Golf In The Costa Del Sol Feature The Travel & Leisure Magazine November 09

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Spain’s top holiday spot is also favourite with holidaying golfers and its top-notch facilities include one of Europe’s very best, as Peter Ellegard discovered.

Spain’s top holiday spot is also favourite with holidaying golfers and its top-notch facilities include one of Europe’s very best, as Peter Ellegard discovered.

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  • 1. pack your CLUBS COSTA DEL SOL, SPAIN Costa del Golf Spain’s top holiday spot is also favourite with holidaying golfers and its top-notch facilities include one of Europe’s very best, as Peter Ellegard discovered T 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. The 17th at St Andrews – the infamous Road Hole where the lurking bunker derailed David Duval’s Open Championship hopes when battling Tiger Woods in 2000 – is one famous example. The par-3 17th at Sawgrass in Florida, with its notorious island green and baying crowd, another. In the 1997 Ryder Cup, it was Valderrama’s par-5 17th that gripped the attention of the golfing world. Several tempted to take on a long approach shot over the guarding lake to the pin had their joy at hitting the green cut short when the ball spun back on the wicked slope and disappeared into the water. Tiger Woods even managed to putt his ball into the lake. All of which earned it the nickname “Valderdrama”. The slope has since been softened and the green extended slightly, to make it a fairer challenge. But the hole is still a daunting prospect, and one that prayed on my mind for the 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 players from each nation. I was captain of England and my partner (actually an Aussie!) and I were pitted against two Germans. Peter Ellegard Conditions could not have been better. ■ Valderrama Gorgeous blue skies were matched by fair- ways so perfectly groomed it seemed a November/December 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine 37
  • 2. ■ The hill-top village of Casares Starwood Hotels Off course attractions Regional capital Malaga’s old quarter contains remnants of its Moorish heritage as well as 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 many bars and restaurants by its ritzy marina.The narrow streets of inland village Istan echo to the sound of water flowing from numerous fountains fed by natural springs. Ronda is one of the region’s hill-top Pueblos Blancos, or white villages – named for the white-washed walls of their traditional Andalucian architecture. A deep gorge spanned by an ancient bridge divides Ronda’s historic and new quarters, with buildings precariously perched atop sheer cliffs. The ancient white village of Casares, the construction of which was ordered by Julius Caesar, has a preserved Arab castle and offers views of the Straits of Gibraltar. shame to spoil them with divots and greens strip of Spain’s southernmost region, this year, it highlights how serious Andalucia smooth enough for a snooker match. Andalucia, tempts golfers with more than is at maintaining its position – not only with The match was a close affair right up 60 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 second then hit the green with my third shot while Mediterranean’s top golf holiday area, runway opening in 2010 at Malaga Airport, the others all found trouble. I was left with a underlined by Andulucia being a new high-speed train now con- tricky 25-foot putt, and had visions of emu- named Europe’s Established necting Malaga with Madrid, lating Tiger’s putt into the lake. Instead, my Golf Destination of the and new motorways. ball agonisingly lipped out just as it seemed Year for 2009 in the New golf facilities I would get an unlikely birdie. However, the IAGTO Awards, the continue to open, too. par was good enough for us to win the golf industry’s Finca Cortesin match and secure fourth place for the team. Oscars. The gala opened to great Back in Marbella that evening, we helped awards ceremony acclaim near the victorious Irish celebrate their deserved came during the Estepona in 2007 overall win with much alcohol. International Golf and is now the Travel Market, golf’s home of the Investment main business forum, renamed Volvo World Valderrama is one of nine courses designed in Marbella last year. M a t c h p l a y by Robert Trent Jones senior along the With provincial capital Championship, taking Costa del Sol. This 100-mile-long coastal Malaga the host of IGTM ■ La Cala over from Wentworth. La Cala Resort 38 The Travel & Leisure Magazine November/December 2009
  • 3. ■ Antequera Golf Antequarra ■ San Roque II Peter Ellegard Peter Ellegard ■ Spectacular view of Gibraltar from Alcaidesa's Links course England’s Ross Fisher won the inaugural Sotogrande estate, which includes expensive course by Dave Thomas and Tony Jacklin and event there at the beginning of November. houses and several other top-drawer courses the more recent San Roque New, designed by One of the longest courses in Europe, at set among cork oak trees. Perry Dye and Seve Ballesteros. Its evocative 7,438 yards, the course was designed by clubhouse exudes an old Spanish hacienda Cabell Robinson – who was on RTJ senior’s design team for Valderrama – and takes “This is the feel, while that of the 27-hole Almenara Golf Club has an elevated terrace where golfers golfers on a rollercoaster ride with sweeping can relax after a game and take in the sweep- views from several tees. Mediterranean’s top ing 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 golf green fees are high. But the experience is mag- Gibraltar is close to Sotogrande, and the boom didn’t 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 Alcaidesa’s picturesque Links course, Valderrama is the undoubted star of the the Volvo Masters until the event’s 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 certified Spain’s 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 Europe’s 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 Sotogrande’s other golfing gems, the the 6,766-yard, par-73 America course, is zine, it is in the exclusive, 5,000-acre San Roque Club boasts the San Roque Old complemented by the tight Asia course and November/December 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine 39
  • 4. ■ Finca Cortesin hosted the recent Costa del Sol GOLF facts Volvo World Matchplay event Tourist information Visit the Costa del Sol Tourist Office website at www.visitacostadelsol.com or the Spanish National Tourist Office site, www.spain.info Peter Ellegard Weather The Costa del Sol has a perfect year-round golfing climate, with ■ Valderrama an average 321 sunny days per year. Getting there Malaga is well-served by direct flights from several UK airports.Among airlines, Monarch (www.monarch.co.uk) operates from airports including Gatwick and Luton with fares, including taxes, starting from £46.50 one way and £76.99 return. Seats can be pre-booked at £7.50 each way, with extra-legroom seats available for £20. Green fees Late winter and early spring are peak season. Green fees start from as low as €30 and average €85. In summer, prices can be reduced by as much as 50%. Golf packages Finca Cortesin Tour operators offering Costa del Sol golf packages include Premier Iberian (0845 600 3391, www.premieriberian.com). It offers three nights’ bed and breakfast 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 a 2010, 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 practice www.drivelinegolf.com), Golf Amigos (0141 644 0999, course and an on-site, five-star spa resort www.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 Valderrama Besides Valderrama, Trent Jones Sr was www.lacala.com www.valderrama.com also responsible for other courses including Las Brisas and the Los Lagos and Los Finca Cortesin Golf Resort La Reserva Olivos layouts at Mijas Golf International, www.fincacortesin.com www.sotogrande.com just inland from lively Fuengirola. Just along the coast, near Benalmadena, is La Quinta Golf & Country Club San 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 Spanish Hotels Ryder Cup star Miguel Angel Jimenez. La Cala Resort Westin La Quinta Another hilly layout is the Seve-designed www.lacala.com www.westinlaquinta.com Alhaurin, which has an adjacent hotel. NH Almenara Golf Parador Malaga Cluster www.hotelalmenara.com www.parador.es From Mijas to Marbella, a cluster of cours- es includes two 1960s creations still popular today – Golf Rio Real and Santa Maria Golf holes 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 much The so-called “Golf Valley”, near Monte Mayor’s challenging layout is set longer, par-73 Gran Flamingo course. Gary Marbella, has some of the Costa del Sol’s among trees high on slopes between Player’s tranquil El Paraiso is nearby. highest concentration of golf facilities. Marbella and Estepona and is one of the But wherever you stay on the Costa del Among them are La Quinta, which has 27 area’s most spectacular. Also west of Sol you are close to great golf. TL November/December 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine 41