Repeatedly classified in the international rankings as one of Spain’s best golf courses, Real Sotogrande Golf Club is celebrating its golden anniversary this year.
Founded in 1964, the RSGC’s origins are intimately bound to the creation of the Sotogrande urbanisation in the early 1960s. Its founder, Joseph McMicking, chose this enclave in the south of Spain to develop the best residential area of the time and as the nucleus and backbone of this ambitious project.
If something truly characterised McMicking it was his vision of the future and his desire that Sotogrande would last for many, many years. This was why he laid the foundations of his project in completely unknown parameters of quality in the Spain of those days. It is no wonder that he called in the most prestigious designer of the time, R. T. J., to design the RSGC course.
It was the express wish of McMicking that Trent Jones personally choose the land on which the golf course would be built within the enormous property in which the urbanisation was located. Sotogrande was the first work of the designer in Europe and marked a landmark in the construction of courses on this side of the Atlantic, not only due to the magnificent design which the master Trent Jones realised, but also in the innovations that surrounded the project: it was the first course in Europe to be seeded with Bermuda 419 and the first to install a totally automatic system of irrigation. In 1965 the clubhouse was inaugurated, having been built by the architect Luis Gutiérrez Soto.
In 1965, the RSGC held its first major tournament, with the best players in Europe competing in the Spanish Open Championship. This was won by Roberto de Vicenzo with a total of 279. One year later, at the age of 44, the Argentinean became the oldest player to win the British Open, after an exciting duel with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
The magnificent design by Robert Trent Jones quickly became highly appreciated by both amateurs and professionals, thus turning Sotogrande into a prestigious venue for competitions. In 1970 the Sherry Cup was born, the original version of the present-day European Championship of Nations Cup at RSGC, which is presented every year to the best amateur from 20 European countries and provides a huge boost to his CV, alongside former winners of the stature of Padraig Harrington, Sergio García and Rory McIlroy.
In 1973 the VII Ladies European Championship was contested in Sotogrande. The winners were England followed by France, Sweden and Spain. The club remained part of the Sotogrande urbanisation until 1979, when the members acquired the course. Today it is considered to be one of the best members´ clubs in Europe.
Sotogrande was the venue for the Spanish Amateur Championship of 1983. The winner was a very youthful José María Olazábal, who later won the US Masters at Augusta in 1994 and 1999. Nearly five years later, the club presided over the victory of the legendary Severiano Ballesteros in the Spanish Professional Championship of 1987. Ballesteros was number two in the world ranking at the time and had won four majors: the British Open in 1979 and 1982, and the US Masters in 1980 and 1983. This did not prevent him from having to fight a heroic battle with Pepín Rivero to win the championship. Seve left wonderful examples of his matchless talent, including the shot he holed on the last day from a greenside bunker on the 16th which virtually sealed his victory.
Between 1996 and 2001 the Trent Jones course, together with San Roque Club, hosted the European Tour Qualifying School. On these two courses European Tour cards were obtained by players of the calibre of Ian Poulter, Geoff Ogilvy, Justin Rose, Niclas Fasth and Nicholas Colsaerts.
In 1994, King Juan Carlos I granted Sotogrande the title of Real (Royal). From its origins, the club has had six presidents: Alfredo Melián (1964 to 1979), Emma Villacieros de García–Ogara (1979-1989), Walter Rodriguez Figueroa (1989–1997), José Antonio Polanco (1997–2005), Antonio Martín Urquijo (2005–2010) and the present president, Felipe Oriol Díaz de Bustamante.