Dream Des­ti­na­tion

Today's Golfer (UK) - - Contents -

The stun­ning Ver­dura re­sort in Si­cily is re­garded as one of Europe’s best.

Quan­tity and qual­ity abounds in this cor­ner of the Costa del Sol: there is some­thing to suit all tastes, bud­gets and hand­i­caps.

If you’ve got deep pock­ets, su­per­star lay­outs Real So­togrande, Valder­rama, San Roque and Finca Cortesin are the prime venues. The for­mer – de­signed by lead­ing US ar­chi­tect Robert Trent Jones and built in 1964 – re­ally put the place on the golf­ing map.

But there is more rea­son­ably priced golf at the likes of Al­me­nara and La Canada too. While it might lack the wow fac­tor of some of its neigh­bours, Al­me­nara is wor­thy... and off the back tees is a real test. It is not man­i­cured to the same im­pec­ca­ble level as its il­lus­tri­ous neigh­bours, but the over­all lay­out is ex­cel­lent.

De­signed by Dave Thomas, it has three nine-hole loops – Lakes, Pines and Acorns – with tight fair­ways wind­ing through two large lakes, and count­less pine and cork trees.

There are few easy-driv­ing holes on any of the loops and there is no short­age of hills – so a buggy is ad­vised. The stand-out hole is the 389-yard par-4 6th on the Acorns nine. With a lake bor­der­ing the fair­way on the left and steep bank­ing and bunkers on the right side, pre­ci­sion rather than brute force is the tac­tic. This course is good value and is test­ing.

La Reserva might not at­tract the same level of in­ter­est as nearby Valder­rama but many would ar­gue it is in the same class. Carved into the hill­side, the fab­u­lous views are ei­ther over So­togrande town and the Mediter­ranean or up­wards to the moun­tains and trees of La Gran Reserva, So­togrande’s high­est point.

The 7,400-yard cham­pi­onship lay­out has quickly be­come a firm favourite, hav­ing hosted the Euro­pean Tour’s NH Col­lec­tion Open in 2014, which fea­tured sev­eral Ry­der Cup stars in­clud­ing Andy Sul­li­van, Chris Wood and Thomas Pi­eters.

The course is al­ways in im­mac­u­late con­di­tion and is high­lighted by wide, sweep­ing fair­ways. La Reserva is not the most pun­ish­ing from tee to green so long hit­ters can let rip. How­ever, your short game bet­ter be in ex­tremely good shape on the large, slick and fre­quently two-tiered greens.

The par-4 1st is as stun­ning as any open­ing hole in Europe, with an el­e­vated tee over­look­ing a gen­er­ous fair­way that dog-legs sharply to the left. A stream short of the green awaits any poorly-struck ap­proaches and if you take too much club the banks around the green guar­an­tee a tough chip back.

Wa­ter haz­ards fea­ture on seven holes, most no­tice­ably all the way along the left of the sig­na­ture par-4 8th. The Costa del Sol val­leys en­sure no short­age of el­e­vated tee po­si­tions which makes club se­lec­tion tricky.

As you make the turn, you are faced with its most in­tim­i­dat­ing tee shot, de­mand­ing a long, ac­cu­rate drive to a fair­way that of­fers lit­tle room to bail-out on ei­ther side.

The 18th winds back up to the stun­ning club­house with a green set into the hill­side of­fer­ing views of the Mediter­ranean and the moun­tains. The pala­tial club­house of­fers the best in An­dalu­cian hos­pi­tal­ity.

La Cañada was the first pub­lic course on the Costa del Sol and sits within scenic, rolling coun­try­side. Orig­i­nally a nine-holer cre­ated by Robert Trent Jones, it ben­e­fited from a sec­ond nine – this time by Dave Thomas. It pro­vides a pleas­ant round and isn’t too de­mand­ing, but watch for the gully that gives it its name and lurks on the 18th hole.

A mat­ter of min­utes away is Valder­rama, scene of the 1997 Ry­der Cup, the Euro­pean Tour’s Volvo Mas­ters and the 2016 Span­ish Open, while Finca Cortesin – a three-time host of the Volvo World Match Play – is 25 min­utes away. The Robin­son-de­signed Finca Cortesin opened in 2009 and sprawls across a vast 532-acre es­tate and is com­ple­mented by out­stand­ing prac­tice fa­cil­i­ties in­clud­ing a state-of-the-art Jack Nick­laus Golf Academy. The greens are big, un­du­lat­ing and quick!

Newen­try Fin­ca­cortesin­isone of­s­pain'slead­ing mod­ern­courses.

Top to bot­tom: The in­fa­mous 17th at Valder­rama and the New course at 36-hole San Roque .

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