Rod Bastard, a golf course designer and professional golfer, and hugely experienced as a golf course manager, continues his series of articles describing what he believes to be the best holes in Andalucía. For our next foray into the world of golf design, let us journey into the historic heart of golf on the Costa del Sol and visit Nueva Andalucía’s “Golf Valley” behind Puerto Banús. Here we find Royal Las Brisas and Los Naranjos. Let us explore both in more detail…
ROYAL LAS BRISAS
The emblematic Royal Las Brisas is an icon of golf in Andalucía, as well as around Europe. This course is pure quality, with a wonderful history of hosting top international golf events. The course was originally designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., a common theme of today, and was opened in 1969. Recently it has been updated and modernised by Kyle Phillips, to try to keep pace with the modern game.
The level of quality throughout the club is amazing and especially the condition of the golf course. There is a dedication here to creating one of the best experiences in golf, as so the upgrades and improvements are continuous and top-class.
The 18th is a very challenging 380-metre par-4. Looking out from the tee, the hole is spectacular, with a manicured fairway framed by two attractive bunkers that focus the eye all the way to the clubhouse sitting high behind the green.
Only 380 metres, you say? Well, this is one of the toughest finishing holes on the Coast. The hole plays a long way uphill on the second shot, which easily adds another 20 metres: Not only that but down the left side is a pretty but very intimidating lake. So left is no good, but right is out-of-bounds, so at the end of the day we just have to stand up and hit a good positive shot down this beautifully framed hole. The landing area between the lake and the out-of-bounds is a very generous 69 metres wide but, believe you me, standing on that tee trying to post a score feels like you are trying to drive it onto a narrow bridge.
The tee shot is a challenge, but this only increases into the green. As I said, it plays uphill, is surrounded by bunkers and has multiple tiers. Finding the green is a challenge and then finding the hole is another one altogether. The green is overlooked by the halfway house so sometimes, if you hit a great second shot, you might get a smattering of applause – but when you thin it out of the back bunker you have to hope nobody is watching. This hole is fantastic and will test you from start to finish.
Los Naranjos was always going to be a great success. This lovely piece of gently rolling land was placed in the hands of the renowned Robert Trent Jones Sr. who, of course, would produce a classically stunning course. No gimmicks, just great golf; enough room to have fun but plenty to challenge the good golfer. This course opened in 1977 and has been a must-play for all visitors since then. It is a well-supported club and the facilities are always being upgraded, but they have still managed to cultivate a light and friendly atmosphere.
The 18th hole is a wonderful way to finish your round. This 515-metre dogleg left par-5 offers so much to the golfer: some possible success and a lot of heartache. Off the tee – as I love – it offers choice. Hug the left trees with a tight draw and you might be tempted to get to the green it two, or you have loads of room right where you can play the hole as a traditional par-5.
If you are going for the green in two you are greeted by a lovely babbling brook that flows from the right all the way diagonally across the front of the green. Anything short will run down the bank into the water. A miss with the second must be left towards the greenside bunker, as anything right will not make the diagonal carry.
Going in two is hard so laying up must be the way to go, right? Not so sure. The left side of the lay-up area is guarded by a lake and the fairway slopes right to left. The best lay-up is to try to stay a touch right, as that leaves you on a level or just above the putting surface. Right, we have hit a great lay-up and are now 90 metres from the green. Perfect? Not really, as we still have the stream to go over and our eyes are drawn to the open doors of the pro shop – very well stocked it is too – and all we can think about is blading it into the club display. A full terrace of people watching doesn’t help our heart rates either. A wonderful hole that tests all aspects of our technical and emotional game…