Thursday, July 9, 2015

170th Anniversary of Golf in Mauritius at the Mauritius Gymkhana Club (1844 - 2014)

The Mauritius Post released on 22 March 2014 a Special Commemorative Cover (SCC) to celebrate the 170th anniversary of golf in Mauritius.

Mauritius is the fourth country where golf was introduced in 1844.  Golf was indeed first played in Scotland in 1778 and then in England in 1798 and later the Officers of the British Military created the Calcutta Royal Golf Club in 1828 and the Delhi Royal Golf Club in 1832.

Thereafter, in 1844, according to records available at the war office, golf was introduced by the officers of the British Military in Mauritius.  It was played on the grounds of the military base at Vacoas, known today as the Mauritius Gymkhana Club (MGC).

The ground was generally level, with an ideal temperature around 20°C and very pleasant for residential and sporting purposes both during summer and winter.  As from 1812 onwards till World War I, it was a peaceful time and the army officers had lots of free time to occupy themselves with playing polo on horseback.

According to Golf Encyclopaedia, a golf tournament was played in Mauritius at the Mauritius Gymkhana Club in 1847.

The course was indeed created on the grounds occupied by the British Military Garrison on which were to be found the military base, the various military compounds and the official residence of the Commanding Office, which has now been converted into an official place - better known as the Clarisse House - where the Prime Minister Holds certain official functions.

The MGC golf course is located in the town of Vacoas and part of the course runs along the main Phoenix to Floréal road.  It is easily accessible from the main motorway and is only 25 minutes drive from Port Louis, the capital city.

The logo of the Mauritius Gymkhana Club

The MGC was under the management of the British Military and Navy Forces until 1976, eight years after the independence of the country in 1968.

The first Mauritian president was Jean Gallea.  Today the MGC is a Mauritian club with over 2000 members.  Around 500 members play golf, of which a good majority participates in competitions on a regular basis.  

One of the most famous golf competitions is the Ireland Cup, which was first played in 1932 and is being played every year together with the Island and Highland Cups.  This competition is played on three consecutive days.

The MGC golf course is 5.6 km long and is a par 68.  Albeit being a relatively short course it offers great challenges to the players as it is very tight and thus precision and technical shots are called for. However, it is playable and enjoyable by golfers of all levels.

The course comprises six holes of par 3, two holes of par 5 and ten holes of par 4, the shortest being hole no.5 playing 132 metres and the longest hole no.6 at 497 metres long.

Hole 18 is lined on the left side with magnificent 'Tulipes du Gabon' and palm trees with an Out of Bound.  The fairway gently slopes from left to right.  On the right, a fairway bunker awaits those avoiding the left side of the fairway.

The course is lined with trees and some of the original Elm trees date back from over 200 years. Unfortunately, most of the historic Elm trees were destroyed by a severe Elm tree disease in 2001.

However, the MGC has replanted some 1200 trees and is now also creating a special endemic garden, with the assistance of the Conservator of Forests of Mauritius and the Mauritius Wildlife Fund.

The course can be compared to the famous St. Andrews in Scotland, in as much as it is a natural course and has been visited, played and appreciated by many top professional and famous international golfers such as Gary Player and Nick Faldo and most recently Jean van de Velde from France.

N.B.: The text above is from the SCC insert; any factual approximations and/or mistakes are not mines.

The Mauritius Gymkhna Club website:

Technical Details

Release date: 22 March 2014
  - Rs7 Former Postal Museum, Port Louis (now the Central Mail Office)
    From the 'Stone Buildings' issue of 9 October 2005

  - Rs10 The Richly-Blooming Oeoniella (Oeoniella polystachys)
    From the 'Fauna & Flora' issue of 30 August 2013

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