Sim­ply the Best

A Player’s Guide Sim­ply the Best

HK Golfer - - Contents - By Mike Wil­son

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

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