The chances are that most visitors to the Costa del Golf will have played Lauro Golf, but the friendly club, situated in Malaga's Guadalhorce valley, is definitely worth a return visit since the course was extended to 27 holes in January 2003. The original layout was opened for play in May 1992 since when the Pitarch family, owners of Los Caracolillos as it is popularly known, has seen the number of rounds played multiply each year until an extension to the course was no longer an option, rather a necessity.
The old course was designed by Folco Nardi with the idea of being commercial, in the sense that it was meant to be enjoyable for players of all abilities. The same pretension was a guide for the new holes drawn up by Mariano Benitez, who modified the original plans made by Folco Nardi just over a decade ago. Although this is Benitez's first stab at course design, he has plenty of experience of course construction having been involved in the building of more than forty courses and the reformation of many others.
The coming together of all this experience with the most modern of technologies has resulted in a spectacular, but very different, addition to the original Lauro course. Taking into account the advances in club technology, the fairways of the new loop are both longer and wider. Five lakes, aesthetically pleasing for their construction and attraction to wild birds, serve the twin purpose of providing water hazards plus plenty of storage for irrigation. Additional hazards are the more than 100 century-old holm oaks that delineate fairways and act as well-placed obstacles for approach shots.
Carlos Pitarch, one of the new breed of environmentally aware golf directors, takes pride in the prevalence of other trees incorporated into the course design, many are autochtonous such as algarrobos, mountain pines and olives, but others, citrus and avocados, betray the land's previous use as a fruit farm. Carlos also includes in his annual budgets a provision for re-forestation until he reaches his target of 15,000 trees within the boundaries of Lauro 27 - currently the figure stands at 7,000 plus.
Fairways are also ecologically friendly as they are seeded with Bermuda Tiffway 419; a hybrid that requires 40% less irrigation. Water consumption is further reduced by an irrigation system by which sprinkler heads can be individually controlled.
The greens, sown with classic Penn Cross, naturally channel drainage because, although not overly large, are undulating. Indeed, the green of hole 22 has three separate platforms measuring 35m across, offering an enviable variety of pin placements to challenge all levels of golfer. The management of Lauro 27 cannot be accused of resting on its laurels as work on the next project for the complex, an 197-room country hotel, will begin this spring.
The name of Folco Nardi is not particularly well-known on this side of the Atlantic, but, apart from also designing Miraflores Golf, the now-deceased designer was responsible for many of the most successful golf resorts in Florida being in great demand when he accepted the original commission for Lauro Golf. In fact, Nardi rejected a much more lucrative offer to design another Costa del Golf complex because the beauty of the site at Lauro was just too good to miss. The beauty of the landscape is still there at Lauro, only a decade later, the extension of the new holes to make it Lauro 27 Golf has just added to its natural attractions. .
One curiosity of the original 18 holes at Lauro Golf is that each hole is named after a famous bullfighter. The names of the new holes recognise the historic link inland Andalucia possesses with smugglers and highwaymen. Thus, each tee has a dedication to such characters as Pasos Largos, El Tempranillo, Tragabuches, El Lero etc.
Hole 19: Par 4; C'ship: 470m Daily: 436m Ladies: 385m Stroke Index:6.
Uphill drive to a wide landing area obscured by trees. Approach shot must be made to a large green protected by a frontal bunker.
Hole 20: Par 4; C'ship: 331m; Daily: 301m; Ladies: 265m Stroke Index 11.
Slight dogleg right. Best to use iron from tee as drive brings fairway bunkers to left of fairway into play. Mid-iron to long, narrow green.
Hole 21 Par 3; C'ship:195m; Daily:164m; ladies142m Stroke Index 7.
Spectacular. A picturesque waterfall into a frontal lake is designed to make one wary on the tee from which numerous bunkers behind the green advise clearly the danger of being too long. For the faint-hearted/conservative, there is a 'bale-out' area of some 15m in front of the lake
Hole 22 Par 4; C'ship: 349m Daily: 330m; Ladies: 298m Stroke Index 9.
Plays longer than it measures as it is uphill from the tee. Century-old oaks hide a widening of the fairway. A drive to the right makes approach more accessible to a three-tiered green. Pin placement will affect club choice.
Hole 23 Par 4; C'ship: 365m Daily: 342m Ladies: 322m Stroke Index 3.
Largest difficulty lies in the smallness of the green although on windy days will add to existing hazards. Maturing trees will make hole more demanding as time passes.
Hole 24 Par 4; C'ship: 311m; Daily: 311m; Ladies: 250m; Stroke Index 16.
Widest fairway of the whole 27 holes invites one to open one's shoulders but beware of OB to the right. Holm-oak and bunker force you to think about the second shot but are not intimidating. Green requires careful reading.
Hole 25 Par 4; C'ship: 308m Daily:303m Ladies: 245m Stroke Index 17.
Short par 4 that offers even the duffers the chance of birdie glory if they can avoid OB to left and ditch to right.
Hole 26 Par 3; C'ship: 158m; Daily: 142m; Ladies: 133m; Stroke Index 13.
Undoubtedly the new signature hole of Lauro 27. From the raised tee set into the hillside the views across the Guadalhorce valley to Malaga and the Med. open up before you. Hitting across a valley makes the hole appear more difficult when, in truth, a solid short/mid iron will suffice. Grass bunker will hold anything short but there is little protection from the trouble behind. Levante and poniente winds will affect the flight of the ball and affect club selection.
Hole 27 Par 5; C'ship: 513m; Daily: 471m; Ladies:441m; Stroke Index 1.
Downhill par 5 with three lateral lakes to the right of the fairway, trees to the left and a fourth lake in front of the green. All hazards are clearly visible from the tee as is the welcoming clubhouse. A second shot to the green is possible but may ruin a good card as it carries the risk implied by the lake and bunkers to the left. Safety dictates accepting a second shot to a wide part of the fairway. The green is long and slightly undulating.