These are some of the courses in the Marbella area. Apparently, there are more than 50 within half an hour of the town – great courses, majestic courses and mediocre courses but all in the sun and most of them with views to the sea or the mountains.
CABO PINO GOLF
(18 holes - about €70) Cabopinogolf.com
On the road to Malaga at Marbella’s eastward tip is Cabo Pino. Like so many courses it is not easy to find due to inadequate signposting. However, you know you’re on the right road if you find yourself driving up a hill with a practice range on your right.
I get that special ’butterflies in the stomach’ feeling peculiar to many golfers when I’m standing on the first tee on a sunny day. The fairway slopes down to a tight green defended by bunkers and pines. From the tee the pines are framed by a broad expanse of sea and sky. Wow factor aplenty!
The course is not that exacting and it’s very pretty in places. The third hole is spectacular with a tee box high above the fairway. In the distance the hills stretch out towards Ronda. If you hit your drive straight you’ve then got a wedge over a deep bunker to an elevated, flat green.
A nice feature of this course is that it is walkable. Many of the courses in the region are so hilly that a buggy is required. Usually, it is the very exclusive and expensive courses that are more or less flat –Cabo Pino is an exception: it’s not flat but it’s flat enough to walk.
There is also a nice café with tables outside with views over the sea.
PARADOR DE GOLF MALAGA
(18 holes – about €80) Parador.esMalaga_golf
This is a busy course on the edge of the city of Malaga, on the strip of coast by the airport. It’s busy because it’s near the city but also because it’s a great course, with a number of holes running down to and alongside the beach. It is also very well maintained and, as you make your way from green to tee you are assailed, again and again, by spectacular views of the bay of Malaga. This course, a semi-links set-up, is also more or less flat – a rarity on the Costa del Sol.
No one hole sticks out but I do remember a par three of about a hundred and fifty meters lined with scented shrubs and trees giving off the pungent scent, a mixture of jasmine, orange blossom and pine, so typical of Andalusia.. As I walked towards the green I had one of those moments when you suddenly feel intensely alive and happy – I think I must have had a birdie opportunity!
It’s true that every three minutes a low-flying jet passes overhead on its approach to the airport but that too, gives the course something special.
As it’s a Parador Hotel there is also a first-class restaurant and comfortable bar. There are also impressive practice facilities.
MARBELLA GOLF COUNTRY CLUB
(18 holes – about €80 euros) Marbellagolf.com
Just outside town, near the hospital on the road to Malaga is Marbella Golf Country Club. The practice facilities are good and the clubhouse is really classy. The course is a Robert Trent Jones design which means that it won’t be straightforward – you continually have to rethink your strategy and dare to leave driver in the bag on many of the tees.
The first hole is a good example. The area on the fairway which is the designated landing zone slopes away on both sides which means if you cut or pull the ball it will roll off the fairway either into the out of bounds area on the left or a ditch with hardpan on the right. If you hit the shot right you will then have a tricky lofted approach to a backward-sloping green with a sand trap both in front and behind: a really mind-blowing start.
After that things settle down, especially on the back nine but it’s a course that requires as much brain as brawn and thus affords invaluable experience. All in all typical RTJ!
The course is walkable but you’ll feel more comfortable with a buggy as the rate of play is quite brisk.
A course that features marvellous views, gratifying flora and fauna, friendly people and challenging golf situations
DAMA DE NOCHE GOLF
9 holes – around €30 golfdamadenoche.es
Sometimes, due to the exigencies of our quotidian life, the time between rounds of golf can seem infinite. At these moments, at least if you are in Marbella, there is a solution and it’s called Dama de Noche Golf. Just ten minutes’ drive from the centre of Marbella, this cute ‘Pay and Play’ course can provide quick relief when you just have to be on a fairway and hitting a golf ball. In other words, you can simply turn up, get a green fee and you’ll be on the tee in max fifteen minutes.
It’s been constructed on a fairly small strip of land sandwiched between a clinic for corrective surgery and a small residential development. Therefore the fairways are narrow and golf balls can come at you from the most unexpected directions. However, there are some great holes and it’s got a bit of Valderrama factor in that it’s not clear, in places, whether you’re on a golf course or sauntering round some exuberantly planted botanical gardens. Banana trees, palms, yucca, umbrella pines all line the tight fairways, and the walls separating the fairway from the by-pass are covered in bougainvillea, ivy and jasmine.
The third hole features a tee shot (about a 7-iron) over a dry river bed onto a narrow fairway which is fun and the eighth gives you an alternative route for your second shot: you can either go straight ahead to a green in front of you or you can shoot back over the river bed to another green on the other side. You might have days when you can agree with your playing partners to hit two balls off the eighth and go for both greens.
It’s an informal, easy-going place with a pleasant café by the first tee.
REAL CLUB DE GOLF GUADALMINA
18 holes – about €120 guadalminagolf.com
Guadalmina is where the wealthy, well-connected and blue-blooded Spanish people go when they say they’re going to Marbella. Consequently, the Real (royal) club is a pretty ritzy affair and in the summer it’s very busy. VIPs can be seen wearing shorts and swinging golf clubs and if you don’t know everyone by their first name you’re made to feel a little as if you’re intruding. In fact, they don’t really want you around even if you’ve paid a small fortune to acquire a green fee. Why would anyone in his right mind go through all this?
The answer is two superb eighteen-hole courses – the North Course and the South Course. The North (el Norte) is a majestic but forgiving series of manicured fairways and cosseted greens. There is an endearing intimacy to the course as it winds its way between discreet but spacious villas, luxuriously appointed apartment buildings and gated golf communities. This is everyone’s dream of a stylish, leisured lifestyle. Then there is the South Course (el Sur). The first two holes are similar to the Norte but then you cross a small road and the holes are longer and even more magnificent. The course meanders down to the beach, there is a difficult par-3 parallel to the sea and then it climbs back to the club house. An unforgettable experience on a sunny, wind-free day.
Lunch or dinner at the clubhouse is not expensive and it’s a great place to hang out and feel the Marbella lifestyle in all its hedonistic glory, if you can take it.
18 holes - €150 Clubdegolfaloha.com
The cognoscenti of Marbella are unanimous – Las Brisas Golf is the toughest course in the area but Aloha is by far the classiest. So classy in fact that you couldn’t get on unless your handicap was 25 or under (32 for ladies) and you were invited by a member. Since the crisis, however, they have reluctantly been issuing green fees to non-members. A stroll around the facilities explains all. It is quite simply heaven on earth if you are a golfer. The course is magnificently maintained with mountain views and every kind of tropical tree and shrub. It is exceptionally flat for the area. It is an exacting but rewarding course to play: hole 10 is a par-5 513 meters long and the par-3 17 is over two hundred meters in length.
Its website boasts past members like Sean Connery and the King of Malaysia (?) but these days you might be paired up with Jimmy Tarbuck or Bruce Forsyth – they’re both members, apparently! Whoever you play with, though, you’ll remember the experience for a long time afterwards.
Lunch in the clubhouse, too, is a luxurious and memorable affair