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. This issue he selects the 15th at Río Real and the 17th at Marbella Club Golf Resort.
In this latest edition of our exploration into the world of design I would like to dive into two long, beautiful and challenging par-4s. Our first visit is to the lovely Río Real golf club, and then back to my home turf of Marbella Club Golf Resort.
I am personally quite a big fan of Río Real as its tree-lined nature challenges the golfer to have to move the ball both ways off the tee in equal measure to navigate the relatively tight fairways. That is a rarity in the modern game of just hitting long, high and straight shots. The hole I would like to talk about is the 15th – 409 metres, handicap-2 on the course. Like all great holes, it has no tricks or gimmicks.
The tee shot asks for a nice long draw to get the ball turning down the shape of the fairway. Any miss will likely incur tree trouble and require a punch out with the hope of getting close to the front of the green. With the length of the hole, even a good tee shot will leave a long iron into this green. The green is very fair in size but is protected with a bunker left and a very large one on the right side.
Architect Javier Arana has simply created a classic and great par-4 here. No need for crazy hazards – just the shape of the hole, the dense overhanging pines and its length are more than enough to protect this hole. The higher-handicapper should always play this hole as a par-5. Three shots to get there, safe bogey and move on to the par-5 16th.
Coming home for me to Marbella Club Golf Resort, this course is set in spectacular natural surroundings, given its location in the hills with changes in elevation and amazing views. However, it also has one of the best long par-4s in the area. The 17th is 388 metres long but a real challenge.
The hole extends all out in front of the player. From the tee you see the whole picture – nothing is hidden and the green at the end is framed by the amazing Monte Mayor mountain range.
The bad thing is that, from the tee, you also see all the trouble: first there are bunkers on both sides of the landing area, then further up a hazard on the right side. What I love design-wise about this hole is that the trouble increases the further you hit it off the tee. The mid-level driver has the bunkers to contend with, and then the young bombers have a narrowing fairway with the hazard on the right. If you want to use your distance you have to hit a good shot.
The green is cleverly designed, with a bunker set into it on the right side. You can keep left and avoid the bunker but any mid to right pin will require a high shot over the bunker. Dave Thomas has built a classic beast of a par-4. Once again, the less skillful will just have to live with the fact that it is a three-shot hole: very wide off the tee, short of the bunkers, then on in two more from there.