Simply the Best
A Player’s Guide Simply the Best
Having opened its doors just ahead of the global financial crisis, Finca Cortesín, the Andalucían golf, boutique hotel and spa resort held its nerve and is now reaping the benefits.
Having opened its doors just ahead of the global financial crisis, there were those who doubted its ability to weather the storm, but as Mike Wison writes, Finca Cortesín, the Andalucían golf, boutique hotel and spa resort held its nerve and is now reaping the benefits.
Finca Cortesín was recently voted best golf resort in Europe ahead of stiff opposition from much larger establishments such as Trump Turnberry and Gleneagles in Scotland, the Verdura Golf & Spa Resort in Sicily, the Terre Blanche Resort in France, Costa Navario in Greece and the Vedago Palace in Portugal. The battle for supremacy amongst the aristocrats of luxury golf resorts in Europe has never been more intense, like the game itself, often coming down to small margins, key performance indicators such as the size of suites and how well-appointed they are, fine dining, spa treatments, the celebrity status of the course designer, all calculated to provide high-net-worth individuals with the luxe-de-luxe quality they can readily afford and invariably demand.
But, when battling it out for top dollar by offering sumptuous style on a grand scale, there is something intangible, impalpable that takes Finca Cortesín up and beyond, making it first amongst equals.
And that commodity is its discreet imperceptible ambience, what the French would call, ‘je ne se quois,’ an almost effortless excellence where understated opulence is omnipresent, but without the gushing grandiloquence some topend resorts dispense, an arrogance of their own eminence, ensuring clients are reminded they are in the presence of greatness.
Not so at Finca Cortesín, where the word ‘Resort’ barely does justice to what set out as a dream for a wealthy Spanish art dealer, and, like the works of art its founder Javier Lopez de Madrid is an expert in, beauty really is best left to the eye of the beholder, quality seeping seamlessly throughout the estate, where ‘discreet’ is the watch word.
Diametrically-opposed to the art deco design of a Trump Turnberry in Scotland or the ostentatious kitsch to be found in a Mission Hills resort, Finca Cortesín can be interpreted in different ways by different visitors and even in contrasting shades and tones by regular guests, because, quite often, what you think you see is not always what you get, and this Andalucia masterstroke will never disappoint.
Located close to the Andalucía costal village of Casares, and, at 90km - one-hour on the
Autopista del Mediterráneo - from Málaga airport and well beyond the somewhat frenzied tourist traps of Marbella, Torremolinos and Fuengirola, driving under the white archway which announces one’s arrival at Finca Cortesín, the outside world is airbrushed out in favour of a sense of being embraced by an old friend and led to a better life.
First impressions on arrival at Finca Cortesín are inevitably pleasurable, sensual almost, a simple reception hall with discreet desks eschewing the normal glitzy resort check-in facilities - not a chandelier in sight - the welcome is warm but reserved, because this place is all about the guests, the architecture, interior design, facilities fixtures and fittings all more than capable of doing the resort’s bidding.
Whilst many golf resorts rely on the economies of scale, being bigger and better than anywhere else, Finca Cortesín’s unique selling point is its reliance on bespoke quality ahead of quantity.
Set in a fraction over 200ha of what was rugged, rolling Andalucia scrubland, the developers, Single Homes had spent a reported US$5m before work in earnest began, a decision to demolish unsightly electricity pylons and bury power cables beneath ground, then a meandering switchback of five-tonne natural stone blocks, retaining wall for the real estate that was ultimately to underwrite what was always going to be an ambitious project.
Rather than opting for a big-name course designer in the mold of Greg Norman, Nick Faldo or Ernie Els, the developers commissioned the understated design values of Cabell B Robinson, an American with considerable experience in Spain – the award-winning Aphrodite Hills in Cyprus is another of his projects – who has chiseled a tough, verdant championship standard golf course into some of the most roughhewn land imaginable.
Speaking to the somewhat shy atypical golf course designer around ahead of the 2009 Volvo World Match Play Championship, the soft-spoken American revealed an instruction to his construction team not to truck what little top soil existed off site during construction, thus minimizing the environmental
footprint and protecting the interests of the natural flora and fauna that had been there long before the Rules of Golf had even been thought of.
Restrictions on space preclude a full appraisal of the Finca Cortesín course, suffice to say, it’s a tough test of both golf and stamina, huge variations of elevation making a buggy a prerequisite, a course from whichever tee one plays from challenges the player’s vision, imagination and shot-making ability.
Former World No. 1 Rory McIlroy, a man who knows a thing or two about golf courses and can well afford to stay in the best hotels on earth, said during the Volvo World Match Play Championship, “Finca Cortesín is sensational, the hotel, the golf course, the hospitality, the entire package is quite simply superb.”
Finca Cortesín is, compared to many resorts, relatively lightly-played, in the order of 15,000 rounds per year when most rival ‘Resorts,’ squeeze twice that and more, resulting in the tees, greens and fairways invariably being in immaculate condition.
Both the clubhouse, which looks out over the practice range and into a dramatic backdrop framed by the rugged Andalucia mountain, and the hotel were new-builds, but one would never know that; both exude the sense that they have been in situ since time immemorial.
Designed by the renowned architects Roger Torras and Ignacio Sierra, the 67-suite boutique hotel was inspired and influenced by the architecture of traditional Spanish fincas (small estates), creating the impression that it was built more than 100 years ago.
The spacious rooms, hallways and public areas are finished with marble, antiques, goblins and decorations originating from Spanish, Portuguese, French and Belgian monarchial castles, monasteries and stately homes, and if the architects created bricks and mortar with the highest design values, interior designers (the late) Duarte Pinto Coelho and Ana and Cristina Calderon set their work alight with vision flair and exceptional taste.
When not golfing, there is, in truth, no need – indeed little point – straying far from Finca’s facilities; the ambience around the hotel is cool in every sense of the word, from the understated elegance of the reception area to the capacious atrium, which leads to delightfully tended gardens, arguably the best spa in Europe (including indoor and outdoor pools and Spain’s only ice cave) and the 67 individually-decorated bespoke suites on two levels overlooking an oriental style courtyard garden.
Eating and drinking at Finca Cortesín is very much in keeping with the ethos of the resort – elegance, refinement and service, from the flagship Kabuki Raw Japanese restaurant to Don Giovanni, a less formal Italian themed option. Breakfast al fresco in El Jardin de Lutz, cooked or continental is, I promise you, in the top 10 in the world. Meanwhile, for a pre-prandial drink or a relaxing nightcap, the Blue Bar, like every space at Finca Cortesín, individually and tastefully decorated and appointed but without a hint of fussiness or over-design, is the second best place – after the ice cave – to chill out.
Unlike many up-scale golf resorts requiring real estate to underpin the economics of their project, Finca Cortesín’s masterplan has avoided the misjudgment of too many properties and too close not only to each other, but also to the golf course.
The Reserve is developing organically, the property portfolio of spacious Mediterranean villas in the order of 420m2, all south facing
with private garden, individual swimming pool and four en-suite bathrooms, with access to the full range of Finca Cortesín’s facilities, a concierge service and the option of having the property let and managed on the owner’s behalf.
One of the later – and very well-received additions to the Finca Cortesín stable is the magnificent Beach Club, a haven of tranquility overlooking the Mediterranean, the option of a cooling dip in the Med or the 35m pool, an outdoor alternative to the hotel’s exceptional spa.
Of course, Finca Cortesín does not come cheap, either for golf only, the hotel or on-site property, but nor would you expect it to be and the owners and operators are to be commended for holding their nerve – and their prices, because, at the top end of the market especially, one only gets what one pays for.
Long Drive, Next Stop - North Africa!
Food for Thought - All tastes are catered for at Finca Cortesín
"The outside world is airbrushed out in favour of a sense of being embraced by an old friend and led to a better life"
Suite Surrender - each bespoke suite at Finca Cortesín has its own unique character and ambiance
All in the Name - Finca Cortesín has become the watchword for understated opulence
Low-key check-in - Finca Cortesín's subdued reception area sets the tone for your stay
First Amongst Equals - Finca Cortesín has invested in every aspect of its offer and richly deserves the accolades now coming its way
Outside In - Indoor & Outdoor Pools at Finca Cortesín are a Sea of Tranquility