Spains top holiday spot is also favourite with holidaying golfers and its top-notch facilities include one of Europes very best, as Peter Ellegard discovered.
- 1.pack your CLUBSCOSTA DEL SOL, SPAIN Costa del Golf Spains top holiday spot isalso favourite with holidaying golfers and its top-notch facilities include one ofEuropes very best, asPeter Ellegard discoveredT here are some holes in golf that make your heart race in anticipation well before you reach them. They are the ones that create edge-of-the- seat drama for TV viewers.Often they are the penultimate hole. The17th at St Andrews the infamous RoadHole where the lurking bunker derailedDavid Duvals Open Championship hopeswhen battling Tiger Woods in 2000 is onefamous example. The par-3 17th atSawgrass in Florida, with its notoriousisland green and baying crowd, another.In the 1997 Ryder Cup, it wasValderramas par-5 17th that gripped theattention of the golfing world. Severaltempted to take on a long approach shot overthe guarding lake to the pin had their joy athitting the green cut short when the ball spunback on the wicked slope and disappearedinto the water. Tiger Woods even managed toputt his ball into the lake. All of whichearned it the nickname Valderdrama.The slope has since been softened and thegreen extended slightly, to make it a fairerchallenge. But the hole is still a dauntingprospect, and one that prayed on my mind forthe entire round until I reached it when I final-ly got the chance to play the course in June.It was during a competition for interna-tional media. Teams comprised four playersfrom each nation. I was captain of Englandand my partner (actually an Aussie!) and Iwere pitted against two Germans. Peter EllegardConditions could not have been better. ValderramaGorgeous blue skies were matched by fair-ways so perfectly groomed it seemed aNovember/December 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine 37
2. The hill-top village of Casares Starwood HotelsOff course attractionsRegional capital Malagas old quarter contains remnants of its Moorish heritage as wellas a Roman theatre and later edifices such as its cathedral, built over an ancient mosque.Malaga was home to artist Pablo Picasso and his house is preserved as a monument,while the Picasso Museum contains works from throughout his life.In Mijas, donkey taxis take visitors on tours of the town, which has a square bullring.They once transported marble and lime from hillside quarries to the coast.Cosmopolitan Marbella has a colourful old town while nearby Puerto Banus has manybars and restaurants by its ritzy marina.The narrow streets of inland village Istan echoto the sound of water flowing from numerous fountains fed by natural springs.Ronda is one of the regions hill-top Pueblos Blancos, or white villages named forthe white-washed walls of their traditional Andalucian architecture. A deep gorgespanned by an ancient bridge divides Rondas historic and new quarters, with buildingsprecariously perched atop sheer cliffs.The ancient white village of Casares, the construction of which was ordered by JuliusCaesar, has a preserved Arab castle and offers views of the Straits of Gibraltar.shame to spoil them with divots and greens strip of Spains southernmost region, this year, it highlights how serious Andaluciasmooth enough for a snooker match. Andalucia, tempts golfers with more than is at maintaining its position not only withThe match was a close affair right up60 courses, many by top architects. golfers but also with holidaymakers in gen-until the 17th, with us just ahead. My drive Unsurprisingly, it proclaims itself as the eral.found the wide fairway. Deciding against Costa del Golf on roadside signs. Huge investment is underway in its infra-going for glory, I laid up in front of the lake,And it is no idle boast. This is the structure, with a new terminal and secondthen hit the green with my third shot whileMediterraneans top golf holiday area, runway opening in 2010 at Malaga Airport,the others all found trouble. I was left with aunderlined by Andulucia being a new high-speed train now con-tricky 25-foot putt, and had visions of emu- named Europes Established necting Malaga with Madrid,lating Tigers putt into the lake. Instead, my Golf Destination of the and new motorways.ball agonisingly lipped out just as it seemedYear for 2009 in theNew golf facilitiesI would get an unlikely birdie. However, the IAGTO Awards, the continue to open, too.par was good enough for us to win thegolf industrys FincaCortesinmatch and secure fourth place for the team.Oscars. The gala opened to greatBack in Marbella that evening, we helped awards ceremonyacclaimnearthe victorious Irish celebrate their deservedcame during theEstepona in 2007overall win with much alcohol. International Golf and is now the Travel Market, golfs homeoftheInvestment main business forum, renamed Volvo WorldValderrama is one of nine courses designed in Marbella last year. M a t c h p l a yby Robert Trent Jones senior along the With provincial capitalChampionship, takingCosta del Sol. This 100-mile-long coastalMalaga the host of IGTM La Calaover from Wentworth. La Cala Resort38 The Travel & Leisure MagazineNovember/December 2009 3. Antequera Golf Antequarra San Roque II Peter Ellegard Peter Ellegard Spectacular view of Gibraltar from Alcaidesa's Links course Englands Ross Fisher won the inaugural Sotogrande estate, which includes expensivecourse by Dave Thomas and Tony Jacklin and event there at the beginning of November. houses and several other top-drawer coursesthe more recent San Roque New, designed by One of the longest courses in Europe, atset among cork oak trees.Perry Dye and Seve Ballesteros. Its evocative 7,438 yards, the course was designed byclubhouse exudes an old Spanish hacienda Cabell Robinson who was on RTJ seniors design team for Valderrama and takesThis is thefeel, while that of the 27-hole Almenara GolfClub has an elevated terrace where golfers golfers on a rollercoaster ride with sweepingcan relax after a game and take in the sweep- views from several tees.Mediterraneans toping vista to the sea. The Cabell Robinson-designed La Reserva, which opened in 2003, Royal history golf holiday area is already regarded a classic. Golf first arrived here in 1925 with the opening of the Golf Parador Malaga by the Tee times are limited for non-members, and Largest complex Spanish royal family. But the Costa golfgreen fees are high. But the experience is mag-Gibraltar is close to Sotogrande, and the boom didnt begin until the 1960s and ical and well worthwhile. It may not currently Rock is framed by several holes of 1970s, taking off in the 1980s. host a PGA Tour event it was host course for Alcaidesas picturesque Links course,Valderrama is the undoubted star of thethe Volvo Masters until the events final stag-perched above a sweeping beach at the area, although strictly speaking it is not part ing in 2008 but it oozes quality and refine- western end of the Costa del Sol. of the Costa del Sol as it lies just across the ment. You also feel close to nature. A certifiedSpains largest golf complex, La Cala, is border from Malaga province in Cadiz. Audubon Co-operative Sanctuary, Valderrama set in a 1,000-acre leisure and residential Named Europes third-best course in the has 40 acres of wildlife sanctuaries.estate east of Marbella. Its longest layout, recent Top 100 survey by Golf World maga-Of Sotograndes other golfing gems, the the 6,766-yard, par-73 America course, is zine, it is in the exclusive, 5,000-acreSan Roque Club boasts the San Roque Oldcomplemented by the tight Asia course andNovember/December 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine39 4. Finca Cortesinhosted the recent Costa del Sol GOLF factsVolvo WorldMatchplay eventTourist informationVisit the Costa del Sol Tourist Office website atwww.visitacostadelsol.com or the Spanish National TouristOffice site, www.spain.infoPeter EllegardWeatherThe Costa del Sol has a perfect year-round golfing climate, with Valderramaan average 321 sunny days per year. Getting thereMalaga is well-served by direct flights from several UK airports.Among airlines,Monarch (www.monarch.co.uk) operates from airports including Gatwick and Lutonwith fares, including taxes, starting from 46.50 one way and 76.99 return. Seats canbe pre-booked at 7.50 each way, with extra-legroom seats available for 20. Green feesLate winter and early spring are peak season. Green fees start from as low as30 and average 85. In summer, prices can be reduced by as much as 50%. Golf packagesFinca CortesinTour operators offering Costa del Sol golf packages include Premier Iberian(0845 600 3391, www.premieriberian.com). It offers three nights bed andbreakfast at the NH Sotogrande hotel with two rounds of golf at Almenara from 155. Seven nights B&B at La Cala with four rounds on its the newest of the trio, the exhilarating courses costs from 433 between December 1 and January 31, Europa course. I only managed to play a2010, including a 25% early booking discount for bookings at few holes before unseasonal rain forced an least 30 days in advance. Flights are not included. Other early retirement in June, but I am returning operators include Your Golf Travel (0800 043 6644,Peter Ellegard to La Cala this winter.www.yourgolftravel.com), Golf Breaks (0800 279 7988,The resort also boasts a David Leadbetter www.golfbreaks.com), Driveline Golf (0870 330 1056, teaching academy, a six-hole par-3 practicewww.drivelinegolf.com), Golf Amigos (0141 644 0999, course and an on-site, five-star spa resortwww.golfamigos.co.uk), and Leisure Link Golf Holidays (01277 247520, hotel. All three courses are Cabell Robinson www.leisurelinkgolf.com). designs, as is the nearby Santana Golf & Country Club course, built on a former avo- Courses cado plantation.La Cala Resort ValderramaBesides Valderrama, Trent Jones Sr was www.lacala.com www.valderrama.com also responsible for other courses including Las Brisas and the Los Lagos and LosFinca Cortesin Golf Resort La Reserva Olivos layouts at Mijas Golf International, www.fincacortesin.comwww.sotogrande.com just inland from lively Fuengirola.Just along the coast, near Benalmadena, is La Quinta Golf & Country ClubSan Roque Club former Spanish Open venue Torrequebrada.www.laquintagolf.com www.sanroqueclub.com This hilly course has wonderful panoramic sea views and is the home course of SpanishHotels Ryder Cup star Miguel Angel Jimenez. La Cala Resort Westin La Quinta Another hilly layout is the Seve-designedwww.lacala.com www.westinlaquinta.com Alhaurin, which has an adjacent hotel.NH AlmenaraGolf Parador Malaga Clusterwww.hotelalmenara.comwww.parador.es From Mijas to Marbella, a cluster of cours- es includes two 1960s creations still popular today Golf Rio Real and Santa Maria Golfholes laid out on undulating terrain along- Marbella are courses including the & Country Club and the newer, parkland- side the five-star Westin La Quinta hotel,Flamingos Golf & Resort complex, the orig- style Santa Clara course. and another RTJ layout, Los Naranjos. inal course now augmented by the muchThe so-called Golf Valley, near Monte Mayors challenging layout is setlonger, par-73 Gran Flamingo course. Gary Marbella, has some of the Costa del Sols among trees high on slopes betweenPlayers tranquil El Paraiso is nearby. highest concentration of golf facilities. Marbella and Estepona and is one of theBut wherever you stay on the Costa del Among them are La Quinta, which has 27areas most spectacular. Also west of Sol you are close to great golf.TLNovember/December 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine41