Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Golf in Fez

A new golf course in Fez is taking shape at the Oued Fes development on the Meknes road. Helen Ranger looks at the progress so far.

While it might look as though progress is slow at the Oued Fes site, there's a lot going on that can't be seen from the road. In a recent edition of Pitchcare Magazine, British golfcourse developer Jonathan Gaunt gives an update of what's happening.

Approached in the spring of 2006, Mr Gaunt's company was commissioned to design and build a high-quality, challenging golf course in Fez. Both Parisian town planners and local architects Chaouni & Slimani are working on the project and the site will comprise an upmarket resort with five hotels, residential units, leisure and retail facilities, exhibition and conference space and outdoor activity areas.

Mr Gaunt reports:
"The site is on a flood plain in the centre of a bustling city suburb. The topography is pretty flat - there is a change in elevation of about six metres from the lowest to the highest point. Initial feelings are that it is flat and, some may consider, quite dull. However, because the site is so large, it has many different characteristics that make it attractive for golf course design reasons. Interestingly, the site is immediately to the west of the King's Palace, inside which he has his own private 9-hole course."

The project has not been without problems, however.
"The complication from the outset has been the Oued Fes, a river which flows through the centre of the site from west to east", says Mr Gaunt. "There have been drainage problems on this land for many years, so we had to consider likely flood levels from the outset within the design. So, in order to keep the golf course in play throughout the year, with no threat of flooding, we raised the level of the main playing areas by at least 1.5 metres throughout all 18 holes, driving range and practice greens, by using subsoil from the excavation of the numerous on-site water features. The total earth movement quantities have been in excess of 750,000 cubic metres."

Oued Fes

Work was further stymied by heavy winter rains in 2007 and 2008. But Mr Gaunt is very happy with the development so far. He feels that it's very important, when working in overseas locations, to use local contractors which benefits the local economy and works out considerably more economical for the client.

"Remarkably," he says, "the drainage and irrigation installation is being done by teams of more than 50 men, many of whom live in shelters and tents on site. Much of the trenchwork is done by hand, using picks and shovels."

"The project has ended up being multi-national: the project is in Morocco, using mainly Moroccan contractors, but the design is British, the construction work is being managed by another Brit (Chris Johnson) and a German (Tom Sedlmeier), the shaper is American (Lawrence White) and the irrigation designer is Italian (Lorenzo Simoni)."

Seeding of the holes north of the Oued Fes - 1 to 10 and 15 to 18, as well as the driving range, practice putting and chipping greens, is due to be completed by November. Holes 11 to 14 are scheduled to be seeded between May and September next year.

The working partnership has been so successful, that Gaunt Golf Design has been commissioned to design another project, Tamuda Hills, near Tetouan, where work will begin in the autumn.

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