New greens perplex European Tour players at Royal Golf Daressalaam

  • Royal Golf Daressalaam

    The opening hole on the renovated Royal Golf Daressalaam course

  • Royal Golf Daressalaam

    Fairway bunkers on the thirteenth hole

  • Royal Golf Daressalaam

    Robert Trent Jones Sr’s drawing of the fifteenth green

Adam Lawrence
By Adam Lawrence

The newly-renovated greens on Royal Golf Daressalaamʼs Red course in Rabat, Morocco, are giving the European Tourʼs players a tough time so far in this weekʼs Trophée Hassan II.

Designed originally by Robert Trent Jones Sr and his associate Cabell Robinson in 1970, the course, which measures more than 7,600 yards, has long been renowned as one of the most difficult that the Tour visits, but this year, following the completion of a two-year renovation by longtime Coore & Crenshaw associate James Duncan, the players are facing a new set of greens, to add to the bunkers, which were renovated before the 2017 event.

The greens have significantly more internal contour than most Tour venues, though they would not look unusual to anyone familiar with the output of Coore & Crenshaw and similar firms. The boldness begins at the opening hole, a 430 yard par four, where the high left side of the green flows into a lower right side via an extremely steep four foot high mound. Duncan and his team, including lead shaper Benjamin Warren, regular C&C operator Dave Axland and Arturo Escobar Montoya, have added significantly to the size of the greens, using Jonesʼs original sketches, found in the Jones Archive at Cornell University, as their guides. Whether the greens were not originally built precisely as sketched or had shrunk dramatically over the intervening years is not clear. Tree clearance and mowing line adjustment has made the course, previously claustrophobically narrow, much wider and more playable – reflected by opening day 67s by Walesʼs Bradley Dredge and Spaniard Alvar Quiros – but the greens have been the cause of much chatter.

“I wonder if today will break the record for least total birdies made by the field in a day? Incredibly hard to make birdies out there,” said Englandʼs Eddie Pepperell on Twitter. “The greens are difficult, so itʼs a matter of figuring out whether you can go for the pin or play away from it,” said co-leader Dredge. At the downhill, lake-backed 215 yard par three seventeenth, where Duncan and team have built a quite severe front to back sloping green with a big contour that throws the ball left, this writer watched a substantial number of players hit their tee shots to within ten or fifteen feet, but only one holed his putt for a two.