INTERVIEW WITH ROMAIN POURVEER, DIRECTOR OF GOLF AT MICHLIFEN
IMG managed, Michlifen Golf & Country Club opened for play in 2018 and is located in the historic mountain town of Ifrane, a 45 minute drive from the historic city of Fez. At an altitude of 1,650 metres, the 18 hole, Par 72 layout designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus, is set on a stunning natural site and overlooks the Atlas Mountains.
The course forms part of the iconic Michlifen Resort recognised as one of the finest and most exclusive Spa and Alpine retreats in the region. The 71 room, 5 star hotel features a luxury spa, world class dining and offers the ultimate golf & leisure destination.
In an exclusive interview, Romain talks about Michlifen and how the Club is adapting to the current global situation.
What would you say were the main changes in your business model, since the start of the pandemic?
Despite the difficult times and the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been working really hard and focusing all of our efforts into the national market. A good example is the latest Stay & Play package aimed to drive Moroccan business to Ifrane. This offer includes a unique experience at the luxurious 5-star Michlifen Hotel plus golf at the first Jack Nicklaus Signature course in North Africa, with buggies & transfer between hotel and golf club included.
When we opened the Club in 2018 the main focus was the international market and to promote Ifrane as a totally different golf experience in Morocco. Although we had to adapt and change our strategy for 2020 due to international travel restrictions, thankfully we have been very successful with the new packages created especially for Moroccan golfers.
It was also very rewarding to recently receive an official letter from the General Manager of the Royal Moroccan Golf Federation congratulating us for being an example on applying the safety & social distancing rules at the Club. This has been a priority for us since the beginning and from the moment you arrive, you will find branded signs throughout the clubhouse and academy buildings.
Do you see an increase in the interest around golf in Morocco?
Since re-opening the Club on 25th of June we have noticed a real interest from the local market to come and experience golf for the first time. We have launched a Golf Discovery Programme which takes place every Thursday and Saturday and the sessions have been a huge success. It follows our aim to introduce the game of golf, from juniors to adults.
We have been working very closely with the American University of Ifrane as well. They have more than 2,000 students within the university and they have been taking great advantage of the academy facilities and programmes.
You have an unbelievable Academy at Michlifen. How is it performing?
We are fortunate to have one of the most well-equipped golf academy in Africa, where members and guests can improve their game by taking advantage of our 3 x IMG Performance Studios. The studios feature the latest technology such as Track Man, SAM Putt Lab, SAM Balance Lab and V-One.
Adrian Caltagirone is our Head PGA Professional and has been a great addition to the team. He is very experienced is well placed to offer a unique golf coaching experience to national and international guests.
Our commitment at Michlifen Golf & Country Club is to provide guests with an unforgettable learning experience.
In your view, what are the main benefits of having Michlifen connected to names such as Jack Nicklaus, IMG and the World Golf Awards, which awarded you last year as Morocco’s Best Golf Hotel?
Thanks to IMG’s expertise and my international resort experience, we are on the right track to continue setting very high standards at Michlifen. IMG Golf Course Services has over 25 years of history on managing and developing world-class golf courses, so they are the right partners as we continue to grow the business.
We have just opened in 2018 but to be associated with names with so much history in the game of golf such as Jack Nicklaus and IMG is an honour for us. On top of that to be awarded last year by the World Golf Awards as Morocco’s Best Golf Hotel was simply amazing.
You are located in the middle of the Atlas Mountains, in a completely different environment from most of the golf courses in Morocco. How does that affect the Greenkeeping work planning?
We are lucky to feature a superb championship course which is located at an altitude of 1,650 metres and is dotted with breath taking panoramic views. But that comes with some challenges too!
From November to March Michlifen transforms into a ski resort - Michlifen actually means snow-flake. During construction all measures were taken to disturb the existing terrain as little as possible, and the design team also used a special turf grass type to resist the winter season and low temperatures.
Preserving the natural surroundings is a priority for our greenkeeping team lead by Superintendent Jonathan Ducou. The golf course is part of Ifrane’s National Park, which forces us to keep a high level of care and awareness.
As Jack Nicklaus mentioned “The site in Ifrane and for the Michlifen Golf & Country Club is one of the most scenic, beautiful vistas you will find for a golf experience.” – so we look forward to seeing you all here very soon!