Cleveland, Ohio-based Brit Stenson has collaborated with a number of professional golfers who have served as design consultants, including Vijay Singh, Mark O’Meara, Curtis Strange, Nick Faldo, and many others at the behest of IMG, the world’s premier and most diversified sports, entertainment, and media company, founded by Arnold Palmer and the late Mark McCormack. Courses to his credit are the Mark O’Meara Course at Grandview Golf Club and The Rock in Ontario, Canada; Tuhaye in Park City, Utah; and in China, Hang Gang Golf and Zhuhai Golden Gulf Golf.
Two giants of the golf business, IMG founder Mark McCormack and Sol Kerzner, the international resort developer from South Africa, had a conversation at the 1998 Wimbledon tennis tournament in London.
“I’m having some trouble getting my golf course in Mauritius designed,” Kerzner told McCormack. Apparently the site, on a tiny island called Ile aux Cerfs, which was actually off the coast of Mauritius, was great, but the course designer Kerzner was using for the project wasn’t coming up with an approvable plan.
“Sol, you should have IMG’s designer take a look at it,” McCormack advised Kerzner.
That meant the very next day, I was on my way to Mauritius – once I’d located it on the map. It is not easy to get to the middle of the Indian Ocean! I took the red-eye flight to London’s Heathrow Airport, followed by a second red-eye to Mauritius and Ile aux Cerfs, where I arrived, bleary-eyed, at 6 a.m. I wasn’t sure what day it was.
Mark and Sol had worked out a scenario whereby I was to look at the maps, visit the site, fly back to Cleveland, work up a plan, and present it to Kerzner the following Monday at his home outside London. I learned to keep my passport ready and tried not to fret about the prospect of four red-eye flights in seven days.
A review of the proposed plan alternatives revealed that the current designer was insisting on creating two cape holes by incorporating a beautiful sand beach. The trouble was that beautiful sand beach was also used daily by local beachcombers, picnickers, and fishermen. Fortunately for me, that same insistent designer, who had personally been to the site twice, had almost entirely ignored the island’s other coastline – which was mostly lava rock surrounded by mangroves instead of beaches. I had a pretty strong hunch, confirmed by a long, scratchy walk through the brambles, that a very good golf course was possible by shifting our emphasis to the rocky coast instead. After a long-awaited great night’s sleep, I spent some more time with the maps and the project team, making sure I knew all the issues facing the development, and made a second site visit to reconfirm my initial impressions.
Back in Cleveland, I put together a short presentation during the next few days. Then I repacked my bag and flew to London as planned. Kerzner approved my concept on the spot. He then decided that IMG client Bernhard Langer, the German-born Masters champion, should be the signature architect.
Getting the plans fully approved by the local authorities in Mauritius was another matter: it required almost three years of perseverance, patience, and tweaks to the plan. The story has a happy ending, though – the course was eventually finished pretty close to the way we’d drawn it up. Le Touessrok now provides a unique and memorable golf experience for people to venture to Kezner’s golf course on Ile aux Cerfs. In 2005, Golf World International ranked Le Touessrok number ten on its list of the World’s Best Courses.