With a group of journalists, we recently visited southern Spain in a lightning trip for a few rounds of golf, good food and a beautiful hotel in Sotogrande, Spain's most exclusive golf destination. We played at La Reserva Club Sotogrande and Real Club de Golf Sotogrande and visited Real Club Valderrama. Despite having to go to the airport very early in the morning, the great experience was all worth it.
In just over three hours, my plane took me from Schiphol Airport to Malaga Costa del Sol Airport. Depending on the direction of your arrival, you can see the Parador de Málaga Golf course - the oldest golf course on the Costa del Sol - from the plane, which will immediately put you in the mood for the rest of the day.
If it wasn't obvious on the plane itself (you almost always recognise fellow golfers), there is no doubt at the baggage carousel that Malaga - and especially the Costa del Sol - is an extremely popular place for golfers to visit. The baggage carousel is full of golf travel bags and you can see the enthusiasm growing among the golfers, knowing that their first round in the Spanish sun is imminent.
In just over an hour, you drive from Malaga Airport to Sotogrande. On the way, you pass one golf course after the other and it is obvious why this region is called the Costa del Golf. There are 70 golf courses on the Costa del Sol, ranging from very accessible to very exclusive, so there is something for everyone.
Once you arrive in Sotogrande, you notice a change of pace. Here, everyone takes it a little easier and enjoys life more. Sotogrande is a true Mecca when it comes to good golf courses. Within a radius of 5 kilometres, you will find 3 of the 10 best golf courses in Spain:
If you are prepared to drive a little further, then at 20 km you will find Finca Cortesin, the #3 of Spain and at 50 km La Zagaleta, the #4 of Spain. Plenty of choice.
We drive straight to the first golf course, La Reserva Club Sotogrande, for lunch and a round on the course. La Reserva Club is a true Andalusian paradise. When you drive up to the entrance of the golf club you will be enchanted by the typical Andalusian architecture with a subtle modern twist.
The clubhouse is well equipped, an excellent pro-shop, austere but nice dressing rooms and an excellent restaurant where you can choose from "Golfer's Favourites" (Caesar salad, Club Sandwich, Hamburger, etc.), but also delicious salads, meat and (fresh) fish dishes with seasonal ingredients from the region. After our hunger had been sated and we did our warm up on the range, it was time to head to the first tee.
La Reserva Club Sotogrande is carved into the hills and has beautiful views in all directions. The course was designed in 2003 by American architect Cabell B. Robinson, who is also known for the design of Finca Cortesin, Las Colinas, Aphrodite Hills Golf PGA National Cyprus and Praia del Rey, among others. La Reserva is characterised by wide, undulating fairways that lead to challenging, contoured greens. There are significant height differences and a lot of bunkers and water features at strategic places.
The opening hole at La Reserva immediately gives you a good idea of what to expect. A downhill par-4 with a dogleg to the left and a big creek in front of the green which is visually a lot larger than in reality. If you are not quite warm yet, it is wise to play this hole as a par-5 and lay up for water. If you feel good and you swing with confidence, you can try to hit a draw or cut through the trees on the left. If you can do that, you have a short shot left to the green and a birdie or par is in the offing.
The continuation of the opening holes on La Reserva is also challenging and excellent. The second is a long par-5 of 460 metres from the yellow tee, with the fairway split in two by a set of giant bunkers after about 300 metres. The third - a par-4 of 371 metres - has a sloping fairway from right to left so placement is very important here.
Hole six is one of those holes where, on the tee, you're probably thinking one of two things: "Goodness, how will I ever walk off with a good score" or "Hand me that driver, let's give it a good rip". Whichever of the two it is, this is a good hole. This par-5 of - again - 460 metres of yellow slopes considerably downwards and that offers chances to reach the green in two. Then you have to take into account the water that starts some 20 meters on the right side before the long narrow green and continues until the end of the green. If the flag is at the back, play it safe.
The second nine of the course also continues to present good holes. The 10th seems easy, but if you miss the fairway, you're screwed. The green on the hole is the most tilted on the whole course. Hole 13 is perhaps the best par-5 on the course and the 14th - which is crossed by a stream at the tee - is a dogleg to the left which is especially beautiful and challenging from the second shot onwards with good run-off areas around the green.
The closing stretch of the course makes you want to come back here soon. Seventeen is a nice par-3 that is not too difficult. A large green gives you a nice target and could boost your confidence playing the closing hole. The 18th is an uphill par-4 of 364 meters that plays towards the characteristic clubhouse. The fairway is wide and the approach to the higher green relatively easy. An excellent end to a beautiful course.
After some drinks on the terrace, we say goodbye to La Reserva Club and head for our hotel. We sleep in the completely renovated S/O Sotogrande hotel. Some may know this hotel as the Almenara Hotel - named after the adjacent golf course - but you won't recognise it anymore. The hotel has been given a thorough makeover and they have done a great job.
The hotel says it is characterised by the "Revolutionised Cortijoconcept", a combination of rebellious luxury with local touches. That local and traditional is reflected in the Mediterranean character - with roots in Romanesque and Moorish architecture - with its distinctive white plastered walls. The rebellious luxury is then the straight lines, the frivolous decorations (such as the butterflies in the lobby) and the striking outfits of the staff based on swimwear.
There are 152 rooms, of which 36 are suites. The room I stayed in was beautifully decorated and had a perfect bed and a divine shower. If you don't feel like going out in the evening, there are plenty of choices to eat within the confines of the hotel. There are no less than 6 places where you can eat or drink.
The next morning, we are up early again for a quick visit to Real Club Valderrama. Unfortunately we could not play the course during this trip, but thanks to an earlier experience we know that this is definitely a bucket list course. Valderrama has been regarded as one of the very best golf courses in Europe and has hosted the Ryder Cup in 1997 and many European Tour tournaments.
Upon arrival, you immediately understand why the green fee at Valderrama in 2022 is €450. Or at least, that exorbitant price is a little more justifiable then. Everything here is taken care of to perfection. From the driveway to the welcome, to the maintenance and the facilities. "Valderrama is an exclusive club and we are even becoming a little more exclusive than we have been in recent years," general manager Javier Reviriego told me. "Due to the recent pandemic, getting a tee time at Valderrama had become a bit more accessible, but in 2022 it might be a bit more of a challenge. Those who really want to play here will find their way to the tee eventually."
Valderrama is definitely not for everyone, but if you have the money for it, playing this course is an unforgettable experience.
After a rest in the spa of the S/O Hotel, we continue to the other course we play on this golf trip in Sotogrande; Real Club de Golf Sotogrande. Real Sotogrande is the oldest course in Sotogrande (1964) and it is situated close to the Mediterranean Sea, making it a lot flatter than La Reserva. We walked the Robert Trent Jones designed course and I recommend that to everyone.
When you arrive at the club, you immediately notice that it is a club of stature. The clubhouse is old but refined and the people are friendly but somewhat reserved. We didn't have much time to practise before the round, but luckily there is a putting green right next to the first tee so you can get a feel for the speed of the greens. And my goodness, they were fast. I am not exaggerating when I say that I lost 15 shots on the green alone!
Despite my struggles on the greens, I really liked the course. It is well thought out and has no weak holes. The 7th hole was the favourite of everyone in my group. A relatively short downhill par-4 from right to left with water on the right side of the green and a fantastic view of the mountains at the back.
There is a nice halfway house and the back nine intrigues with more water coming into play. Although I didn't play too badly - or so it seemed - my score was disastrous. I still liked the course though, and that doesn't happen too often. I would definitely like to go back to Real Sotogrande to try again!
Okay, fair enough, having a house abroad is not something everyone can afford. But since the Corona pandemic, people have started to think differently about what constitutes home. We have learned that working from an office or another fixed location is not essential for everyone. The foreign real estate market is booming. Many people - including golfers - realise that they can work abroad just fine and are opting for a permanent or temporary home in a country with more pleasant temperatures or conditions.
On our second evening in Sotogrande, we were invited to an asado barbecue in one of the beautiful villas that surround the grounds of La Reserva Club Sotogrande. From the terrace - as well as from the other available villas - you have a magnificent view of the golf course and often the Rock of Gibraltar is visible as well.
For a normal mortal, this kind of villa - with prices starting at € 2,650,000 - is unattainable, but man, what if you could spend some more time here! For those interested, there are extensive information packages available to indulge in. We did our indulging on the evening in question at all the deliciously prepared food and that was no punishment either.
Click here for more information about golf property in Sotogrande.
With tee times that - especially for Valderrama - are not easy to come by, there is the Sotogrande Experience. This specifically put together golf package is designed to create unforgettable moments. You stay at the S/O Sotogrande Hotel and play Real Club Valderrama, La Reserva Club Sotogrande and Real Club Sotogrande, a trip you will remember for a lifetime.
In addition to playing the aforementioned courses, there are also numerous extras attached to this package, such as:
If that doesn't make you want to play golf in Sotogrande, I don't know what will. If you want to know more about this package, click here for the Sotogrande Experience.
Copyright © 2007-2023 — leadingcourses.com