Women & Golf were invited to play the first and only contemporary links golf course in the Indian Ocean - La Réserve Golf Links

This week the new La Réserve Golf Links, part of Heritage Golf Club, will make its international championship debut when it hosts the 2023 AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, with leading professionals from the DP World Tour and Sunshine Tour taking to the fairways.

La Réserve Golf Links is the first and only contemporary links course in the Indian Ocean. The course’s co-designer Louis Oosthuizen will be in the field and you would hope that a little insider knowledge might give him the edge as he comes into this week off the back of a victory on home soil at the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

La Réserve Golf Links officially opened the doors to its brand new clubhouse and course on Friday 1st December, so whilst members and some Heritage Resort guests have had the opportunity to tackle this very special new course, it remains relatively untouched for the pros to really show us how to take on the links.

Women & Golf were delighted to be invited amongst a small group of European golf journalists to head to Mauritius ahead of the grand opening.

First impressions of La Réserve Golf Links

As with a lot of things in life, first impressions count and as you gaze up from the brand new clubhouse to the hills that are part of the Bel Ombre Nature Reserve surrounding the course, you are first struck by the natural beauty of the scene in front of you. It’s hard to believe that it was once a sugarcane plantation.

La Réserve Golf Links 18th hole
View from the cluhouse with 18th green in front and practice area to the right

Your next thought as you look back down the 18th hole, is where is the rest of the course. This may sound like an odd observation but apart from the 18th and a couple of cart paths, the course is keeping all its secrets hidden.

Playing La Réserve Golf Links for the first time is half golf, half adventure as you jump into buggies and take a 10 minute (I am not joking) drive up to the first tee. When I say up, I mean way up to around 600 feet above sea level. As you turn the corner at the top of the climb you are greeted with a totally different outlook of the course. Gorgeous panoramic views of the Indian Ocean. Breathtaking may seem overly effusive but you really do take a breath (nothing to do with the altitude) as you soak it all in and take obligatory photos of a place that, for a number of visitors, may be a once in a lifetime opportunity to play.

La Réserve Golf Links 1st tee view
View from the top of La Réserve Golf Links

I am not someone who has been called to rate golf courses yet, but I would be very surprised if this does not quickly become a bucket list golf course destination. Unbelievably, I say all this and I have not even stepped onto the first tee!

To truly appreciate all of its majesty it would have been good to walk the course, which is an option, but in the midday heat and the steep terrain in parts, it’s more pleasurable to take a buggy.

In keeping with the links feel, on the first tee you are welcomed by the starter who then offers you a wee dram of Scottish whiskey to get the round started. Maybe not quite what you’re looking for in 80 degree heat but definitely helps to settle the usual first tee nerves!

Five tees to choose from

There are five tee options at La Réserve Golf Links. Personally, I am always happy to play off the most forward tee but other, longer hitting, women in our group also tried out two further tees back to suit their game. From the forward tees the course is 5260 yards, which is only a couple of hundred yards longer than my home club. In my mind this meant it may not feel too tricky!

The fifth and back tee option is unique to La Réserve Golf Links, they’re called the ‘Louis Tees’, with Oosthuizen explaining their significance:

“I wanted to create something very special for accomplished players that are keen to enjoy the ultimate La Réserve experience. Tackling the golf course from our back tees will not be for the faint-hearted.

“We call them our ‘Louis Tees’ and they represent a championship test of the highest calibre, that you will never forget. They set you up for the ultimate round of golf, it’s an incredible challenge playing from the tips.”

La Réserve Golf Links  5th tee
View from the 'Louis Tee' on the 5th hole, the green is just in front of the middle of the lake in the distance!

In particular, you want to look out for the back tee option on the fifth hole this week at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, if they get the camera angle just right it will look like their balls stay airborne for what seems like an inordinate amount of time.

Tackling the links

I digress! The first hole does not disappoint for links lovers. Grass covered dunes give you an inviting entry to the first green and you are definitely rewarded if you keep your ball out of the dunes.

I did not navigate the second hole that well but if you can, it’s a very unique hole with high banks on both sides of the fairway that funnel down to a protected green. This hole and the 15th are two holes that I would really like to go back and tackle again.

Infinity greens are also a feature of the course and you are met with your first on the third hole. Land short of the green and your (well mine) thoughts focus on not knifing one through the back into the abyss!

La Réserve Golf Links 3rd Hole
La Réserve Golf Links 3rd Hole

Don’t worry, this is not going to be a hole-by-hole account of my round. But the first three holes all have a different challenge to offer.

La Réserve Golf Links is split over three levels. The first steep descent comes on the fifth tee and the second after the 11th hole.

The 5th felt like a very long carry for me and apart from the 15th, the hardest hole. The 6th hole, par 4,  features some waste area to the left of the hole, which I obviously managed to find! If you play off the yellows, this hole provides a fun risk/reward shot as you can take on hitting over water to get to the green in one.

On the 7th, you are faced with a runway of tees. Difficult to describe in words but you could probably choose any tee and make the green but a dinky 95 yard shot from the front red tee was a lot of fun to play.

La Réserve Golf Links 7th Hole
La Réserve Golf Links 7th Hole tee boxes (looking away from the hole

The 8th hole has another feature of the course, a split fairway. When you play this the first time, you almost question which direction you should go.

At the halfway house, there are plenty of drink and food options. I even saw champagne on the menu…due to the heat, I stuck to water but this is my sort of golf course!

I should maybe confess at this point that I got to play the course twice and on the first time of trying, I struggled a lot of the first nine. My fortunes did improve on the second time of trying, but on both occasions, I favoured the back nine. Maybe I had warmed up or just got more into the groove, either way, I scored better heading into the clubhouse.

Heading into the back nine

There are five par three holes on the course, two on the front and three on the back, all very unique and with a different feel to them. The back nine also features, three par 5s, three par 4s and three par 3s.

An infinity green on the 10th then leads onto the first par 3, the 11th which marks the end of the second tier as you then descend into the final seven holes.

Oosthuizen may get a lot of credit but the course is also the brainchild of legendary golf course architect Peter Matkovich. His touches can be seen across the course, however none more so than the quirky feature of a bunker in the middle of the 13th green.

I avoided the bunker by duffing a couple of chips into the green, so I can confirm that your psyche can be totally ruined by a bunker on a green!

La Réserve Golf Links 13th green
La Réserve Golf Links 13th green

With the pin set from left, the shot in on the par 3 14th was very inviting and after battling the 13th, a par on the next hole (both times) felt like a good reward. There are slopes either side of the green, so even if your route is not quite direct the ball can come back towards the centre of the green.

As mentioned previously, the 15th needs to be played more than once as there are many raised grassy mounds that almost trick your eye into thinking you need to hit the ball in a different direction.

My favourite hole

For me, the crowing glory of this links course is the 17th, a 108 yard par 3 from the front, the tees are amongst grassy dunes which extend all the way around the green and beyond. You play away from the ocean and have the view of the hills.

La Réserve Golf Links 17th hole
La Réserve Golf Links 17th Hole from the forward tee

If you put the sticky warm temperature aside, but take in the wind and rain (yes, it rains in Mauritius), you could be playing a classic links hole that had been there for decades. I am not sure which will be their signature hole but this would be the one for me.

After such a fantastic penultimate hole, do not be put off by what seems like an unassuming and uninspiring final tee shot. Once you have teed off and reach the crest of the hill, the view expands and you finally get a full view of the clubhouse.

Le Reserve Golf Link clubhouse
View down the 18th at La Réserve Golf Links

A tricky deep valley runs through the final hole, so you can utilise another split fairway or go direct. It was a struggle for me to make the green in three but upon understanding the hole better, I think I could improve my shot selection.

One final little climb up to the 18th green and anyone enjoying a post round beverage in the clubhouse can see your handiwork as you finish off your round.

Pure golf drama

Putts in, hands shaken and a moment to take it that awe inspiring view that marked the start of our adventure.

Having had the pleasure of playing the likes of Muirfield and Royal Troon, La Réserve Golf Links can sit proudly, or more rightly in this case nestled in nature, amongst such links golfing greats.

If you're looking for a golf adventure then La Réserve Golf Links is for you. Did I mention that Heritage Golf Club has a second course too... I'll tell you more about that soon, I think we have had enough pure golf drama for one day.

On our four night trip in Mauritius we stayed at the Heritage Awali Resort - find out more about the resort here or you may interested in their sister resort Le Telfair which is right next door.