Sotogrande Finest Golf Courses

SIX OF THE BEST
A Review by Trevor Ledger

Sotogrande was the blueprint for the explosion of golf courses along Spain’s Mediterranean Coast and to this day retains its identity among so many imitations.

Sotogrande was the blueprint for the explosion of golf courses along Spain’s Mediterranean Coast and to this day retains its identity among so many imitations.

It was this feeling of Sotogrande as pathfinder for all that followed that lead Trevor Ledger to head south from his St Andrews base in Scotland and identify how Sotogrande and its illustrious neighbours have stood the test of time and whether they represent value for money among many cheaper options.

THE BACKGROUND

That golf courses of the highest quality exist in Spain is hardly privileged knowledge; but knowing how to access the courses and, more important which courses you should be accessing in the first place, is a question that demands experienced local knowledge.

For example: ‘which one IS Sotogrande?’ sounds a simple enough question. But then the more learned seeker of truth might ask: ‘wasn’t Valderrama a Sotogrande course too?’ (‘Yes’ is the simple answer, ‘it’s complicated’ is far more accurate).

Part of the problem is the simple quantity of golf on offer. Within an hour’s drive of Sotogrande there are dozens of fabulous golf courses and most of them are good: the problems begin to emerge when the act of deciding upon ‘a must play itinerary’ is undertaken; not to mention the myriad offers of accommodation and transit.

Real Club Valderrama
Certainly there are packages on offer from large operators but it has been pointed out that the interface between golfer – tour operator – golf course is frequently disjointed and lacking in any real expertise.

The problem of access and understanding is largely down to this: while Spain has done a great job of promoting the country as a golf resort destination, it has done a pretty lousy job of making things clear at a macro level.

Notwithstanding the aforementioned question of which Sotogrande is which, there is no coherent golf tourism marketing strategy for the region as a whole. Thus a trawl across the web will most likely result in a frustrating, multiple tab operation that leaves the searcher none the wiser as to what courses are truly top notch and which are good value ‘fill in tracks’.

It cannot be emphasised strongly enough that an experienced, locally based operator that specialises in turnkey, bespoke golf tours is of the highest importance to anyone that does not wish to spend weeks of frustrating searching and enquiries that (more often than not) go unanswered.

Our experience in 2016, compared to a previous nightmare in 2009, proved to us beyond doubt that employing local knowledge saved us so much time and grief that the cost was never considered; such was the distance by which the benefits outweighed the financial outlay.

Sotogrande 16th green
In lieu of such specialist advice, to whet the appetite if you will, what follows is the basis from which an approach to local expertise might be made. By no means is this intended as the definitive guide but for the golfer who is ‘time poor’ or does not have superhuman patience and resilience, it is a very good starting point.

Certainly your local guide/operator might disagree with our course reviews or have particular favourites of their own; suffice to say that you would not be disappointed with the following half dozen.

THE BASICS

1. Choose your season carefully

High summer in Southern Spain is hot. No, not Southern England heatwave hot; HOT.

Clearly for some this is part of the attraction and the courses listed here go out of their way to make the heat bearable – iced water in abundance around the courses, fruit on many tees and regular visits from attentive refreshment carts throughout the round.

Our visit was at the beginning of November and it was plenty warm enough; warm enough that a cart was welcome even though the preferred option for our group is normally to carry our own clubs. Check the average temperature chart to make for a more informed choice.

2. Plan your flights

Malaga seems the most logical choice given the abundance of direct flights from the UK and Continental Europe and now even a direct service from the USA – it is an hour plus from the Sotogrande region of golfing wonder.

Gibraltar is much closer (under half an hour) and available from UK airports.

3. The Grass

Especially for visitors from northern Europe – the courses here have Bermuda/Zoysia grasses.

These are very different to the bents and fescues of the temperate zone and require different strategy around and on the greens.

4. Prepare for attentiveness and opulence

Playing golf at these courses is a wonderful experience and is geared up to make you feel like a very special person; even if you hack round in 100.

Moreover the flora and fauna could give National Geographic a run for their money: terrapins on the green, vultures circling overhead and massive carp wallowing in the water features do much to distract from golfing woes.

Finca Cortesin - Hole 9, Clubhouse & Hotel

THE COURSES REVIEWED

  • La Reserva 6th tee
    Sotogrande Golf Courses - 6 of the best reviewed
    READ MORE ...
  • Sotogrande 7th approach
    Real Club Sotogrande - a review
    READ MORE ...
  • Valderrama
    Real Club Valderrama - a review
    READ MORE ...
  • Finca Cortesin
    Finca Cortesin Golf Club - a review
    READ MORE ...
  • La Reserva Golf Club 6th
    La Reserva Golf Club Sotogrande - a review
    READ MORE ...
  • San Roque Old Course flag
    San Roque Old Course - a review
    READ MORE ...
  • San Roque New 9th green bunkers
    San Roque New Course - a review
    READ MORE ...

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Trevor LedgerTrevor Ledger, Golf Collections Project Cataloguer, Special Collections Division, St Andrews University, Scotland.
Trevor has worked as an editor and contributor to many golf industry publications. In the past he has held the position of Editor at ‘Golf Course News International’ and ‘The Golf Course Magazine’, as well as Contributing Editor of ‘Golf Inc.’.
In a freelance capacity he has contributed to publications such as Golf Punk, Golf World and Golf Monthly.