Best golf courses in Spain are in Costa del Sol
Playing golf is one of the most cherished sports in the world. In a poll organized by sports website sportology golf made it to the 8th position worldwide. Golf is even more popular in the US (7th postion) and the UK, where it made it to the top 5.
Golf has never been so popular in Spain, though. In spite of Severiano Ballesteros feats, making him one of the best golf players in history and a great influence for golf players and fans worldwide, golf remains a minority sport in the Peninsula.
In spite of the locals reluctance to play the game golf courses have mushroomed all over the country in the last decades, owing to the demand created by tourism and the important community of British ex-pats and permanent residents who have bought a house and moved in to live in Spain full time.
This is especially true in the Costa del Sol, where a quarter of Spain’s top 100 golf courses can be found, including four of the top six chosen by UK guide Top 100 Golf Courses.
Sotogrande’s El Real Club de Golf, in the second position, is the first golf course in Europe designed by golf course architect Robert Trent Jones, Sr. whose famous clients included US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who hired him to build a putting green in the White House. The Rockefeller family, Aga Khan and Hassan II of Morocco commissioned him to design their private courses.
Sotogrande, built in 1964, was the first course in Europe to boast innovations such as an automatic irrigation system or Bermuda 419 grass. Soon became one a prestigious venues for competitions such as the Jerez Cup, later know as European Championship of Nations RCG Sotogrande Cup, played yearly by the best amateurs from twenty European countries. Among its winners are world class figures as Padraig Harrington, Sergio García, o Rory McIlroy.
Sotogrande was the scenery for young Jose María Olazabal first major win, in the 1983 Amatuer Spain Championship. Later Olazabal became Masters of Augusta winner in 1994 and 1999. In 1988 “Seve” Ballesteros won there the Spanish Pro Championship, being second in the world ranking at the time.
The course is a 72 par of 6304 meters (20682,41 feet) and a joy to play by players of every level, at only 150 meters from the sea and surrounded by the natural beauty of the Mediterranean coast. The variety of the holes is one of the chief features of the course. Not only the shapes and distances but of the vegetation, which include pine and palm trees among other species.
The course is very balanced following Trent Jones motto, who said that a hola must be a hard par and an easy bogey. There are long teens, wide drives and high greens, subtly shaped and fast, where the hardest holes can be found. 69 bunkers around the greens require top accuracy from the players.
Valderrama Golf Club which came in third place, was built in 1974, also designed by Robert Trent Jones, and re-design by him in 1981, when the course was renamed “Las Aves”. One of the most prestigious clubs in Europe Valderrama was named the best golf club in continental Europe by Golf World magazine. Nick Faldo considered its practice ground second to none.
Valderrama’s fourth hole is named “La Cascada” (The Waterfall) and it’s the landmark of the course. A par 5, it has a two-tier green and a pond on the right. During this year Open of Spain the French national team formed by Raphaël Jacquelin, Alexander Lévy, Grégory Havret and Romain Wattel managed to complete it in four shots and only 34.87 seconds, breaking the Guinness world record.
The Volvo Masters was hosted here from 1988 until its disappearance in 2008. The Ryder Cup was hosted in Valderrama in 1997, the first venue to host such event outside the British islands. This was a dream come true for Seve, who acted as a captain for the winning team. This was also the occasion to see Tyger Woods play his first Ryder.
Finca Cortesin, and Las Brisas Golf, in Marbella, were positioned fifth and sixth. Finca Cortesin is a 7000 meters long course, with over 100 bunkers, it has been designed to maintain the harmony with its natural surroundings. The weather in Marbella is excellent and allows to play golf all year round.
Finca Corftesín was designed by Cabell B. Robinson and Herald Hurgan, who was in charge of the landscaping. The managed a perfect balance with the Mediterranean forest. 20 different plant species can be found around its perfectly manicured lawns.
The course is a demanding 72 par and has hosted very prestigious events, such as the Volvo World Match play Champioship, during three years. All level players will find a challenge to match their abilities, thanks to its five different tee positions, including an executive gold tee for the most senior players.
Jack Nicklaus has one its Golf Academies in Finca Cortesín. This institution has strived during the last 25 years to convey Jack Nicklaus teachings, chiefly how to release the club properly to strike the ball, and how to master trajectory and distance.
Las Brisas was founded in 1968 under the name “Nueva Andalucia golf club” by Don José Banus, who was its first president until 1981. Another feat of Robert Trent Jones, who had just designed Sotogrande, and would later be in charge of the building of Los Naranjos and Valderrama.
The course has ten man-made ponds connected to two natural streams. The greens are mostly high and surrounded by bunkers. Trent Jones managed to create a course which is at the same time unique, challenging and attractive. Paul Azinger said about Las Brisas: “It has no bad hole. It’s one of the best courses I have ever played.”
Don José Banús commissioned Gerald Huggan to take care of the gardening and trees. Huggan had just designed the gardens of Nairobi and was an expert in tropical plants. Thanks to his work we can find plants from every continent in Las Brisas. The Cape Chestnut from Africa, the Weeping fig from Asia and the Narrow-leaved Ash from Mexico. From Australia we can see the Australian Blackwood, blending in with numerous species of pines palm trees of the Mediterranean, making of Las Brisas a veritable botanic garden.
No doubt golf players visiting or residing in Costa del Sol will feel spoilt by the choice, since there are also La Reserva de Sotogrande, The San Roque Club, Aloha Golf, Santana Golf and Los Naranjos Golf in the top 20!