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 .