ROYAL VALDERRAMA CLUB
Former owner Jaime Ortiz Patiño took less than 10 years to create a legend. He took over Valderrama in 1987, applied the knowledge he had learnt at the USGA from its greens superintendents and agronomy sections and, by 1997, was proudly welcoming the King of Spain to the Ryder Cup opening ceremony.
In the meantime, he had hosted nine Volvo Masters and gained respect from Europe’s top players who, it must be said, were at first sceptical about his efforts.
Valderrama became Europe’s number course, and for Andalucía it is now the standard bearer, a prestigious resource that tourism authorities are proud to promote.
The course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr, who once observed, “I think Valderrama is a classic championship golf course.
It’s like Augusta… in about as good condition as any golf course can get.” Valderrama’s challenge is limited to club members and 36 visiting golfers per day but it is nevertheless an irresistible challenge. In a Golf Digest world survey golfers were asked to name the one course they’d play for the rest of their lives. Augusta was first.
Second came Pebble Beach. And third? Valderrama. Now known as Royal Valderrama, the club hosted the Spanish Open in 2016 and further extends its venerable European Tour history in 2017 with the third edition of the Andalucía Valderrama Masters, a tournament sponsored by the Junta de Andalucía (regional government) and continuing for at least another four years to 2021.
CLUB DE GOLF LA CAÑADA
This is the story of the village that wanted a golf course.
When they got one of nine holes they asked for more, and more. Guadiaro used to send its men to the fields then along came Sotogrande.
They became greenkeepers and took up golf.
Before long there were more golfers in Guadiaro that in any village of its size in Spain.
They hacked out a mountainside track and the kids practised near the football pitch.
Jaime Ortiz Patiño got interested, the municipality gave the land, Robert Trent Jones Sr. did the design and La Cañada was built.
Over a decade later, with a lot of financial help from the First Tee programme and JOP, the second nine holes was opened, this time designed by Dave Thomas.
Now that’s some municipal golf course! And now there’s the clubhouse!
THE SAN ROQUE CLUB
OLD – The Old Course at San Roque Club, designed by former Ryder Cup player Dave Thomas, is considered one of Europe’s finest courses.
The course hosted the 2005 Open de España and for several years has been the venue for the European Tour Qualifying School.
It is a members’ course but also welcomes visiting golfers. The front nine winds its way through a profusion of cork trees; while water is a main feature of the second nine. Special care has to be taken on the 11th, 12th, 17th and 18th, due to the water hazards.
San Roque Golf Club is one of the most well-equipped complexes in southern Spain, with an impressive clubhouse, first-class restaurants (including a popular Japanese establishment) and an international golf centre and equestrian centre.
NEW – Co-designed by Perry Dye and Severiano Ballesteros, the second 18-hole course at San Roque Club has all the ingredients to immediately join the elite of Europe’s golf amenities – thanks to its high technical quality, attractive design and impeccable finish and landscaping.
The course hosted the 2006 Open de España and is, without a doubt, the sort of golf course that stands out from most in Spain – and even in Europe.
The company that owns the complex, Asahi Kanko, run by Japanese developer Shun Tezuka, has always maintained exacting standards, and taken great care with its facilities and – above all else – the natural surroundings.There are no homes in the vicinity of the New Course, which means that no buildings interfere with or spoil a round of golf.
ALMENARA GOLF CLUB
Almenara was designed by Dave Thomas and, in 2001, opened its third nine holes, a spectacular layout built around a series of vast lakes requiring some of the most breathtaking tee shots in Europe.
With this third nine Almenara offers the perfect balance between its opening holes, which wind down then up through cork oaks, and the second nine, which start high up before cutting down to the central lakes then rising to the 18th green and the clubhouse – also part of the hotel.
Almenara’s hotel, part of the NH chain, is a bungalow-style establishment with a central reception, bar and restaurant area.
The golf restaurant is adjacent and has a terrace looking out over the first nine holes and the Sotogrande Estate towards the sea.
LA RESERVA DE SOTOGRANDE CLUB DE GOLF
Inaugurated in 2003, this course is located in a beautiful part of the heights of macro-urbanisation Sotogrande, characterised by native vegetation of Mediterranean pine, olive and cork trees.
Designed by Cabell B. Robinson, a Robert Trent Jones disciple for 20 years, La Reserva de Sotogrande is surrounded by two valleys.
The layout includes four lakes, with water on six holes, though only coming into play on one. Constructed according to USGA norms, the greens can be characterised by their ample size and variety of form, the same as the bunkers.
Robinson is convinced that La Reserva will be considered one of the best courses in Europe.
REAL CLUB GOLF SOTOGRANDE
Founded in 1964, Sotogrande regularly features among Europe’s top 10 golf courses.
Robert Trent Jones’s first course design on the Continent.
Sotogrande has matured beautifully. It is a members’ course with certain times reserved for visitors.
Water makes a splash here on the 7th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 16th and 17th. There are fine houses around the course though none can be accused of encroaching. This is truly an “old school” club where golf comes first.
It is a rare pleasure to stand on the 12th tee with the broad unspoilt expanse of fairways before you, the lakes, the distant green, the 13th hole and par-5 14th coming back up.
Where else in Europe will you find such a sight?
The recently modernised clubhouse overlooks the first tee and 18th green.
ALCAIDESA GOLF COURSES
The closest you’ll get to a links course in Andalucía, Alcaidesa has heather and gorse but offers stunning views of the Rock of Gibraltar and, beyond, the Atlas mountains of northern Morocco.
Alcaidesa has been modified considerably since opening in 1990 and after the settling-in process has become one of the Costa del Sol’s most popular courses.
There is water, especially at the par-3 second, and windswept heights provide a stiff test to those wishing to keep on line.
Fairways are wide but somehow the closeness to the sky encourages that dreaded slice or vicious hook – or is it the sweeping nature of the land?