Manuel Piñero describes and advises us how to play each hole at La Reserva de Sotogrande, one of Spain’s finest golf courses. In the words of this legendary golfer – the winner of eight European Tour titles, two Ryder Cup and two World Cups – the Cabell B. Robinson-designed layout “is an open course, a competition course, which doesn’t mean to say it is not a course that is accessible to all kinds of players. One of the advantages is that all the holes have five or six tees, so you can vary the length of the course according to the playing ability of each player. It is not a particularly stressful course from the tee, but it is very demanding on the greens.”
(All hole distances from yellow markers)
Hoyo 1 - Par 4 364 metres Hcp 10
Until recently it was the 10th, while the 1st has now become the 10th. An extremely reachable par-4, a short hole that offers a very open tee shot, with a dogleg left. An average player will be able to hit nothing more than a 7 o 8-iron for their second shot to the green, which is defended by a water hazard at the front. The green is expansive like all of them on this course, but with quite a few contours.
Hoyo 2 -Par 5 460 metres Hcp 5
An attractive, gently inclining par-5, with a wide fairway from the tee. The second shot is made more difficult by the presence of bunkers in the middle of the fairway, 140 metres from the green, so medium to big-hitting players will need to lay up before the bunkers. Comprising two tiers, the green is undulating, well defended by frontal bunkers and probably one of the most difficult on the course.
Hole 3 - Par 4 371 metros Hcp 9
A par-4 offering a generous tee shot and wide fairway. You need to aim to the right-hand side of the fairway because if you miss too far to the left you will be out of bounds or have a difficult second shot to the green from amidst olive trees. You then hit to a long green, sloping from right to left and protected by bunkers on the right and left. The green is expansive but it is extremely difficult to get your ball close to the hole. The wind has a major effect on the hole. If it is against you or from the left, it can be a long hole, requiring a driver or rescue (hybrid) club for an average player or a driver, 4-iron or 5-iron for a good player.
Hole 4 - Par 4 386 metros Hcp 3
For me, the most difficult hole or one of the most difficult on the course. There is a very deep gully from the tee rising to a platform above. It’s a long drive up there. From the yellow markers it would be 220 metres, quite a considerable distance. If you have enough power to hit the ball above the gully the hole becomes much easier. Even then, it is still a very long second shot, 180 metres from the flat part of the fairway. Entry to the green is tight. Apart from one at the back that hardly comes into play, there are no bunkers around the green, which is nevertheless well defended due to the narrowness of the approach and because if you miss it to the right your ball will end up down a quite tough incline.
Hole 5 - Par 3 147 metros Hcp 14
A very attractive par-3, not all that long, about 150 metres, downhill, with an undulating green protected by a bunker to the right. It is an extremely interesting hole to play. For me, all the par-3s on this course are very good.
Hole 6 - Par 5 459 metros Hcp 12
A downhill par-5… If there is no wind it’s a wide tee shot and generous, but when there is a crosswind it becomes a little tougher – although it is still a very reachable par-5. A long-hitter can reach it in two, and an average hitter will have a short approach to the green. The green is very contoured, and becomes particularly difficult to play if the pin is at the back. The hole has no bunkers but it is very well protected by a lake along the whole right-hand side of the green, so you can’t miss-hit it to that area – you need to aim towards the left-hand side.
Hole 7 - Par 3 127 metros Hcp 18
This is the shortest par-3 on the course, but with a very tough green, especially if the pin is at the back. It is a downhill shot of about 130 metres. Distance is not the problem on this hole, but accuracy is, especially if you miss the green towards the back, because then you will have a very, very tough shot.
Hole 8 - Par 4 386 metros Hcp 1
A par-4, handicap index 1, tough, long, protected by a large lake that extends almost from the start of the fairway to where the hole ends at the back of the green. You should always play to the left-hand side. Don’t be too ambitious from the tee because it’s very easy to hit into the water. Your second shot, no matter how well you hit your tee shot, will always be long, 170 or 180 metres to the pin, with a large and very well contoured green protected by water to the right – although you have options to the left-hand side.
Hole 9 - Par 4 324 metros Hcp 16
A short par-4... The average player, medium to long-hitter, will not have any problems on the right-hand side and will be able to easily avoid the bunkers that can be seen from the tee, but not the ones on the left-hand side, especially the final bunker, which is more than 250 metres from the tee. So you need to hit down the middle, or middle-right, from the tee. The elevated green is narrow, long and hugely contoured. You can see the pin but not the green, which is protected by very deep frontal bunkers. The average player will have a 6, 7 or 8-iron to the pin.
Hole 10 - Par 4 329 metros Hcp 8
A tough par-4, especially because the fairway narrows near the right-hand bunker. If this did not exist, the tee shot – which is downhill, so you can see the hole perfectly – would be easier. You need to hit a drive down the middle, then you have a not too long second shot. Well-contoured and protected by a bunker on the left, the green is extremely difficult – one of the toughest on the course.
Hole 11 - Par 4 355 metros Hcp 6
A long par-4… You need to hit down the middle, or middle-right, of the fairway, which is very wide, an expansive hole. The second shot is almost flat, to a green that is not too highly contoured, among the least undulating on the course, protected by a lake on the left-hand side and bunkers on the right. This hole will normally require a long drive to enable you to use an iron for your second shot; if not, you will be playing a rescue club or 3-wood.
Hole 12 - Par 4 331 metros Hcp 13
This par-4 is especially difficult due to the out-of-bounds area along the right-hand side – it is very easy to hit a tee shot out there. You should drive down the middle, or middle-left, of the fairway and aim not to reach the bunker. The highly contoured green, one of the narrowest on the course, is elevated and protected by a frontal bunker and another one on the right. Normally you would not hit a particularly long shot, a 7 or 8-iron at the most, but it has to be accurate because the green is quite challenging.
Hole 13 - Par 5 475 metros Hcp 11
This par-5 is, for me, one of the most attractive holes on the course, almost straight but well protected by bunkers on the left-hand side – although the fairway is generously expansive. The second shot is also attractive, although slightly more demanding because of bunkers on the right and left, and a very, very highly contoured green. The main difficulty on this hole is perhaps the green, with a bunker on the left and very tough pin positions, especially at the front of the green. If the pin is placed there, I always play to the middle of the green because the slope makes it very difficult to leave the ball close to the hole.
Hole 14 - Par 4 380 metros Hcp 2
A par-4 dogleg left… If you don’t hit to the middle, or middle-right, of the fairway you will have a blind shot to the green; but if you are a big-hitter and play to the middle or middle-right you will see the green perfectly. It’s a good golf hole, protected by bunkers on the right-hand side of the fairway at the landing area, and with a fairly undulating green protected by two bunkers on the right. For me, it is one of the toughest second shots on the course.
Hole 15 - Par 3 177 metros Hcp 7
A magnificent par-3, for me the best on the course. From the back tee it’s nearly 200 metres and from the yellow markers about 160 metres. There is water on the left, a bunker at the front and a bunker at the back. The green has three quite well defined tiers and is expansive. It’s one of the most attractive holes on the course.
Hole 16 - Par 5 468 metros Hcp 15
A par-5 with a very generous fairway and a lake on the left-hand side. With the wind against you, an average player will struggle to hit past the lake, which makes the fairway quite narrow: but if there is no wind, or a favourable one, it is actually quite a generous tee shot to a very wide area of fairway. The second shot is also to a very wide fairway, but it’s extremely difficult to stop the ball on the green because it is well contoured and protected by bunkers at the back and, especially, a deep gully at the front.
Hole 17 - Par 3 146 metros Hcp 17
A very attractive par-3… I would just like to repeat that all the par-3s on this course are very good par-3s. It’s not very long, 170 metres from the white markers and 140 from the yellow tees, with a green extending over three tiers, undulating but open. There is a bunker on the right and water on the left-hand side, but a fair distance from the green.
Hole 18 - Par 4 363 metros Hcp 4
A par-4, one of the most difficult holes on the course, especially because the tee shot is very tough. The fairway is quite narrow, there are bunkers on the right-hand side and, when the wind is against you, a bunker on the left protects the fairway. It’s one of the toughest tee shots on the course. You hit a second shot to a very elevated green that is not all that undulating but is narrow, especially on the left-hand side. It requires a very, very accurate shot. There is a frontal bunker and quite a pronounced slope on the left, so if you miss the green on this side you will struggle to recover.