Mr. Khammar Rahhioui, Head Green Keeper at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam. Credit: Mustapha Benabdelkarim

The Robert Trent Jones-designed Royal Dar Es Salam in Rabat, which hosted the Moroccan Open four times and the Hassan II Golf Trophy from 1971-2010, is hosting the three Pre-Qualifiers over a fortnight for the Lalla Aicha Tour School this year.

The Ladies European Tour had the great pleasure and honour of meeting a very important person who is responsible for the condition of the Red and Blue courses at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam.

Interviewing Mr. Khammar Rahhioui was like more than interviewing a normal head green keeper of a golf course. It was like interviewing an historian. He means everything to Royal Golf Dar Es Salam, and he, together with the designer Robert Trent Jones Sr., are the real parents of this marvellous and historic golf course in Rabat.

No one knows the course better than him: every bunker, every water hazard, every corner, as Royal Golf Dar Es Salam has been under his supervision since its construction in 1970. Such is the case that he was supposed to retire some time ago, but it seems that they cannot live without him.

Khammar was recruited the 1st of June 1970 to work for Royal Golf Dar Es Salam, when majority of the players at the Lalla Aicha Tour School were not even born. He has many certifications, some recognitions and prizes, including the “Diploma of Good Golf Course Maintenance” delivered by the International Green Keeper Association in 1981 and has done various post graduate works .

Q: Royal Golf Dar Es Salam is a 45-hole course, with two 18-holes courses, Red and Blue and additional 9-hole course, which is the Green Course. Could you tell me if they were built at the same time?  

The first one was the Red Course, in 1970 and then, in 1971, we started the Blue course and finally, the Green Course.

Q: How many people in total work together in your staff?

At the beginning, we were around 200 people but when this was under construction in 1970, there were a total of 600 people. Since that time, the staff we needed was smaller every year until now, when we have a total of 60 people for the maintenance. They are split into two groups, with one team per course. At the Red Course there are 18 people and 12 at Blue and Green courses. The drivers of the machinery are apart from this.

Q: What is the main difference between the Red and Blue courses?

The Red course is a bit more difficult as it was built and designed as a “professional course” for international competitions. The Blue course was initially designed for amateurs and the Green course was for the beginners. On the Red Course, there are a lot of obstacles, hazards and many bunkers… 95 bunkers compared to 20 bunkers at the Blue Course. There are a total of two water hazards at the Red Course and three at the Blue Course. But, the maintenance and work we spend is the same on both courses. And the greens are the same, too. The speed of the greens are now 3,4 m. on this event.

Q: What´s your opinion about Robert Trent Jones design?

I think Robert Trent Jones Sr. is the best golf course designer.

Q: How are the weather conditions here? Is it too difficult to maintain this course?

It is not too hard here….but the key is the over seeding. We do it every year from October-November and then aeration, verticud… We make sure the golf course remains green. I use “Ray- Grass” during the winter because it can hold well in low temperatures. Sometimes we have very low temperatures here during the winter, and unusually the go down to zero Celsius degrees. The maximum temperature here is around 30 degrees. During the summer, the “Ray- Grass” sleeps and the “Bermuda” and “Agrostis”, grow. Here we use a grass cocktail of five different types of grasses.

Q: Are there any stories that you could tell us, any special anecdotes about the preparation of the course?

I remember, it was in April, we were preparing one professional event of the Challenge Tour and it was approximately 1990. During April, the rain did not stop and the bunkers were full of water… and the fairways, too. We had to buy 10 pumps to take the water out from the bunkers so the players could play. I prepared the golf course ready to play in one and half hours. The rain dropped was 100ml in one hour. And the tournament could finally start. That was one of my worst experiences. During the 90s it rained a lot, there was a time that it rained for three months, but fortunately, it does not rain that much now.

Q: Tell us about the preparation of the course this week.

We have worked as we normally do with the Trophee Hassan II, for the European and Challenge Tours. We do aeration of fairways, vertical fairways, green and tees, top dressing greens, fairways and tees, etc… and then fertilization. We cut the grass, greens, fairways, tees… every day. So, I think the players are happy with the golf conditions.