Golf in Sotogrande
Sotogrande is synonymous with golf. Golfers are spoilt for choice with a variety of courses to suit all. Local courses include Real Club de Golf Sotogrande, Valderrama, San Roque (Old and New), Almenara, La Cañada, La Reserva, and Alcaidesa (one and two). Counting the existing courses, we have 189 golf holes within a 7km radius in and around Sotogrande, with at least 18 more upcoming.
Real Club de Golf de Sotogrande
It is very rare to find a golf course on the Spanish Costa del Sol that was constructed 50 years ago and even rarer, that after four decades, it still provides a stern test to even the best golfers. Both are true of the Real Club de Golf Sotogrande.Real Club de Golf Sotogrande.
Opened in 1964, the course was designed by Robert Trent Jones. It was his first European course, and it is a credit to the man and his design that the par 72, 6,224-metre layout is still enthralling players after all these years. Sotogrande is a private members’ club, which maintains an air of calm and restrained sophistication, whilst at the same time providing a warm welcome to visitors. The clubhouse is well designed and elegant, the food and drink excellent and well presented, and the changing rooms large with showers to die for. There is also a fantastic 9 hole practice course, ideal for your short game practice with one Par 4 and eight Par 3.
Robert Trent Jones, when he once described a golf course as a battleground: players attack the course and it is the architect’s obligation to defend it. This he has achieved wonderfully at this Spanish masterpiece.
Every hole requires the player to plan his attack with care and execute the shots successfully to escape the many strategically placed bunkers and water hazards. The fairways appear wide and the semi-rough is Augusta-like in its appearance but stray from the short stuff and the wonderful cork, eucalyptus, pine, oak and palm trees – which line almost every fairway – will make life and making par very difficult. Only when the ball drops into the hole will the golfer be able to relax. The putting surfaces are expertly shaped and contoured and they are all wonderfully maintained, making them fast and true all year round.
La Reserva de Sotogrande
Yet another design of the prolific American architect Cabell B. Robinson, the course only opened for play in 2004 but many already consider it capable of hosting a national or international competition. The longest course on the Costa del Sol and probably in Spain.
It is located within two valleys which join in the form of the letter ‘Y’ and when the site was first cleared of scrub, all trees and plants with ecological and aesthetic interest were moved to a nursery then replanted in their original place.
La Reserva is long – nearly 7,400 meters from the back tees – but fairways are wide so you can afford to open your shoulders on the tees to aim at relatively generous fairways. Greens are on the large size, but it is one thing to be on the putting surface in regulation and another La Reserva de Sotogrande to avoid three putting when a long way from the pin position! Water features at half a dozen holes, but apart from one hole, it does not present itself as a frontal hazard.
Both the inward and outward holes have par threes separated by long par fives. On the front nine, the 244-yard 6th has water pressurising the tee shot to the left of the green and the 205-yard 8th is played downhill to a putting surface which also has water to the left and bunkers front right and to the rear. On the back nine, the 180-yard 14th has only one bunker to the right of the green and the 159-yard 16th is played from an elevated tee to a tricky, shallow putting surface.
Valderrama Golf Club
Everybody has heard about Valderrama “the Augusta of Europe” but its success is really down to Jaime Ortiz-Patino and a few of his golfing mates. In 1985, the industrialist billionaire bought what was then a relatively average course. He then spent an absolute fortune on it and now it’s one of the best courses in the world.
In 1975 Robert Trent Jones first laid out the course, which was originally known as Los Aves. It is located prominently on a hill on the upper part of Sotogrande. The layout remained relatively anonymous until 1985 when Jaime and his mates recalled Trent Jones to subtly reshape Valderrama and the club has not looked back since.
Most golfers will be familiar with Valderrama from TV coverage. The club Valderrama has hosted a plethora of championships, including the Volvo Masters and the legendary 1997 Ryder Cup, which saw a narrow one point European victory under the captaincy of none other than the late Seve Ballesteros.
The closing holes are always described as tough with a capital “T” but if you choose your tee sensibly from the off, it’s an eminently playable course for golfers of most abilities (the maximum handicap allowed at Valderrama is 24 for men 32 for ladies). The 17th hole is naturally the most memorable. It’s called Los Gabiones and was once just a long par five until the water was installed just in front of the green. Now it’s a question of shall we lay up or should we go. It was a Scandinavian one-two on 2nd November 2008 when Denmark’s Søren Kjeldsen marked the end of a golfing era by winning the last ever Volvo Masters at Valderrama, while Sweden’s Robert Karlsson won the last Order of Merit that will be awarded for topping the European Tour money list. Taking its place is the revised “Race to Dubai” schedule.
Despite the fact that Valderrama is an elite private members club, visitors can still obtain the key to the first tee. It’s certainly not the cheapest green fee in Europe but because Valderrama is never overplayed, it’s always in tip-top condition. Valderrama is also completely in tune with nature. Apart from Loch Lomond, it’s is the only other European golf club to be awarded full Audubon status (Audubon’s mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems). Play Valderrama and prepare to be impressed… very impressed.
Finca Cortesin Golf Club
Measuring almost 7000 meters from the back tees with over 100 bunkers, Finca Cortesín Golf Club is ranked amongst the best courses in Spain. It is the new home of the Volvo World Match Play since 2010, one of the most historic and important golf tournaments in the world. With a climate that allows year around play it was designed to be in full harmony with nature and the environment.
Designed by Cabell Robinson and landscaped by Herald Huggan it embodies all the natural character they found here.
A perfect balance between over 300 varieties of flora, the Mediterranean forest and the well-manicured turf.
Par 72 and almost 7000 meters length provide a perfect championship course.
San Roque Golf Club
San Roque Golf Club boasts two superb golf courses located within a five minute drive from Sotogrande. Both courses have hosted The European Tour Qualifying School, as well as The Spanish Open. The Old Course, designed by Dave Thomas, is a demanding par 72 course which was created in 1990. Its tree lined fairways; numerous bunkers and several water hazards require placement shots and good strategic play. The renowned American golf architect, Perry Dye, designed The New Course. The course opened in 2004 and also is a very strategic course with lots of trees, pot bunkers, waste bunkers and water. Anyone who plays well on this course will leave personally satisfied having conquered a very challenging course.
San Roque Golf Club offers a beautiful clubhouse with excellent dining facilities, a covered practice range and academy, two practice putting greens and a practice pitching green. In addition to golf, there is an internationally run Equestrian Centre.
San Roque New
Known as the New course, it perfectly complements the David Thomas layout that transformed the site back in the 1980s and which put San Roque onto San Roque Golf Club the world stage of golf. Both Trent Jones and David Thomas had expansive sites on which to practice their arts. In this case, Perry Dye, son of the illustrious Pete, found a limited canvas at odds with the magnanimous acreage to which most US golf architects are accustomed.
The New course is laid over a scant 45 hectares, a vaguely triangular- shaped oblong lying parallel to the ocean and with a sacrosanct nature reserve running along one boundary. To complicate matters, its center piece was a huge hill festooned with cork and oak trees. Plainly, “shifting dirt,” as the Dye dynasty has it, was a priority, as was transplanting trees, hundreds of them. Because of a wet winter, two years were to pass before the first ball was struck, in September 2003.
The consensus: San Roque New may be one of the finest new resort courses in Europe and certainly one of the most beautiful. Visually it is a joy; technically it is a masterpiece of the art, fun for beginners and a thorough test for those capable of strutting the back tees. Because of the shape of the site most of the holes run east to west, or the reverse, so the prevailing winds, from the mountains or the sea, are generally across the line of shot. The exceptions are holes 4, 5, 6, and 13 that lie at right angles at one end of the site. There are sea views from 12 holes, often over a carpet of waving treetops. You’ll gather it is not displeasing to the eye.
The New Course is simply a celebration of golf in its purest form. We commend it to all who love the game.
Almenara Golf Club
Almenara Golf Club, located within the Almenara Hotele Sotogrande resort, is unique in that it has three sets of 9 holes, all par 36, that can be played in different combinations. This course was designed by Dave Thomas and opened in 2001. Because it sits well above sea level, it offers in many places’ scenic views to the sea and most of the Sotogrande resort.
The three sets of 9 holes have differing settings and sceneries, with one being set amongst pines, the other amongst cork trees and the last among lakes.
Home to the renowned Almenara School of Excellence, Almenara is fully-equipped and boasts modern golf practice facilities, both covered and uncovered, with a simultaneous practice capability of 90 players, three practice holes around the practice range, two practice putting greens and a video studio for swing analysis.
Almenara has its own clubhouse situated immediately next to the five-star Almenara golf Hotel & Spa, which offers a variety of first class facilities that includes all treatments to be expected from a top spa; medical sports analysis for athletes, gymnasium, Jacuzzi, indoor and outdoor pools etc.
Alcaidesa Golf Club
The Links course at the Alcaidesa Golf Resort was inaugurated in 1990 then remodeled in 1999 to improve its playability by widening fairways and ironing out some of the more severe undulations on the greens.
Links it may be named and marketed as but, in reality, it is an undulating cliff top seaside course that enjoys stunning views over the Mediterranean, the Straits of Gibraltar and the distant Atlas Mountains in North Africa.
And with the introduction of the Dave Thomas-designed Heathland course and a spanking clubhouse built in 2007, Alcaidesa now boasts two fine 18-hole layouts at a venue situated in one of the more progressive regions of southern Spain.
The ‘old’ course has an out and back routing with the first four holes heading towards the shoreline and the mile-long beach. Holes 5 to 14 then play out along the coast – where the wind, if it’s up, will stiffen the challenge – before the fairways head back inland to complete the round in front of the clubhouse.
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