Tempted by Tunisia
Looking for winter sunshine, a
vibrant culture and good-value
golf? Look no further than Tunisia,
suggests James Mossop.
With names such as Tenacity, Rigour
and Audacity you might expect a pack of
hunter submarines. But, no, these are
holes on one of Tunisia’s newest golf
courses, a Robert Trent Jones II creation,
The Residence, that borders the
It is a course that befits Jones’ standing
as one of the leading golf architects of the
modern age. He has managed to construct
a distinctly links-type layout using
the sea and the salt lake to invade the
golfer’s mind on no fewer than 13 of the
eighteen holes. The course was opened as
recently as October 2008 and appears
Residence, a Robert
Trent Jones III creation
near the Med.
If you have time to look around there is
interesting bird life populating the inlets –
terns, waders, gulls and so on – as well as
the Tunisian landscape
itself. The course is just 15
minutes from Tunis airport
and close to the ancient
sites redolent of Berber,
Carthaginian, Roman and
A five-star hotel in the
centre-piece of the Residence, a bold symbol
of Tunisia’s desire to make the country
a golfing destination to rival anything
in Southern Europe. With Heathrow and
Gatwick airports just two and a half hours
away it must have a chance.
The country plans to add ten more golf
courses within the next ten years – Jack
Nicklaus is putting his name to the design
the proposed course at Yasmine, near
Hammamet. All of this belongs to a land
of contrasts. Luxury hotels on one hand,
trading in the ancient souks on the other.
To the south there is the Sahara Desert; to
the north there are 800 miles of white
sandy beaches. In between you will find
interesting and challenging golf.
The game is relatively new to Tunisia,
the oldest club being Carthage with its La
Soukra course which was opened in 1927.
It is a traditional parkland layout with the
fairways meandering among 100-year-old
eucalyptus trees. The borders are partly
defined by orange, mandarin and lemon
trees. El Kantaoui – above the port of that
name – I would suggest is another ‘must’.
It has hosted several Tunisian Opens and
its attractions were obvious. There are two
18-hole courses on the complex, the Sea
Course and the Panorama Course. Both
register pars of 72. We chose the latter
and were not disappointed. Panrama is a
gloriously attractive test with a couple of
tees so elevated you feel you are driving
from a cliff-top. There are lakes and so
many brilliantly vivid plants and shrubs
that you could be in a garden. It is also the
habitat of wild hares and that attractive,
crested bird, the hoopoe.
Preceded by a mixture of dips and
meats, and accompanied by a local beer,
lunch was a marvellous post-round experience.
The main course, lamb, came to the
table in a sealed, earthenware urn. The
waiter produced a silver hammer, knocked
the top off the urn and poured the chunks of lamb into a wok along with the sauce
before inviting us to smell the aroma
from the urn.
Much of the attraction of Tunisia is
that history is everywhere and driving
from one town to another there are shepherds,
often women, tending small flocks
or a few cattle. Storks nest on pylons and
the sun always seems to shine.
Winters are mild, summers very hot
and the golf is, unquestionably, well
worth a visit. Golf Citrus, for instance, is
the country’s first 45-hole complex at the
resort of Hammamet and is served by
five hotels that have agreements between
tour operators and the course.
Citrus, a 45-hole complex
on the outskirts of Hammamet.
round here would cost in the
region of €42
will do well. A
daily green fee
through a tour
cost you somewhere
region of 75
– and with one
dinar equating approximately
to 45p, that
equates to around 42
Those behind the growth
of golf in the country see it
as offering better value
than some of the resorts in
Spain and Portugal and they may have a
point. Golf in those traditional short-haul
havens has become expensive in places.
There is value at Citrus, where you can
play Les Oliviers or La Floret as well as
the par-3 course. The complex, the first in
the country to boast with 45 holes, was
designed by the American Ronald Fream
and opened for play in 1992.
Tunisians like to refer to their country
as the ‘jewel of the Mediterranean.’ They
are proud of their heritage and keen to
show off the many attractions. Golf is an
obvious hook, and if the quality I encountered
is maintained, golfers will come.
There are two very attractive courses at
Monistir – the Flamingo and Palm Links.
Here, alongside white beaches, Fream has
moved away from the bustling towns to
create something of a sporting oasis. The
Flamingo takes its name from the birds
that populate the surrounding wetlands
and are frequent visitors to the fairways.
It adds to the colour. The course is built
on a plateau, with seven holes running
along the cliffs. It’s spectacular, but you’ll
need a caddy on your first outing – local
knowledge is a distinct advantage.
Monistir has its own airport with direct
flights from the UK. With more and more
tour operators offering playing holidays
in Tunisia I recommend giving it a shot. I
was there in May. It was pleasantly warm,
shorts-and-socks weather with glorious
displays of flowers everywhere, especially
the flaming red geraniums and the jasmine,
the country’s national flower.
Tunisair operates four flights a week
from London Heathrow to Tunis, starting
at £177, including taxes.
set of Star Wars –
‘Nightland’ – has been
left exactly as it was
and attracts visitors in
What would you expect to pay for a
decent hotel? Bearing in mind that one
Tunisian dinar equals approximately 45p,
two hotels worth noting are the Ramada
Plaza Hotel, Gammarth, where double
rooms start at 180 dinars, and the Vincci
Taj Sultan Hotel, Yasmine Hammamet
where doubles start at 130 dinars.
A round of golf at the Residence costs
155 dinars. At El Kantaoui it’s 95 dinars,
while at Carthage you’ll pay around 68
dinars. So not only is Tunisia a fascinating
country of culture and contrast, it’s
terrific value for money, too.
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Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine