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Author: Leonard van Nunen

Discover undiscovered Costa Verde Golf

20 October 2022
9 min. read
Leonard van Nunen
Costa Verde is a "new" golf destination in the northwest of Spain, near Gijon which is west of Bilbao. The landscape of this region is incredible and is a mix of the greenery in Ireland and the gentle rolling hills of South Africa.
Costa Verde is full of amazing golf courses, like Pedreña in this photo. (Photo: Real Golf de Pedreña)

The Costa Verde golf region has been the supplier of star golfers for decades, including José María Olazábal, Jon Rahm and most famously Seve Ballesteros. There are some amazing golf courses there, like Royal Pedreña and Neguri but also the lesser-known courses are of excellent quality like Meaztegi, Santa Marina, and Izki Golf. The price-quality of the golf, accommodation and food in this region is unparalleled and definitely worth going on your next golf trip. When I visited the region we played several courses, enjoyed the food and unfortunately didn’t have the time to visit the Guggenheim in Bilbao, will definitely do that on my next visit. The first course we played is just outside Bilbao: Real Sociedad de Golf Neguri.

Real Sociedad de Golf Neguri

A view at Neguri's 18th hole. (Photo: Leading Courses ambassador Sasa Nemanic)

When we visited Neguri the course was officially closed for maintenance but since we were part of a group experiencing Costa Verde golf we were lucky enough to tour the front nine and play the back nine. So definitely not in its usual shape but we could get a fair impression of the course. The front nine are the more open holes with the first hole going straight to the ocean, with the wind we had on the day we visited (southeast) a pretty tough hole. Actually, most holes on the first nine are challenging because of the wind and their location almost directly on the water. The views are amazing though. The more sheltered holes start at the 8th with very nice holes between pine trees. The drives have quite some space to land but your approaches have to be precise if you want to score.

The clubhouse is very nice, downstairs there is sort of a café for a drink and or sandwich and upstairs for fine dining with an amazing view over the course. Check the front door it’s really old and gives a nice traditional atmosphere that fits with this old traditional club.

The beautiful clubhouse at Neguri. This is upstairs where you go for fine dining and a great view over the course. (Photo: Leonard van Nunen)

After a nice visit to the old town of Bilbao where we had a beer at the football stadium of Athletic Club Bilbao. The club is still called Athletic (instead of Atlético) because the influence of the English is bigger here than that from Madrid. After the drinks, we had some excellent local food and went to bed straight after, so we could visit and play Uraburu early the next morning.

Uraburu Golf

Uraburu was designed by José María Olazábal and was recently renovated. (Photo Uraburu Golf)

When you arrive at Uraburu it is a bit of a search to get to the caddy master office. The clubhouse is huge, probably one of the biggest clubhouses I have seen so far. When you enter you have to take the stairs two flights down - passing the restaurant on the mid-level. Downstairs in the basement, are the lockers and if you walk all the way to a green door and open it you are in the buggy basement. Go left there and at the end, you will find the office and the reception. Maybe there is an easier route that I didn't know of 😅

The course is designed by Jose Maria Olazabal and was recently updated. They renovated the driving range and switched the front and back nine. We played the new front nine. The first hole on the right side of the driving range is pretty challenging. It is quite hard to see the green and very undulated. Not very long, take an iron and stay left. The second hole is a par-3 all over water almost like the 17th at TPC Sawgrass, great if you hit the green, nerve-wracking if you are not sure if you will reach it. The rest of the holes are really undulated with fairways sloping right to left and left to right depending on the direction you play.

Some holes feel a bit unfair but it is a great test of your golf skills. If you are not very straight from the tee with your woods I would definitely recommend hybrids and irons from the tee. I think the club has huge potential if they make the clubhouse a bit more inviting and clear up the tee shot at some holes, so you can see where you have to hit your drive. A good course guide would help too. The views are spectacular and for people like me ( being from flat The Netherlands) this mountain course is a great experience.

Real Golf de Pedreña

The 6th hole at Real Golf de Pedreña resembles Augusta National. (Photo: Leonard van Nunen)

I have been looking forward to playing Pedreña for a long time. The Harry Colt designed course which opened in 1928 has everything I want in a golf course. The course is located in the village Seve Ballesteros grew up and later he actually added the par-3 course at the bottom. It has a classic clubhouse with the Seve lounge - which has the best view of the ocean and sandbanks during low tide.

The caddie master and pro shop are left of the clubhouse behind the first tee. A very nice building with a big clock so you can check if your tee time is up. You can rent (electric) trolleys if you want, the course is perfectly walkable but a trolley is nice. When we were there the 2nd hole and the 3rd tee were closed but should be playable now. The 4th is a dogleg right from an elevated tee. Be sure to keep your ball on the left side on both your drive and your approach. The tee shot at the 6th is amazing and when you look at the green for your approach it is almost like you are on Augusta. A beautiful green guarded by bunkers and behind purple azaleas and pine trees, beautiful.

Several holes have a view of the Ria de Cubas. (Photo: Leonard van Nunen)

On the 9th stay left from the tee. On the right, there is a whole lot of trouble but an amazing view of the water outlet, sandbanks on low tide and water with high tide. What I love about Colt’s bunkering is the way how he tries to trick the players by putting bunkers 60-70 meters in front of the green that seem to be greenside bunkers, just to scare you of hitting that line. Unfortunately, we have lasers now so you can see the difference but still, sometimes it is done so well you hardly believe it. The views on the back nine are stunning and every hole has its own character.

In my opinion, this is one of the best Harry Colt courses I have played (around 30). The pine trees are huge, almost like the ones at TPC Harding Park in California. The tees, greens and fairways are in excellent condition also considering I played it in March! I have decided I want to come back here and replay the course every time I’m in the area, it is just an immense pleasure to play here and I can recommend it to every golfer.

Club de Golf de Santa Marina

Seve Ballesteros - Spain’s best golfer ever - designed Santa Marina. (Photo: Leonard van Nunen)

When you walk from the parking lot to the clubhouse the first thing you see is a life-size statue of Seve Ballesteros, Spain’s best golfer ever, local hero and the architect of Santa Marina. The course is really undulated and a buggy is recommended. In my opinion, the front nine are a bit easier than the back nine. On both, it is very important to choose your club wisely from the tee. Definitely not driver everywhere because you will hit it out of the course unless you can shape them like Seve (both ways).

When we played the rough was still quite high and covered with white and yellow flowers so if you come in March bring orange balls. There is a so-called ‘Amen Corner”, consisting of holes 4, 5 and 6, but I would nominate 9,10 and 11 too. Two very challenging par-5’s and a tricky par-3 followed by the stroke index 1 hole. This course is a great course for matchplay but you should be quite a good player. Some holes are pretty tricky from the tee so a course guide is a must (I think they were just making new ones). The terrace overlooking the 18th green is wonderful and the bocadillo con jamon was one of the best I had in Spain. The staff was super friendly, I will definitely come back here a little later in the season.

Costa Verde Golf, suitable for a golf trip?

All in all, I can definitely recommend Costa Verde as a golf region. It doesn’t look like any other part of Spain I have visited before; instead of dry plains, it is green and hilly. The golf is of very high quality with the European Top courses Pedreña and Neguri, but next to those courses there are at least a dozen affordable well-maintained club courses where it is usually not too busy and the food in the clubhouses is great. The food and accommodation in general are very nice and the price-quality is excellent. There are plenty of direct flights from most major European cities and there is enough to do to go several times. Also, it is a great destination for summer if you want to play golf during the day as the weather is nice and warm but not so hot as in the dryer parts of Spain.

For more information about golf in the Costa Verde visit http://costaverde.golf

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