Still Rolling - New Golf Courses Coming to Andalucia
Andalusia adds to its golfing patrimony with continued course construction in all areas.
Figures released by the Real Federacion Espaola de Golf reveal that in May 2003 there were 35,462 registered golfers in the region of Andalusia. Although, this figure shows a remarkable increase over the previous quarter (33,711), and well exceeds the total number of golfers in the rest of Spain in 1983 (25,700), it in no way justifies the existence of 60 golf courses within this most golf-friendly area of Spain. Nor does it explain the calls for up to 30 courses more to meet still burgeoning demand.
The claim that 30 more courses are needed comes from Ramon Davila, President of Andalusian Association of Land Developers of Residential and Sporting Tourism. Davila bases his claim on the continuing increase in popularity golf is enjoying throughout northern Europe. Put this together with Andalusia's almost perfect climate for golf and the result is a shortfall in the number of 9,18, 36 and 54 hole complexes for golf tourists and part-time residents who golf. Ramon was Secretary of the Valderrama Ryder Cup Organising Committee, an event at the root of the on-going tourist boom - he knows what he is talking about, and he's prepared to put his own money where his mouth is. Davila's own project, Golf El Puerto, near Jerez, is just one of the many new courses that are scheduled for completion between now and the end of 2005.
Listing the number of new golf projects is not easy, as new plans are announced on a seemingly daily basis. Although whistle-stop tour through Andalusia's coastal provinces demonstrates that Davila's calls may be answered sooner than he thinks.
In Huelva, Fadesa, the Galician construction group which owns CG Guadalmina, has begun work on a 36-hole layout at Ayamonte. Beside the Guadiana River, that marks the border with Portugal, designer Jose Canales can see how his design for a par 72 championship course, measuring 6,780m, is taking shape alongside a par 71 of 6,300m. Also in Huelva, at the Islantilla golf resort, Jose awaits the commencement of ground clearance for his 18-hole extension to the present 27-hole complex, laid down by his father Enrique in 1991. Work is expected to begin at Islantilla before the end of 2003. The Canales' golf-design company, Mas Golf 1, also has contracts to add a further two new golf facilities in the province once work at Ayamonte and Islantilla has been advanced. An hour away, but still on the Costa de la Luz, El Rompido Golf & Beach Resort is scheduled to open this summer after seeding was completed in April, 2003. Sooner than they believed, Dunas de Doana (inaugurated in 2000) and CG Nuevo Portil (2001) will no longer lay claim to be the new kids on the Huelva golfing block.
Costa Ballena is to execute plans for a second Olazabal course for the purpose-built tourist town on the Atlantic coast, news that will please the American forces based at nearby Rota. In deference to the number of Americans that play Costa Ballena, the second course, like the first, will display distances in yards as well as metres. Novo Sancti Petri grew from 27 to 36 holes last December and will increase to 54 before 2005 is out. The aforementioned Golf El Puerto, designed by Manuel Piero on land outside El Puerto de Santa Maria, is now playable but will officially open with a skins match at the start of Volvo Masters Andalucia week in November.
Not so long ago, there existed a golfing vaccuum between Cadiz's Atlantic coast and the hotbed of Sotogrande but no more, thanks to Benalup (2001), at Medina Sidonia and the superb Dehesa de Montenmedio, players following la ruta del toro can now get a golfing fix along the way. As soon as millionaire-owner Vicente Blazquez overcomes the bureaucracy involved in turning a private estate into a public course, he has plans to build two more courses at Montenmedio. Incredibly, fellow millionaire Jaime Ortiz Patio is also frustrated by the environmental concerns that are delaying the construction of a sister course to Valderrama - which is surely one of the most environmentally friendly golf courses on the planet.
In the meanwhile, the number of courses within the 'Golden Triangle of Golf', formed by Sotogrande, San Roque and Alcaidesa, has multiplied surprisingly. San Roque Resort commissioned Seve Ballesteros to work with top American designer, Perry Dye, to create the classy resort's second course; members, hotel guests and visitors can try out the resulting creation of the "holey" pairing this autumn. May 2003 saw the presentation of plans for the further development of the Alcaidesa estate which include a par 72 Dave Thomas course to complement the 18-hole links course built by Peter Alliss in 1992.
Manuel Moyano, Director-General of the joint British-Spanish owned estate, informed gathered journalists how work would begin simultaneously on the second course as well as a plush new clubhouse, designed by Marbella architect Marcos Saenz, who includes the clubhouses at Los Naranjos and Islantilla on his CV. The spot chosen for the building, beside the present 8th green, offers stunning views of the coastline to Estepona, the Rock of Gibraltar and the north of Africa. Sr.Moyano also announced that Alcaidesa's two courses will be played by guests staying at the four hotels to be built within the 760-hectare estate.
Across the road, the NH Hotel Group, owners of the entire Sotogrande development, are finalising plans for the inauguration of 'La Reserva de Sotogrande', a Cabell Robinson-design that opens in August 2003. As soon as La Reserva is added to land opposite Almenara's 27 holes, NH will begin work on a Gary Player course for their exclusive estate.
But it is not just within Sotogrande that the international hotel group is investing in golf. On a 600-hectare plot within sight of the CN-340 as it enters Malaga province, NH Hotels has had plans approved for Doa Julia, a 54-hole hotel/ resort to be developed in partnership with construction company Grupo Evemarina. At an investment of 52m, the plot will be transformed by a 200-room hotel overlooking green fairways to the Mediterranean sea. The first 18-holes, designed by Antonio Garrido, the architect behind Flamingos Golf, will be seeded by the turn of the year. The remaining 36 holes, by Spanish architects Borja Ramos Nuez and Carlos del Valle Pesquera, are scheduled for completion a year later, at the beginning of 2005.
On the Marbella side of Estepona, Garrido's re-design of Flamingo Rosa, at Flamingos Golf, will once again host the European Seniors Tour Matchplay Championship in September. Villa Padierna, an on-site, Grand Luxury, hotel, now presides over an Academy course, opened in March 2003, with the unusual par of 59, Flamingo Blanco. The development of the luxury resort by owners RA Capital continues with the construction of a second hotel, to be completed before summer 2004, then a further two par 72 courses.
Around Marbella, the price of land means that the rate of course construction is not quite so frantic, but this more mature market is still in expansion. UK building giants, Taylor Woodrow have contracted Severiano Ballesteros' Trajectory SA to design and build a further 9 holes at Los Arqueros G&CC.
Marbella Club Resort is to build a second Dave Thomas course in the hills for the use of guests at Marbella Club, Puente Romano and Hotel Torrequebrada, also members of the same Arabian investment consortium. Arab shekels are also behind another Dave Thomas layout at Santa Maria. However, a planning dispute between the Marbella Council and the Andalusian Government has halted work on the project. Nevertheless, the Elviria club's ambitions to relieve pressure on the always popular, existing course has been helped by a new par 3 course within the estate. Purchasers of property at Santa Maria Village enjoy access to their own private, 9-hole golf course, with clubhouse.
As adequate land is expensive and limited in Marbella, the construction company behind Monte Paraiso Golf asked Manuel Piero to plan out a Par 3 Executive Course, next to the CN 340 as it passes through Marbella. From the road, it appears Piero has done an exceptionally good job on a difficult site, but the proof of the pudding will come when it opens this summer.
Another difficult site has been habilitated by El Coto , high in the Elviria Hills, near Marbella's German International School. Once again, the course will be of the Executive type and was conceived as an adjunct to a complex of luxury apartments. The heights of Elviria enjoy fabulous views south to the sea but, to the north, the panorama includes work on a third course at La Cala Resort. Cabell Robinson has returned to the scene of his first solo commission after he became independent of the Trent Jones company to add another 18 holes to the spectacular 36 he designed at the start of the nineties. FBD, the Irish company that owns the luxury resort, will not rush the opening and, with due patience after seeding, expect to have 54 holes operational by autumn 2004.
Robinson, an American architect resident in Mijas, is also responsible for another 18 hole course at CG Santana, on land adjacent to the new course at La Cala. Located on a former avocado plantation between two rivers, this eminently "walkable" layout looks set to be a surefire winner when it opens for play in October 2003. Three kilometres away, on flat land just outside La Cala village, a nine-hole par 36 course is almost ready for play. La Noria Golf was expected to open its fairways in July but the prolonged spring rains this year caused delays so that it will now open in the autumn.
NH Hotels and Manuel Piero, both mentioned previously in this article for their involvement in separate projects, have been collaborating at Cortijo Colorado in the Mijas hills. With financial backing provided by CajaMadrid, earth moving began for this resort project in February which, when finished, will be a significant component in Mijas town council's plans to create its own golf valley. At the head of the valley, beyond Alhaurin Golf, yet another 36 holes are to be built at Los Llanos to an original design by Enrique Canales.
Also in the Mijas Golf Valley, local constructors, Grupo C, are pushing through plans for another golf resort on land beside the impressive Hippodrome horse-racing track. The project at Cerrado del Aguila should not be confused with a resurrection of El Chapparal; sadly, there are still many legal wranglings to resolve before there is any hope of Pepe Gancedo's masterpiece being reclaimed. The PGA course, (18-holes par 71) measuring some 6,000m, would be complemented by a 9-hole par 3 practice area with golf academy for use of guests at the on-site Grand Luxury Hotel that is also to be constructed.
Eastwards along the coast, more projects are taking shape. Fuengirola is in the process of slowly converting what was formerly the municipal tip into a municipal six-hole course. Meanwhile, Global Golf have submitted plans for a pitch and putt course near Benalmadena Pueblo, below the motorway and before Torrequebrada. Passing Torremolinos, there is talk of a golf resort development opposite the province's international airport using an extensive beachfront plot on the Malaga side of the Parador, but this would appear a project to be completed in the medium term rather than immediately. East of Malaga, Baviera Golf has opened its second nine-hole loop for play and is keen to establish its credentials as a member of the Costa del Golf.
And so the golf ball keeps on rolling into Almeria which can offer Europe's only desert courses at Valle del Este and Desert Springs. Both resorts have aroused sufficient interest among the travelling golfers of northern Europe to justify the implementation of plans for new courses within their developments. Jose Canales of Mas Golf 1 designed and constructed the first course at Valle del Este, while Peter McEvoy took that responsibility for the Indiana Course at Desert Springs. The two architects have now agreed to pool their experiences and work on a 64 hectare plot designated to eventually be the second course at Desert Springs. Canales, on his own, has accepted a commission to develop another 18 holes of desert golf at Valle del Este.
From this brief overview of golf projects currently moving towards completion, it is clear that Andalusia is determined to maintain its position as one of the world's premier golf destinations...and the golf ball is still rolling.