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The Travel & Leisure Magazine Golf In Murcia, Spain. + Golf News
The Travel & Leisure Magazine Golf In Murcia, Spain. + Golf News
The Travel & Leisure Magazine Golf In Murcia, Spain. + Golf News
The Travel & Leisure Magazine Golf In Murcia, Spain. + Golf News
The Travel & Leisure Magazine Golf In Murcia, Spain. + Golf News
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The Travel & Leisure Magazine Golf In Murcia, Spain. + Golf News

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Spanish region Murcia is synonymous with Brits favourite La Manga but, thanks to an explosion of golf facilities, it is now Spain's fastest growing golf destination. Peter Ellegard recently returned …

Spanish region Murcia is synonymous with Brits favourite La Manga but, thanks to an explosion of golf facilities, it is now Spain's fastest growing golf destination. Peter Ellegard recently returned to where it all began...
This article appeared within the June-Aug 09 edition of The Travel & Leisure Magazine to find out more about the magazine please visit www.tlmags.com

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  • 1. pack your CLUBS MURCIA, SPAIN Golf with star appeal Peter Ellegard I La Manga Club hotel Spanish region Murcia is synonymous with Brits favourite La Manga but, thanks to an explosion of golf facilities, it is now Spain’s fastest-growing golf destination. Peter Ellegard recently returned to where it all began… W ith my golf bag slung over one shoulder and my other arm clutching golf shoes, the lift buttons were tricky to reach. Thankfully, another hotel guest who got in behind me spared my contortions, asking which floor I wanted and pressing the button. Recognising the voice, I looked round and suddenly realised who my lift partner was – just managing to avoid blurting out something stupid, like “aren’t you Glenn Hoddle?” It was just after Hoddle’s tenure as England football manager some 10 years ago and we were at La Manga Club, in Spain’s Murcia region. But star-spotting is nothing new there. For more than 35 years, the sprawling leisure complex has not only been a byword for holidaying Brits, but has also been a mag- net for celebrities. Many have bought luxury villas alongside its golf courses. A frequent La Manga visitor, I have previ- ously spotted actress Patsy Palmer – Bianca from Eastenders – sunning herself poolside and seen former F1 world champion Nigel Mansell, a villa owner, setting off in a golf Peter Ellegard buggy for a leisurely round. Other regulars include David Coulthard, Kenny Dalglish, Sir I Driving off on La Manga’s North Course Cliff Richard and Alan Hansen. July/August 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine 41
  • 2. Home from home The home-from-home feel is hardly surpris- ing; it was owned and run by British institu- tion P&O for a quarter of a century until late 2004. To many, La Manga was and is Murcia, and vice versa. But La Manga no longer has a monopoly. Murcia’s golf facilities have expanded rapidly in recent years. Now Spain’s fastest-growing golf destination, it has 17 courses with more under construction or planned. Newcomers have dramatically enhanced Polaris World Murcia’s golf resort scene. They include the 27- hole Mosa Trajectum resort and resort operator I Nicklaus Golf Trail course El Valle Polaris World, which has linked with golf leg- end Jack Nicklaus to create the Nicklaus Golf emies, several villa complexes all with their lies also found on its siblings – and large Trail – a circuit currently comprising four own pools, over 20 bars and restaurants, greens with wicked slopes. courses and which will eventually boast nine. shops, banks, a pharmacy and even its own The West Course is the prettiest, snaking Other Murcia courses have designs by the petrol station. A private beach in a rocky cove through a more rural setting of hills and pine likes of Dave Thomas and Spain’s own Seve overlooked by a restaurant is accessed by a trees, to finish with a towering 18th tee giving Ballesteros. road blasted through the towering sea cliffs. grandstand views of La Manga and the Med. All of which is bringing more golfing visi- Top football clubs use its extensive training With numerous blind shots, it demands target- tors to this south-eastern corner of Spain, facilities and many sports stars take part in golf precision. tucked between the provinces of Alicante and charity golf tournaments. Almeria. Most courses are along the coastal La Manga’s three courses are both a joy Nicklaus Golf Trail strip, known as the Costa Calida. Visitors and a challenge. Easy resort golf it isn’t. Created by Polaris World with golf legend arrive via Alicante or Murcia’s tiny San Javier Originally designed in 1971 and remod- Jack Nicklaus, the Nicklaus Golf Trail is a airport, just 20 minutes from La Manga. The elled in 1992 by Arnold Palmer, the champi- unique circuit of courses bearing the stamp of sleepy little airport I recall from early visits onship South Course features wide, palm- the Golden Bear. Of the four courses already now bursts at the seams at peak times. fringed fairways and water hazards on 15 of open, three are 18-hole layouts. Two more A brand new airport opens next year at the 18 holes, including some new ones added courses are under construction and work will Corovera, 20 minutes from the provincial cap- in a multi-million renovation that I discovered, soon start on the other three. ital, the city of Murcia, to cope with the influx. quite literally, on my recent visit. The trail courses open so far are: The more aesthetically-pleasing but shorter La Torre Best Golf: a short 18-hole, par 68 Return to La Manga North Course is partly laid out on higher ele- course with wide fairways, suitable for inter- A recent return to La Manga gave me the vations, with challenges provided by palm mediate or high handicappers. chance to see it for the first time since it came trees, lakes and barrancas – natural storm gul- El Valle Best Golf: a desert-style, 18-hole, under Spanish ownership, and since the hacien- par 71 course featuring lakes, waterfalls and da-style former Hyatt Regency hotel became clusters of bunkers set amid rocks and abun- the independently-operated La Manga Club dant native vegetation. Principe Felipe earlier this year. Off course Hacienda Riquelme Best Golf: this larger I was heartened to see the resort was than average 18-hole, par 72 course enjoys little changed from my last visit, a Murcia’s coastal stretch, the Costa Calida, offers a Mediterranean setting surrounded by decade ago; if anything, it was better. unspoilt white sandy beaches, picturesque towns, fishing olive trees with several large lakes. The hotels rooms were better- ports where you can dine on tasty local catches, natural Mar Menor Best Golf: a nine-hole appointed than I remembered, and beauty spots, and two seas offering water sports galore – the course currently being extended to new facilities had been added. Mediterranean and the enclosed Mar Menor, protected by a long 18 holes, its wide fairways and Among them an impressive spa finger of land edged by beaches.This is La Manga strip, a favourite large bunkers are ideal for begin- overlooking the vast resort, from holiday spot for the Spanish with hotels, apartments, shops, bars and ners and learners. where you can truly appreciate La restaurants. Trail courses still to open Manga Club’s scale. The city of Murcia, the regional capital, claims to have more festivals include: the 18-hole, par 72 Las Three times the size of Monaco, than any other Spanish city. September’s Moors and Christians Terrazas de La Torre, a desert-style it encompasses three 18-hole golf parade sees an effigy of the Virgin Mary carried to a mountain course with dunes encasing greens; courses, a golf academy, an 18-hole shrine and bull fights in the city arena.While Roman the Condado de Alhama, a signature Par 47 pitch and putt course, 28 tennis stronghold Cartegena – where Hannibal grew up – course designed by Jack Nicklaus him- courts, football centre with eight pitches, holds a 10-day Carthaginians and Romans Festival self with sharp elevations; and the Bear’s two cricket pitches, rugby and Gaelic football each September, with camps, battle re- Best I and II 18-hole duo, with differing facilities, a Junior Club and junior sports acad- enactments and chariot races. styles reminiscent of Florida and the Arizona 42 The Travel & Leisure Magazine July/August 2009
  • 3. Murcia GOLF facts Peter Ellegard Tourist information For information about Murcia and its golf courses, visit the Murcia Tourist I La Manga’s South Course Board website, www.murciaturistica.es/PORTAL/ Weather Murcia’s semi-arid, sub-tropical climate is ideal for golf year-round, with an average temperature of 21ºC and more than 300 sunny days a year. Hacienda del Alamo Getting there Many flights by charter airlines, scheduled airlines and low-cost carriers go to Murcia’s San Javier airport and nearby Alicante. Monarch I Hacienda del Alamo (www.monarch.co.uk) serves both, with flights to Alicante from airports including Gatwick and Luton, and flights to Murcia from Gatwick and other desert but both featuring replica holes from regional airports. Fares start from £46.50 one-way (£76.99 return) to some of the 240 Nicklaus Design courses. Alicante and £52.99 (£88.50) to Murcia. Polaris World offers extensive self-catering accommodation as well as two five-star Golf packages InterContinental hotels, overlooking the Mar Tour operators offering Murcia golf packages include Your Golf Travel (0800 Menor and La Torre courses. 043, 6644, www.yourgolftravel.com). La Manga prices start at £295 per person for three nights’ bed and breakfast at the Hotel La Manga Club Eco-golf Principe Felipe, with three rounds of golf, or £229 on the same basis at the Three nine-hole layouts (Stone, Olive and Las Lomas Village apartments or townhouses.Three nights’ self-catering at Pine) giving three 18-hole combinations are Polaris World with three rounds of golf on the Nicklaus Golf Trail cost on offer at Mosa Trajectum Golf – Murcia. from £130 per person. Prices exclude flights. Each nine is different in character. The resort also has a nine-hole, par 3 Challenge Course. Mosa Trajectum claims to be Spain’s first completely-ecological golf course, with a drainage system which collects all rain and Polaris World Peraleja Golf waste water and diverts it to the resort’s own purification plant. I Wildlife abounds at Peraleja I The Nicklaus Trail will have nine courses Of Murcia’s other courses, Dave Thomas designed Roda Golf Course, part of the De Courses Roda Golf & Beach Resort Vere Hotels-managed Roda Golf and Beach La Manga Club www.rodagolf.com Resort where a hotel opens in 2010, the semi- www.lamangaclub.com private Altorreal set on hills above Murcia city, Hacienda del Alamo and Hacienda del Alamo. Surrounded by cit- Nicklaus Golf Trail www.clubdegolfhda.com rus, olive and almond groves, a second course www.nicklausgolftrail.es is planned there. Altorreal Golf Wildlife is a key feature of Seve Ballesteros- Mosa Trajectum Golf – Murcia www.golfaltorreal.es designed Peraleja, which opened in 2007. More www.thekey.es than 60% of the resort’s 780-acre area is pro- tected, with resident bird species including Peraleja Golf Bonelli eagles, red kites and eagle owls. A five- www.peralejagolf.com star hotel and spa opens soon. Peter Ellegard Future openings feature several big-name golf Hotels designers. Among them are: two Greg Norman- Hotel La Manga Club Principe Felipe designed courses at the 3 Molinos Golf Resort; www.lamangaclub.com the Jose Maria Olazabal-designed Corvera Golf & Country Club course opening in 2010, which Hotel Intercontinental Mar Menor Golf Resort will become the winter HQ and overseas base for www.intercontinental.com/marmenor the PGAs of Europe; and Novo Carthago, a resort alongside the Mar Menor featuring two Hotel InterContinental La Torre Golf Resort Murcia Robert Trent Jones Jr courses. www.intercontinental.com/latorre er 10 years before I go back to Murcia. TL One thing is certain; I won’t leave it anoth- July/August 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine 43
  • 4. golf NEWS GOLF CLIPS The K Club, Ireland’s 2006 First brochure E Ryder Cup host resort, is urope’s fastest-growing breakfast with two rounds of celebrating its 18th birthday golf travel company has golf at Belmont Lodge Hotel & with some special offers.They launched its first Golf Club in Hereford. Overseas include bed and breakfast in a brochure. More than 180 holidays cost from £115 per per- superior room for £180, with resorts, hotels and golf courses son for three nights in an apart- 18 holes of golf or 180 in 19 destinations around the ment on Portugal’s Algarve, minutes of spa treatments. world are featured in the inau- with three rounds. Peter Ellegard The offer is valid all year. Call gural 2009 brochure from Your Your Golf Travel managing 00 353 1 601 7200 or visit Golf Travel, which was previ- director Andrew Harding said: www.kclub.com ously online only. I Your Golf Travel offers Celtic Manor breaks “We wanted to build on the phe- As well as UK and Ireland nomenal growth the company Dubai’s Majlis Course has breaks, the brochure offers holi- tured are China’s Mission Hills, has enjoyed since its inception been voted the top golf days in European golfing the world’s biggest golf complex in 2005 and launching this course in the Middle East by hotspots France, Portugal, with 12 courses, Players brochure is the best way to do leading US golf publication Spain, Turkey and Cyprus. Championship venue Sawgrass that.” Further afield, it offers South in Florida, 2010 Ryder Cup host For a copy of the brochure, Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Celtic Manor in Wales and 2014 call 0800 043 6644, and for more Egypt, Mauritius, the Caribbean, host Gleneagles in Scotland. information, visit the website the US and China. UK breaks start at £36 per (www.yourgolftravel.com), Among notable courses fea- person for one night’s bed and which has over 1,500 venues. Join the club Dubai Golf I 8th hole on the Majlis Golf Digest. Designed by Karl W Litten and opened in 1988, ith Florida property the course is part of the prices at their low- Emirates Golf Club and hosts est for years and the PGA European Tour- the dollar still good value, sanctioned Dubai Desert British golfers might not have a Classic, won this year by better opportunity to buy a Rory McIlroy. home there with top-notch www.dubaigolf.com courses on the doorstep. One of south-west Florida’s A new rooftop deck has most prestigious country clubs been added at the Old is aiming to attract more over- Course Hotel, Golf Resort & seas members, particularly from Spa in St Andrews.The terrace the UK. completes the luxurious Grey Oaks Country Club, in Naples, already has several British members. Director of Peter Ellegard membership Ann Marie Ashline believes its beautiful setting, I Grey Oaks’ Palm Course home-away-from-home atmos- Kohler Co I The Old Course Hotel’s rooftop deck phere and extensive facilities – which include three golf cours- at Grey Oaks, where three-bed- facilities. Members get 80% of fourth floor of the hotel and es, one by top architect Bob room villas sell from around the current equity value back if guests can enjoy a drink or Cupp – particularly appeal to the $800,000, but it also offers equi- they resign. meal while looking out over British. Other facilities include ty golf membership for non-res- Interested British golfers are the Old Course,West Sands two clubhouses, two driving idents. That costs $175,000 welcome to try out Grey Oaks’ and Firth of Forth. ranges, tennis, social events and (Grey Oaks property owners pay golf as guests. Call 00 1 239 262 www.oldcoursehotel.co.uk a fitness centre. $150,000) plus annual dues of 5550. More information: Many members have homes $11,400, giving full use of all www.greyoakscc.com 44 The Travel & Leisure Magazine July/August 2009

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