Anahita Q&A with the Key People
To help commemorate the opening of Anahita Golf Club on the beautiful island of Mauritius, Steve Newell interviewed some of the key people involved in this project: Course Designer Ernie Els; Senior Design Associate Greg Letsche; and the resort's General Manager Nicolas Vaudin.
1. How valuable an attraction is an Ernie Els-designed golf course to the Anahita resort?
Nicolas Vaudin: "Statistics prove that courses designed by high-end names have more positive returns than lesser-known designers. Ernie has been in this business for some time while remaining high in the tournament rankings. Thus, he brings knowledge as well as excitement to the Anahita course whilst remaining in touch with the latest technological developments in the design of clubs and drivers.At the time of engaging Ernie, his close association with the Jack Nicklaus Design team was another great advantage for the Anahita project. Ernie Els is someone who’s not only signing his name to a great golf course in a spectacular location, but a tournament expert who’s been involved from the first routing and throughout the construction."
Ernie Els: "Golf course design is a business, but it is also a passion of mine. That is why I want to do it right. For now, playing golf and winning more tournaments and major championships remains my priority. But happily my playing schedule allows me regular windows of opportunity to indulge my passion for golf course design and, in years to come, I can see the momentum swinging more in that direction."
2. How important is it for a leading tourist resort to have a world class golf course?
Greg Letsche: "The two go hand in hand. If you set out to have a world class resort you want there to be a world class golf course, too."
3. How do you design a par-72 course in Mauritius, matching the terrain with 18 holes appealing to golfers from scratch to high handicap?
Ernie Els: "We were able to maximise the visual impact of the scenery while preserving the coastline’s natural beauty. The hole-routings move in and out of the trees, along the water and back, giving players great variety and magnificent views of the ocean."
Nicolas Vaudin: "Mauritius offers an incredible setting as well as year round playability. We selected Bermuda grass for its adaptability to our climate and terrain."
Greg Letsche: "The natural rock on the island is so hard that the course was routed largely through the existing topography to avoid unnecessary heavy construction work. The rock was then blasted away to create any downward changes in elevation, for instance, producing the footprints for the bunkers. It was important to get the positioning right first time. You really don’t want to be doing that kind of work twice!"
4. How have you used the Anahita topography to define the character of the course?
Greg Letsche: "There are several interesting touches we’ve integrated into the design that make this golf course unique; such as the use of existing dry-stone walls as strategic hazards, links-style burns and classic, grass-downed bunkers which reveal just a sliver of sand from the player’s-eye view. These are the type of features that help make a golf course stick in the memory."
5. This course is a prime attraction for both the business conference trade and the holidaymakers. How do you cater for both in your design?
Greg Letsche: "A championship golf course isn’t solely defined by its length. Good design means that a course should be playable for golfers of all standards. I believe that is the case here at Anahita. There are five sets of tees per hole, ensuring that this golf course will be a test for the very best, but also one that any visitor can play, enjoy and remember for all the right reasons."
6. How much does it cost to develop a golf course of this quality, and how long does it take from planning to opening?
Greg Letsche: "Cost-wise, obviously every golf course is different. Construction-wise, you’re looking at probably 20 months for this project."
7. How would you rate this course amongst the others on the island? What fresh opportunities can it bring to the Anahita resort?
Greg Letsche: "They’ve held a few professional tournaments here such as the Mauritius Open, so there are obviously some good courses. But I think Anahita is the best golf course here. As far as opportunities are concerned, I think you’d have to say it’s all good news."
8. Mauritius is positioned midway between Europe and Asia, and near to South Africa. Are these the target markets for the new Anahita golf course?
Nicolas Vaudin: "South Africa, Europe and Asia are our primary markets for both the golf and tourism markets."
9. This course meets the requirements for tournaments at championship level. Are you planning any signature events for it, and have you had any interest from tournament organisers in South Africa, Europe and Asia?
Nicolas Vaudin: "We’ve had interest from Asia in the past and are exploring all the opportunities available for Anahita to host a PGA event or even the President's Cup. Mauritius and the Anahita resort are an ideal location for playing golf as well as the idyllic holiday experience."
Anahita resort, Mauritius: http://www.anahita.mu/
Ernie Els website: www.ernieels.com/
Melanie Millin-Moore Public Relations
+27 83 463 8414 (International)
0834638414 (South Africa)
Key personnel: Ernie Els Design
Ernie Els is one of the most successful golfers in the history of the game, having won more than 60 tournaments since turning professional in 1989, including two US Opens and an Open Championship, and a record seven World Matchplay titles. Ernie has occupied a place in the world's top-10 for over 730 consecutive weeks, more than any other currently active golfer, and the international scope of his victories is second to none. Ernie is one of golf's truly global players and has probably more experience of the countless different type golf courses around the world than any other contemporary top player. This worldly experience gives Ernie a broad vision of the various elements of golf course design and how they are best brought together to produce a golf course which is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also challenging and enjoyable for golfers of all standards.
Gregory T. Letsche has been a professional golf course architect for the past 20 years. Greg joined Ernie Els Design full-time as its Senior Design Associate in 2005. He spent the previous 15 years in the same capacity with Jack Nicklaus, and began his career with the legendary Pete Dye. Greg has designed numerous courses worldwide, including 22 new courses open for play, several restorations. He currently has six courses under construction to his credit. Notable projects include Cabo del Sol (Ocean Course) – Los Cabos, Mexico; Palmilla Golf Club - San Jose del Cabo, Mexico; The Bear’s Club - Jupiter Florida; Pearl Valley Golf Club - Cape Town, South Africa; Mission Hills - Palm Springs, California; and Oubaai - Herolds Bay, South Africa. Additionally, he has been responsible for renovation work at Muirfield Village Golf Club, host venue for the PGA Tour’s Memorial Tournament, and work at Leopard Creek Golf Club, host venue for the European Tour’s Dunhill Championship.