'NEW COURSE' RESEARCH:
…and all in the cause of duty!
By Lawrie Thornton
Secretary-General of the PGA of Europe
When the PGA of Europe recently renewed its Corporate Partnership agreements with both Atalaya Park Hotel and the Costa del Sol Tourist Board, the process was completed with matching enthusiasm by all concerned because of the natural way that our three operations complement each other.
Part of my responsibility in this business triumvirate is to constantly be aware of the advances that are being made in the region in order, in a knowledgeable manner, to be able to encourage 12,000 professional golfers from our 33 member countries, and their club members, to take advantage of them.
In the words of the well-worn cliché 'yes, it's a rotten job but somebody has to do it!'
It was partly in this capacity and partly as an annual Spring break that I was privileged to play some of the new golf courses that are emerging in such tempting fashion on the Costa del Golf.
My first reaction to the brief 'tour' is to express the PGAE's delight that such admirable new golf resorts and their creatively-designed courses are opening up yet more golf tourism opportunities in an area which constantly expands its attractions and which continues to bring visitors pouring into Málaga airport.
Much as I would have liked, it was not possible for me to put my (rising!) handicap through a 'lost ball' count at each of the new locations on a sheer 'available hours' basis.
Those I did play, however, left me with a profound sense that the Costa del Sol Collection of golf courses has impressively enhanced its 'something for everyone' reputation at a time when pressure on tee-time bookings has never been more intense.
Pay-As-You-Play facilities, as distinct from those with a membership enjoying first priority, are always most welcome and in this regard CABOPINO is a popular, high-standard arrival with its pleasant, enjoyable design and top-quality greens.
While comparatively short at 5170 metres, it refreshingly demands accuracy rather than an outsize driver with a trampoline-effect face, and is a sound test of anyone's 'A' game. You can always leave that monster drive in the locker room…
I can personally recommend Cabopino for a thoroughly enjoyable round of golf, at a conveniently-placed Marbella location, played against a backdrop of picturesque land and seascapes.
On to FLAMINGOS, a marvellous facility I have watched emerge from its earliest days of site clearance , to shaping and contouring, seeding, grass growth and finally to standing on the first tee savouring a feeling of acute anticipation.
I need not talk of its quality and desirability since, already this has been officially recognized by its selection for a PGA European Seniors Tour event and a share, along with Atalaya Park Old Course, in our own PGAE Fourball Championship next January.
It is a beautiful golf course and a most challenging one which left me with one recurring question at the back of my mind, namely 'are some of those excellent and interesting greens, just a touch too severe?'
I recall one putt, in particular, which was required to negotiate a couple of slopes, one up, one down, separated by a mini-valley which was virtually beyond my judgment of pace and direction. Should the severity be eased, just a shade?
Just a passing thought, perhaps, but one which might be worthy of consideration.
Yet again, though, Flamingos is a quite delightful place to spend a few blissful hours in the company of like-minded friends for eighteen holes, enjoy a debate at the 19th and a nicely chilled glass of vino blanco.
Next call was to SANTA CLARA where it quickly becomes apparent, again, that 'quality' has been the objective throughout all of the stages of creation. The clubhouse is quite superb, as is the absolute courtesy of the service from the moment you arrive in the car park to the moment you leave.
You feel pampered and privileged to be there… though the course is not always equally welcoming to those who fail to find the landing areas woven into the challenging 'risk-and-reward' elements of the design!
Along with the other courses visited, I found Santa Clara to be an enticing addition to all that the region has to offer.
Yet still there was a memorable treat in store. GREENLIFE GOLF , Marbella, is simply ideal for those wishing to fit some golf into a packed day with non-golfing family and friends. The full 18-hole courses are wonderful to play …but time-consuming.
This, as a welcome option, is a quite delightful nine-hole par-three course which tests the best of short games to the full and I must stress here that it is serious, testing GOLF, and not pitch-and-putt. The ninth hole is, for example, measures 169 metres and asks questions of any golfer's skills in terms of club selection and precision.
My companions and I took a mere one hour and ten minutes to savour the course's varying, scenically-satisfying tests of mid-irons and all the intricacies of the short game. There is also a whole range of other leisure facilities plus a learning centre where a visit would benefit any of us, whatever handicap range.
I found Greenlife Golf to provide quite the most outstanding opportunity to tune up the most crucial part of one's golfing repertoire.
By now readers will no doubt fully admire my dedication to duty(!)…I shall certainly relish the opportunity to keep an eye on how these, and other new facilities in my favourite golfing region', progress in the future.
Purely as a business imperative, you understand…