and St. Andrews? Conversely if the course isn’t overly long, then a brute of a two shotter cements the challenge at places like St. Enodoc and Eastward Ho! So it goes here, a 1/2 par hole that falls on the tough side goes opposite to and parallels the tenth, the other 450+ yarder on this side. One of the two is guaranteed to play uncommonly difficult in the windy environment. The Golden Age design tenet of giving the player room off the tee and then stiffening the challenge at the green is marvelously embraced at Teelal.

The at grade tees join the central hazards as wonderfully old fashioned design features.

What an appealing golf scene! The Old Trooper delights in the random landforms before tackling the most demanding approach shot of the day.

The last admirably embraces ground game options.

Joakimides’s sketch displays the angled green that best accepts approach shots from the right center of the fairway. Even though the fairways are broad at Teelal, position matters.

This fierce, sleepered bunker lurks twenty paces shy of the putting surface and complicates approach shots played from too far right.

Walking off the course, the golfer appreciates that he’s just played a course with an inordinate number of half par holes. Be it the drivable par fours early in the round, the four reachable par fives or the beastly eighth, tenth and eighteenth holes, the golfer is frequently asked to hit a green from 200 to 280 yards out. A player’s woods, long irons and hybrids get a work out, which isn’t usually the case for a course that measures just over 6,700 yards from the back markers. Arguably, one of the most fun aspects to the round is the slow motion manner in which these long approach shots play out. From watching a downwind tee ball at the second ride high onto the left greenside mound before swooping down to the putting surface or wondering where your approach finally settled on the back lower shelf at seventeen, the golfer attention is rapt.

When one thinks of Morocco, names like Casablanca and Marrakesh spring to mind. Saïdia is a newer offering and joins the Palace Course behind the King’s wall in Agadir and the historic Royal Dar Es Salam in Rabat as the nation’s three most compelling golf destinations. Enthusiasts of the sport will delight in experiencing the fun, time-honored design features that the French architect elected to build into the ground. Joakimides scrupulously and audaciously fashioned a corner of a third world country into his well-developed concept of ideal golf. It’s a distillation of the man’s playing experiences around the world and his contemplative reflection about what constitutes good golf. The General Manager took a chance and his faith has been handsomely rewarded with a refreshingly fun brand of golf that will stand the test of time.