Rod Bastard, director of Marbella Club Golf Resort, a professional golfer and hugely experienced as a golf course manager, selects 18 holes that would comprise his perfect layout.
In the past few editions we have been going over some of the best holes in Andalucía and highlighting the architects’ intentions and the challenges for players. This got me thinking about what a golf course would look like if it was made up of a composite of the best holes from each layout.
Just picking the stand-out holes would be easy so I went a step further and limited myself to the order of the holes, meaning I had to choose the best first hole, the best second hole and so on for 18 holes. Then I also wanted to try to balance it for par and for front and back nines.
The interesting thing is that some of the holes’ numbers gave me multiple choices whereas for others there was one clear option. There were also courses that could easily feature multiple times. All I can say is that this is truly a world-class 18 holes from a play and design point of view. The green fee and condition were secondary to the layout of the hole. We have included a simulated scorecard here so you can mark down the holes you have played and what you scored on them. I challenge you to try to play all 18 and see how you do
The 18 holes are:
1 – Par-4, 358m, Royal Las Brisas: Fantastic opening hole, enough room off the tee to get you going with room left but the picturesque downhill second shot to the green challenges you as it’s protected short and left by water. The shaping of the green makes it impossible to get up and down from the right side as well. Longer hitters might think of birdie but most are happy with a bogey here.
2 – Par-4, 403m, San Roque Old: A gentle dogleg from right to left after the tee shot requires you to hug the left side of the fairway to allow you to go for the green in two. The hole usually plays into the Levante (easterly) wind, so the second shot is long and made even more challenging by a lake located to the right of the green.
3 – Par-3, 154m, Royal Sevilla: Lovely downhill par-3 where everything is laid out in front of you. Water short and long, and the green runs diagonally from front left to back right, making club selection a challenge. Only a mid-iron but can wreck the card quickly.
4 – Par-5, 516m, Royal Valderrama: Just a breathtaking hole from the elevated tee shot to a three-tiered green that is protected by a spectacular bubbling waterfall on the right. The top players can get there in two – not human – but for most the third shot with a wedge is more than challenging enough.
5 – Par-4, 358m, Novo Sancti Petri Mar: Relatively wide tee shot to get you going but you have to hit enough club to carry the fairway tree – although not too much so you run into the lake. The green is protected on three sides by water, making the short-iron approach a test of distance control. Any score is possible here.
6 – Par-5, 489m, El Higueral: Generous tee shot unless you want to press your luck as it narrows radically. One of the most spectacular second shots on the Costa del Sol. Downhill to a green set into a lovely lake. Even the third shot is not easy, playing to a green that is unusually shaped from front to back.
7 – Par-4, 381m, Royal Sotogrande: One of the best holes in the world. Dogleg left with a landing area that slopes with the hole. The green is very long and narrow, protected by a lake right and bunkers left. Precision is required to hit this green with your second. Show it respect.
8 – Par-4, 433m, La Reserva: This is just a big beast of a hole. Long with the whole right side covered by a lake. The braver you are the better chance you have for getting there in two but it’s a slim possibility. Quality hole but there is no shame playing it as a par-5.
9 – Par-3, 199m, Marbella Club Golf Resort: Standing on the tee you see the whole green but also the meandering stream that runs across short of the green into a small lake front left. A large tree also intrudes on your vision, just to add to the test. Lastly, judging the wind here can be baffling. Good luck.
10 – Par-4, 267m, Estepona Golf: A treat of a risk-reward par-4. The downhill nature of the tee shot means most players can have a crack at the green on the par-4 but it’s well protected by water and bunkers on all sides. Always fun to have a go but maybe not wise. Options abound and scores could range from a two to high digits.
11 – Par-3, 182m, La Quinta A & C: Spectacular and daunting are words that spring to mind. A long hole, all over a lake that wraps around the front and sides of the green, requires a precision long iron or wood to get safely aboard. Even then the job isn’t done as the green is massively sloped. I would advise taking your bogey and moving on – I just don’t know how to guarantee that.
12 – Par-5, 543m, Royal Sotogrande: What a setting, with a large wide fairway to temp you into crushing your drive but then options abound. Are you brave enough to take on the carry to the green over a large lake or will you be wise and play down the left side, leaving a wedge? Short is no good but if you run off the back you better be good, and play high soft pitches off tight lies. A treat to play.
13 – Par-4, 383m, Finca Cortesín: The tee shot requires placement into a fairway that slopes right to left from bunkers to the hazard. The green is nestled into the terrain, protected by a stream in front and a lovely tree. There is room at the green – just a great par-4.
14 – Par-4, 392m, Royal Sevilla: Top-class from start to finish, with the tee shot played to a fairway framed by tall trees that leads to a daunting second shot. The green is shaped around a lake on the left but is cleverly contoured so you can play to the right and get it releasing down to the back left pin.
15 – Par-4, 409m, Río Real: Simply a wonderful classic dogleg left. No water, no gimmicks, just tall trees that require a precise controlled draw off the tee – if not, trees are waiting. The long second shot is played to a large green but making a par here is not easy. Shows that old school design is still valid.
16 – Par-3, 150m, Santana Golf: What a hole, not too long but challenging, requiring a mid-iron to get the job down. The green is elongated and not very wide, so the start line is key. The green is undulating just to add interest. Like all par-threes, it warrants respect, and if you get off with a par run to the next tee.
17 – Par-5, 490m, Royal Valderrama: What a hole – we have all seen it. Rapid green surrounded by a bubbling brook and crystalline water. A test from start to finish. Miguel Ángel Jiménez made an albatross two here and Tiger Woods putted his ball into the lake from the green, so not much more needs to be said. Spectacular, daunting and wonderful.
18 – Par-4, 395m, Royal Sevilla: What a finishing hole for a course. Imagine leading an event and needing a par. Thread your tee shot into the fairway between the lakes on the left and the long large bunker on the right. Job not done though, second to a slightly elevated green protected short and left with more water. Enjoy finally putting while listening to the water cascading down the waterfall as people watch from the clubhouse terrace. What a way to finish your round.
There you have it – my ideal 18-hole “course” in Andalucía. Will you play it? Do you agree? Either way, there are some of the most amazing golf holes you will ever play on this list. Good luck and enjoy every step of the way.