A true 5-star has been reborn. It took a whole year to complete an ambitious renovation of the Old Course at San Roque – and it truly seemed there was no room for improvement – but the excellent work and professionalism of those involved in the reform has pleasantly surprised the vast majority of us.
The original design by Dave Thomas has been brought up to date by a team led by Stephen Dudas, the complex's general manager. The redesign is the work of Stephen Dundas himself, John Clarkin (owner of the Turfgrass company), and World Cup and Ryder Cup champion Manolo Piñero.
The image of this renewal is perfectly reflected in the club's new logo, much cleaner and more contemporary. It is also a magnificent reflection of what has been achieved at the course and throughout its facilities.
Those who have not seen this golfing classic in the San Roque and Sotogrande area before will find a modern course that exudes quality and good taste in every corner. A world-class course, with a price consistent with what it offers… no one will be disappointed.
Those who are already familiar with the club will, on arrival, be struck by how the colour of its majestic clubhouse, the former Domecq farmhouse, has changed from light pipeclay to its current white, which makes it even more imposing. They will also see that the practice area has changed, and the area where there was once a two-story building that housed the covered practice tees is now occupied by the Jason Floyd Academy building. The area has been modified, so that it is more spacious, and there is a large bag drop roundabout where a team is always on the lookout, collecting players' bags and helping them prepare for their round.
The cafeteria area and toilets have been completely renovated. The terrace is still one of the best on the Costa del Sol, for both before and after a round. It is located in front of the 18th green and next to a huge putting green that allows you to embrace the full golfing ambience.
Nothing at this course is of a level that is not excellent, from the staff’s attention and service to impeccable buggies with all imaginable extras, including a charger for mobile phones and a GPS with a screen providing precise distances to each day’s flags.
The order of the respective nines has changed: the old 1st tee, next to Tony Jacklin's former villa (which in the future will be a boutique hotel), is now the 10th – and vice versa.
In addition to what can be physically viewed at the course, the absolute quality of the underlying reform that has been carried out can also be sensed and appreciated. It has been renovated from scratch, with new mouldings, drainage and irrigation. The result is an impeccable playing surface, with sufficient density and firmness.
The greens have been changed, making them more undulating and inspired by classic links design. The almost imperceptible transition between the surface of the green and the collar and fringes is impressive. Very wide bibs and lower runaway areas on some greens complete the new classicism style – very elegant and also challenging to play. It goes without saying that the presentation of the greens and the speed and quality of their ball roll are perfect. In general, water has been removed from several holes, with distinctly different holes to be found at the 2nd, 3rd, 9th and 15th.
The rough has also been greatly reduced and replaced by areas with debris from tree pruning that is reminiscent of Augusta National. The aesthetic effect is very positive and makes it easier to find a deflected ball, in addition to the savings it entails, with less care and irrigation required for these areas.
It could be said that it is now easier to get to the green, but it is also possible that putting has become more difficult.
There are subtle design details, such as paths not being seen from the fairway. An example of this is the 6th, and the same occurs on many other holes.
Two holes that have changed significantly are the 14th and 15th. On the 14th the level of the green has been lowered quite a lot and it is now something of a recovery hole. The previous green was extremely difficult, with a blind entry and excessive slope. The 15th hole is still handicap 1 on the course, but the lake that previously was located in front of the green has been removed, humanising it and making it fairer.
The 18th hole has gone from a short par-5 to a challenging long par-4, and the view of the impressive clubhouse is exceptional.
To complete a full and enjoyable day, the restaurant awaits you. It has been modernised and the excellent menu is comprehensive and based on Cadiz-style cuisine. Once again the service is impeccable – they make the experience both rewarding and memorable.
In short, this total renovation has achieved a superb product that is a must-play for any golfing visit to the Costa del Sol and the Straits of Gibraltar area.