February 2003: Spain’s Costa del Golf

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  • Spanish Steppes turned into greens and fairways

Almeira

When Henry Cotton and his golf course designing colleagues had realised what great potential Spain had as a golf destination in the 1960s, the Spaniards say they could spot the tourists an Tiger Woods-drive away.

Nowadays the Costa Del Sol has 35 golf courses, and at the rate they are being added, there could be a dozen more by now.

The locals are keen to remind you of the other advantages of Costa golf (the “costa” bit is a misnomer, have you seen the green fees at the K Club, St Andrews or Old Head recently?). They include the 300 days of sunshine a year and structures which suit casual golfers.

One of the first things they discovered Spanish courses are of course different. The Spanish climate, of course, has a habit of ensuring that the rough is not very rough. Maybe, said those who sneer (and there are many of those in golfing circles),  that was why the first Spaniards to break through at international level had a reputation for taking the scenic route to the green.

Sneer no more. The climate is not the only reason for Costa golf, the courses stand up to scrutiny in their own right. They range from the flat and untaxing to the undulating Almenara, to hilly wonders such as La Duquesa and La Quinta courses west of Marbella, Estepona, the La Cala course west of Fuengirola and the Alcaidesa, Sotogrande and famous Valderrama courses to the east of Gibraltar. Spanish golfers can find plenty to exercise their calves as well as their minds these days.

Valderrama puts the tin hat on the collection, literally.  It is the creature of Bolivian tin billionaire Jaime Ortiz Patino who was once a collector of Old Masters and Impressionist paintings. He transferred his allegiance to golf, first to memorabilia and then to creating his dream.  Robert Trent Jones designed the course near Gibraltar and then, in the manner of these things, Patino spent over £50m wooing the European Tour.

Valderrama is not alone. There are other Spanish courses which deserve championship events. Surely it is madness to have divvied out the Ryder Cup venues around Ireland and Britain until 2014.

It was magnificent, and one might expect the green fees to have risen in accordance with its stature, but not so. Green fees for courses in the Costa del Sol remain around £45-£50, a little higher for the highly reputed championship courses. But such has been the success of the region that it has become ever more difficult to facilitate large groups.

Alcaidesa, half way between Valderrama and Gibraltar is as fine as anylinks  along the Irish and Scottish coastlines. David Howell’s El Paraiso is an exceptional spot, near Marbella. Mike Lovett’s delightful Mijas complex offers two Robert Trent Jones courses and a fee business of 130,000 rounds per annum. Wear and tear is a shared problem among the more popular courses.

 

 

Alcaidesa 4km east of Gibraltar Links course, fairly hilly

Alhaurin, 15km north of Fuengirola, hilly.

Almenara, 8km east of Gibraltar, Undulating, walkable

Añoreta, 25km east of Malaga Undulating, walkable

Atalaya, 5km west of Marbella, walkable (2 courses)

El Paraiso, 8km west of Marbella, easy walk

Estepona, 5km west of Estepona Hilly, very hilly.

Guadalhorce, Malaga, walkable

Guadalmina, 5km west of Marbella, walkable (2 courses)

La Cala, 12km west of Fuengirola Hilly, very hilly (2 courses)

La Duquesa, 30km west of Marbella, fairly hilly

La Quinta, 8km west of Marbella, fairly hilly (3 x 9 hole courses)

Lauro, 15km north of Malaga, walkable

Los Arqueros, 10km west of Marbella Hilly, very hilly

Los Naranjos, Nueva Andalucia, Marbella, fairly hilly but walkable

Marbella 10km east of Marbella Hilly, very hilly.

Mijas, Fuengirola, Easy walk (2 courses)

Miraflores, 20km west Fuengirola, Calahonda, fairly hilly

Monte Mayor, 20km west Marbella, 10km inland Hilly, very hilly

Montenmedio, 140km west of Marbella Undulating, walkable

Parador, near Malaga Airport, easy walk

Rio Real, 8km east of Marbella, hilly in parts

San Roque, 5km east of Gibraltar, walkable

Santa Maria, 15km east of Marbella Hilly, very hilly

Sotogrande, 10km east of Gibraltar, fairly hilly

Torrequebrada, 15km west of Marbella Hilly, very hilly

Valderrama, 8km east of Gibraltar, fairly hilly

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