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Golf in Morocco; Ernie Els Life Beyond Tour Golf; Watering Golf Courses in the Desert; Hot Shots With Martin Kaymer

Aired January 5, 2012 - 05:30   ET


SHANE O'DONOGHUE, HOST: Morocco. Film set to a whole host of blockbusters, from "Lawrence of Arabia" to "Gladiator." Now, the backdrop to one of the biggest golf investments in the world. Welcome to LIVING GOLF.

On this month's program from here in North Africa, Morocco: money and the Middle East.

In the south, we're back home with Ernie Els.


ERNIE ELS, WINNER US OPEN 1994 AND 1997, BRITISH OPEN 2002: Well, this is a hidden gem. It's a hidden jewel.


O'DONOGHUE: Plus, water. The technology it takes to keep courses alive in places like this.

And Martin Kaymer gives us some more shot-making advice.


MARTIN KAYMER, HSBC WGC CHAMPION, 2011: You don't have to hit it harder. You will get the height, you will get the distance.


O'DONOGHUE: Dawn over the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, a country where golf tourism is swelling. The number of courses is expected to rise by another 13 over the next three years, and Qatari investors alone are pumping billions into the country.

The view from here, from Tangier to Casablanca and towards Marrakech is of foreign and government investment boosting North African golf to new heights.


O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Marrakech in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. A magnet for tourists and, increasingly, golf developers.

Marrakech Golf Club at Assoufid, to the west of the city, opening this spring. A Kuwaiti-funded development, 80 luxury villas, a Rocco Forte Boutique Hotel and a high-end golf course.

NIALL CAMERON, COURSE DESIGNER, THE MARRAKECH GOLF CLUB, ASSOUFID: It's a quieter golfing experience. There's a lot of big name professional golfers, whether it's Nicklaus or Kyle Phillips, Gary Player. Lots of variety of golf coming into Morocco. But it's not mass-market.

O'DONOGHUE: Golf in Marrakech began at the Royal Club in 1923, built on the orders of the Pacha. But then, nothing for decades until King Hassan II decided a tournament would help promote his country.

MOHAMED CHAIBI, VICE PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATIN DU TROPHEE HASSAN II DE GOLF: He invited some very famous names. Billy Casper, Sandy Lyle, Lee Trevino. And after that, there began the explosion of projects.

O'DONOGHUE: A huge of the golf investment in Morocco is coming from the Middle East. They see three big attractions: the climate, the country's proximity to Europe, and its relative stability compared to its North African neighbors.

There are currently more than 10 courses being built from Casablanca to Agadir, Tangier and Rabat to Marrakech, and another 10 projected.

MIKE HERNANDEZ, SENIOR DEVELOPMENT MANAGER, QATARI DIAR: Morocco presents some unique opportunities, certainly for us right now. With all of the unrest in the Middle East and in the financial markets, Morocco has sustained itself very well. It's an emerging market, but it's a little further up on the curve than most other markets.

O'DONOGHUE (on camera): Well, here we are, just south of Marrakech, and there's a whole host of golf courses under construction in this particular area, with Colin Montgomerie designing one just over there.

An 18-hole championship golf course is now being designed here at the Noria development, along with a hotel, villas, a water park, and that's set for completion in 2013.

COLIN MONTGOMERIE, DESIGNER, THE MONTGOMERIE COURSE, MARRAKECH: Morocco is booming. Booming. In the golf market, we've seen this market emerge. The property market hasn't been hit the same way that most of the European countries, the euro belt, if you like, has been hit, the eurozone. So, yes. Potentially, there's investment there and they're building.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Such strong golf development is rare in this global downturn, and it's attracting leading industry figures from across the US, Europe, and the Middle East to see what's making Morocco different.

STEVE FORREST, GOLF COURSE ARCHITECT, NORIA GOLF COURSE: The developer CGI had a vision for this project. They also had a couple of other projects in Morocco. Yes, there was a slow period where I think they were seeing how deep the prices were going to go, but they kept moving forward throughout.

O'DONOGHUE: Noria is a joint venture between CGI, a Moroccan developer largely owned by the state, and the French-based Center Parcs.

CGI have golf and resort projects across Morocco aimed at three markets: locals, tourists, and the large number of ex-pat Moroccans who return for the summer.

NAJIB ARHILA, DEPUTY GENERAL MANAGER, COMPAGNIE GENERALE IMMOBILIERE: The objective is to have by 2020 more than 20 million tourists in Morocco.

O'DONOGHUE (on camera): And the percentage of golf tourists by that time, where do you see it?

ARHILA: I think we'll -- we're heading to have something between five and ten percent from this population are golfers. But the idea also is to have a local generation who plays golf.

HERNANDEZ: The scale of investment in Morocco by the Qatari DR, particularly, has -- has fluctuated, but it's been significant approaching $1 billion US. The confidence is there in the market, so we're still here. And as the value proposition goes up, as we think it will, I'm sure the investment will follow.


O'DONOGHUE: Next on LIVING GOLF, we head south to meet Ernie Els back on home turf.


O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to LIVING GOLF. Now, 8,000 kilometers to the southeast of these Atlas Mountains of Morocco, the European Tour is getting underway in the Cape of South Africa. And like every player before him, Ernie Els is certainly inspiring the next generation of South African golfers.

We've been spending time with him as he returned to his homeland and his life beyond tour golf.


NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ernie Els, the Big Easy, three times a major champion, nearly 70 wins worldwide across a professional career spanning 22 years. One of South Africa's most successful ever players.

But there's a lot more in his life than that, from a foundation to develop young South African players to a wine and restaurant business. From golf course design to the Els for Autism charity, helping children, such as his son, diagnosed with the condition.

Els now lives in Florida, but in winter, he returns to where much of this is based, the Cape of South Africa.



MABUSE: First stop on his return, the Ernie Els invitational in aid of the Ernie Els Fancourt Foundation helping children with a talent for golf but not much money.

ELS: Just to come here and just to enjoy South Africa is a wonderful place to come.

KIM DANIELS, MEMBER, ERNIE ELS AND FANCOURT FOUNDATION: Having him back home means so much to everyone here, knowing that he's back where he grew up. He's from South Africa, and this is where he belongs.

ELS: My mum used to take us to these course. I had golf clubs, golf shoes, all these things cost a lot of money. The equipment in golf is very expensive, so there's a lot of kids in South Africa, around the world, that have talent, and I've seen a lot of these kids not make it because of their inability to pay for good equipment. So they go by the wayside. I've seen it happen.

MABUSE (on camera): How do you actually identify these golfers with limited resources?

ELS: It's like finding a needle in a haystack. But we're working very closely with the golfing divisions in South Africa and the South African Golf Development Board. They are there in the townships giving these kids opportunities to hit balls and open fields, on driving ranges.

And then eventually, these kids end up at tournaments, and that's where we will get the opportunity to see them.

The foundation is built on three pillars. It's golf, education, and life skills.


LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN, WINNER BRITISH OPEN 2010: It's special because I've been in the foundation for three years and it's great what Ernie is doing for the kids. I think it's important for everyone to support the charities and what they're doing.

ELS: The gods were smiling on us, to have a kid like Louis come into the foundation. When he came in, it didn't take him long to be the leader of the group.

SYLVIA MASANGO, MEMBER, ERNIE ELS AND FANCOURT FOUNDATION: I don't know what I'd be without the golf. I mean, golf is who I am, now, and it's helped me to become the person that I am.

ZAYB KIPPIE, MEMBER, ERNIE ELS AND FANCOURT FOUNDATION: It teaches us so much about, not just golf as a whole, but people skills and everything. This is what we love doing, and this is our root, this is who we are.

MASANGO: And we want to eventually be one day.


MABUSE (voice-over): And Ernie's stamp on the area is also evident just down the road near Herolds Bay. It's the site of his first signature course design in South Africa.

ELS: It was a piece of land where we used to go for barbecues for the brides and catch fish down in a place called Oubaai. The gentleman that owned it always had a dream to build a golf course, and then eventually, we got developers in from Kuwait and they put the money up, and we built a golf course. It just makes it so much more special to come down, now.

MAHMOOD SHEHATA, MD, KARAFI HOLDINGS AFRICA: From day one, Ernie spent quite a lot of time personally on the golf course, standing there with a golf club hitting balls out into nowhere, and the result is phenomenal.

MABUSE: A couple of hundred miles further west from Oubaai towards Capetown on the outskirts of Stellenbosch, you can find another part of Els's South African empire: his vineyards.

ELS: Coming from Johannesburg, why would I get into the wine industry? I met my wife, Liezl, she's from Stellenbosch, on a farm. And Louis Strydom was with us, now. He made our first vintage in 2000, and the rest is kind of history.

LOUIS STRYDOM, WINEMAKER AND MD, ERNIE ELS WINES: That area where we're making our wines is originally ultra-premium wine-growing area. So, his goal was to invest in an ultra-premium property and make ultra-premium wines with his name on it. And it's not just putting your name onto a label.

MABUSE: And then, back at his invitational, there's a reminder of what's now one of the biggest passions in Ernie's life away from golf.

His son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism when he was four.

ELS: He wants me to hit the driver all the time.


ELS: The driver makes a nice noise for him.

Ben is quite severely affected by it. We have one child in our family with autism. I've seen families with three kids with autism. Now, that must be one of the hardest things in the world.

We're going to build a center of excellence for kids with autism. We really want to build something that the world's never seen before, so my wife and myself and our team are working really hard on that. I think next year we can raise close to $5 million, and then we will almost be ready for breaking ground.

High five!

MABUSE: Ernie moved to Florida to get better treatment for Ben, and he's scheduled to play more events in the United States this coming year.

Despite everything else in his life and all he's achieved, he's still above all a professional golfer and hungry for more success.

ELS: I don't want it to end now. I'm 42. I'm in pretty decent shape as a golfer, and I'd like to continue on trying to win golf tournaments. So, yes, the desire is absolutely there.


O'DONOGHUE: Ernie Els.

Still to come on LIVING GOLF, keeping courses alive in climates like this.


O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to LIVING GOLF. Now, my friend here can keep going for days without water. But the same can't be said of a golf course on the edge of a desert.


O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Not much grows here unless it's next to a mountain stream or an irrigation sprinkler.

DIDIER COMTE, IRRIGATION CONSULTANT, GOLF IMAGINIEUR: Here, an average of golf courses in Marrakech have a surface of 35, 48 pounds of turf. We use around 650,000 cubic-meters per year for just the golf courses.

O'DONOGHUE: That's more than 600 million liters of water a year. The traditional source can be seen from all around Marrakech, and that's what they're using here at Assoufid.

CAMERON: This is fed from the main reservoir, which is out of sight of all the homes and the golf courses, and that is fed by the runoff from the Atlas Mountains. From here, the water is pumped downstairs into our pump station.

O'DONOGHUE: But with lots of new courses in the pipeline, there comes a time when the water demanded from the mountains exceeds supply.

COMTE: In fact, a few years ago, the governor and king said, "OK, stop. Too many projects like this coming from water, coming from the soil, from the mountain."

So, they say, "OK, all of you come and see what we can do," and they decide that all the developers pay for 30 million dirham each for each project. And with this money, they can pay for a plant to get the water from sewage water.

O'DONOGHUE: Until two years ago, when the first part of this plant opened, Marrakech used to dump 100 million liters of untreated waste and sewage every single day. Canals, palm groves, and the water table all seriously polluted.

Golf development not only helped pay for the plant, it also stirred the city to act.

O'DONOGHUE (on camera): Well, we're now inside this $130 million plant where all o the water is treated. This is the first stage, where they get rid of the grease and the solids. That's the grease in the white form, and the solids are down there.

There are a number of other processes to go through, but effectively, clean water will be produced, and that will be disbursed to the 18 planned golf courses south of Marrakech.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Of course, some of those may never be built. But with Marrakech planning for 24 golf courses by 2015, they're already thinking of another treatment plant to the north of the city.

COMTE: All the water goes down from the town to the step, and after, these pipes lift the water to here.

O'DONOGHUE: But supply is only part of the equation. Course designers also have to do whatever they can to limit their demand, starting, as here at Assoufid, with keeping turfed areas to a minimum.

CAMERON: We've got a five-meter stretch here of Bermuda grass, Bermuda 419, which is a wonderful grass. It is drought and heat tolerant, but in winter it becomes a little yellow or white in color. It becomes dormant at low temperatures. It's still perfectly playable.

We then come up onto the outer edge, where you see my front line of irrigation is on the grass line. So this head is throwing water in, it's on 180 degree angle, and so we have no water coming out to our scraped waste and playable area. And the ball will land as if it's just landing in a very firm bunker.

And beyond this playable area, we then come up to the desert area which is very natural. Wherever we have disturbed the natural ground, we are replacing with the buckthorn and the natural grasses.

O'DONOGHUE: At Noria, the pipes from the treatment plant are laid. Water should be flowing any day now. But their allocation will barely cover the golf course, let alone the rest of the resort. So here, too, there's intense pressure to use as little as possible, partly through design, partly new technology.

JOHN HOLMES, PRESIDENT, ATLAS TURF INTERNATIONAL: Here in Morocco, we've started seeing a lot of paspalum over here, and particularly the Platinum TE Paspalum. It withstands the heat and also does very well in the cool weather. You do not have to overseed it, so therefore, it's a cost savings to the owner and the developer.

O'DONOGHUE (on camera): OK, let's take a look at this grass, and can you talk to us a little bit about the actual feel of it, the look of it.

HOLMES: Sure. The amazing thing about this particular turfgrass is it can be used on all surfaces of the golf course, the greens, tees, and fairways. Also, cut it rough height, so it gives the developer one grass to maintain throughout the golf course.

ANDY BROWN, CORPORATE ACCOUNTS MANAGER, TORO INTERNATIONAL: If it's applied efficiently, then you can reduce the amounts of water that's being used, because you're putting it in the right place at the right time.

The other area, of course, is monitoring the amounts of water that's in the soil profile in the first place. Because at the end of the day, all you're trying to do is add water to replace that that's been either used by the plant, by the grass, or lost through evaporation or possibly drainage.

So, we brought out a new soil moisture sensor, which every five minutes will give an updated reading of how much soil moisture is in that particular part of the golf course.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): All this will help, but there's no getting away from the fact that a golf course near Marrakech needs twice as much water as one in Casablanca. As the city tries to balance golf and tourist development with its limited water supply, at least here, golf is helping to fund part of an answer.


O'DONOGHUE: Now, as the 2012 season begins in South Africa, there's going to be a lot of attention focused on the winner of the last world golf championship of 2011, Martin Kaymer. Well, we've been spending some time with the man who triumphed so spectacularly in Shanghai and asking him for some shot-making advice.


O'DONOGHUE: Fewer players these days are carrying two irons, three irons, even four irons in their bags. They've all switched to rescue clubs. We're going to talk about those and how to play them, and how to play them well with Martin.

KAYMER: With a rescue, if you -- if you're in the rough, usually you can hit maybe a seven iron or sometimes even only wedge. But now, with a rescue, it goes a little bit easier through the rough and you can get a little bit more distance out of it.

When I played in Dubai, for example, I was a lot of times, especially at the top five, a lot of times in between the two iron or a three wood. Usually, I was carrying a two iron instead of a rescue. And I got really mad. I just couldn't hit that golf shot that I wanted to, that I needed there.

O'DONOGHUE: So, talk us through the setup there.

KAYMER: The set I want is pretty much the same as a five iron.

O'DONOGHUE: So, with regard to the setup, should I be normally playing this on the front portion of my stance?

KAYMER: Little bit further left than the middle, I would say.

O'DONOGHUE: Just there?

KAYMER: Yes. That should be fine. And just a normal swing, now.

O'DONOGHUE: A normal swing.

KAYMER: Just try to think about the rhythm. You don't have to hit it harder than normal.

A little draw. There you go.

O'DONOGHUE: And what big advice would you give to amateur golfers like myself when it comes to playing a shot with this club and how good it can be for our games?

KAYMER: I think what I see at the Pro-Ams, they think the bigger the club gets, the harder you have to hit it. And I think, the best way to practice it is to -- I used to practice, I used three or five shots with a sand wedge on the range, and then, hit five shots with the driver.

I want to have the same rhythm with the driver that I had with a sand wedge. You don't have to hit it harder. The club does the work for you. You don't have to hit it harder. You will get the height, you will get the distance. You just have to stick to your rhythm, through your normal swing, and then go from there.

O'DONOGHUE: So, let the club do the work.

KAYMER: That is -- that was always my theory.

O'DONOGHUE: Let it happen.

KAYMER: Let it happen, yes.


O'DONOGHUE: Well, that's it for this edition of LIVING GOLF. Don't forget, all our reports are online and you can keep across what we're up to on Twitter. But for now, from above the sands and the new courses of North Africa, it's good-bye.