What do Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros, Dave Thomas, Peter Alliss, José María Olazábal, Manuel Piñero, José Maria Cañizares and Miguel Ángel Jiménez have in common? It’s easy: all these great stars of the sport have designed courses in Andalucía.

In this sunny region of southern Spain some of the world’s finest designers – who had not been renowned golf professionals themselves – have also left their indelible and notable mark, and continue to do so. 

Robert Trent Jones (500 courses in 36 countries), Cabell B. Robinson, Kyle Phillips, Perry Dye, Javier Arana, Pepe Gancedo (the latter two, also great champions in the amateur sphere) and a long etcetera have put their names to the nearly 120 golf courses throughout Andalucía.

Jack Nicklaus, arguably the greatest golfer of all time, signed the design of Montecastillo. This course, inaugurated in 1992 and located next to the Circuito de Velocidad de Jerez racetrack, has a brilliant curriculum as a venue for major international tournaments, including five editions of the Volvo Masters.

Now 84, the Golden Beer can look back on one of the most remarkable careers in sport. He won 18 Grand Slams and 70 U.S. PGA Tour tournaments – reigning for most of the 1960s, 1970s and even into the 1980s.

Nicklaus won at St Andrews in 1979 and 1978. In what was the last event of his prolific career, his son Steve was his caddie – which provided the championship with an even more sentimental touch. He was unable to hold back the tears as he completed his final British Open round. 

Nicklaus’s golf career is unrivalled. He began playing the game as a young boy, and won his first tournament, the Ohio Open, when he was still 16. His next big win was the U.S. Amateur Championship, in 1959. Two years later he regained that title and also won the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship. 

From 1959 to 1961 – when he joined the professional ranks – he won every tournament he teed up in except for one.

In 1962, Nicklaus won the U.S. Open after beating compatriot Arnold Palmer, another golfing legend. Throughout his long and successful professional career he tallied an amazing record: including six U.S. Masters (1963, 1965, 1966, 1972, 1975 and 1986); five U.S. PGA Championships (1963, 1971, 1973, 1975 and 1980); four U.S. Opens (1962, 1967, 1972 and 1980); three British Opens (1966, 1970 and 1978); and one World Matchplay (1970). He was named “Player of the Year” five times (1967, 1972, 1973, 1975 and 1976), and in 1988 was honoured as best golfer of the 20th century.

Nicklaus joined the U.S. Seniors Tour in 1990 and, in that category, went on to win two U.S. Opens (1991 and 1993) and two U.S. PGAs (1991 and 1996).

He has also forged a career as one the world’s most prestigious golf course designers through his Golden Bear International company. In 1993 he received an award as ·Golf Course Designer of the Year”.

Born in Columbus, Ohio, on 21 January 1940, he shuttles between homes in North Palm Beach (Florida) and Carefree (Arizona); he is married to Barbara and has five children, Jack II, Steve, Nancy, Gary and Michael. 

Tiger Woods, another “extraterrestrial” figure, is the only current player with a realistic chance of equalling Nicklaus’s record. The Tiger and the Bear: two fine players who have re-written, and continue to re-write, the history books.

Gary Player, who at 29 became the third player in the history of the game to win at least one of each of the four Grand Slam titles (following Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan), has designed three courses in Andalucía.

The Black Knight – as this son of a miner was known, for often wearing that colour in tournaments – created a work of art with Sevilla’s Zaudin, inaugurated in 1992. At the time, Player described it as one of the most beautiful courses he had created throughout his prolific career as a designer. His first Andalucian course was designed on the Costa del Sol, specifically El Paraiso in Estepona, which opened its holes to the public for the first time in 1974. Two years later he launched his second course in the region, Almerimar, in Ejido municipality. In this case, Rob Kiry and Ramón Espinosa collaborated with him on the design. 

Player’s 163 international titles in his long career around the world included nine majors (three U.S. Masters, three British Opens, two U.S. PGA Championships and one U.S. Open). He broke many records during his distinguished career. In 1961 he became the first non-American to win the U.S. Masters and finished number one on the U.S. money list the same year. The following season he won the U.S. PGA Championship, and in 1965 completed the coveted Grand Slam with victory in the U.S. Open. His nine wins are the third highest tally in Grand Slam history. Known as “The Black Knight” because of his golfing attire (predominantly that colour), the South African was the only player to win British Opens in three different decades of the 20th century. He won at least one event a season for 27 consecutive years. Then, on turning 50, he joined the U.S. Champions (Seniors) Tour and went on to win 19 titles in all.

His many famous quotes over the years include: “The more I practise, the luckier I get”; and, “I’ve studied golf for 50 years now and know a hell of a lot about nothing.”

Severiano Ballesteros designed four courses in Andalucía and worked with Perry Dye on one other. His first design creation in this region was the original 18-hole course at Novo Sancti Petri (today called “Recorrido A”), adjacent to the spectacular La Barrosa beach in Chiclana de la Frontera (Cádiz province). It was opened to the public in 1990. The following year he presented his second Andalucian course, Los Arqueros, in Benahavís municipality bordering Marbella. In 1993 it was the turn of his third regional design, Alhaurín Golf, also in Málaga province. As with Los Arqueros, he had to work with a difficult plot of land, in a mountain setting of steep inclines. It was eight years before another Seve design was inaugurated, the second 18 holes at Novo Sancti Petri (“Recorrido B”). In 2008, San Roque Club’s New Course, co-designed by Ballesteros and Perry Dye, was opened.

Seve set the agenda for an era and elevated European – not to mention Spanish – golf to a new level and status, thanks to a spectacular game blessed with incredible shots and extraordinary results. 

At 54, he put away his clubs one final time, but his legacy and charisma will live on in our memories. Over two golden decades, between 1976 and 1995, he won 87 titles around the world on all five continents, 50 of those on the European Tour, and collected five Grand Slam titles (1979, 1984 and 1988 British Open and 1980 and 1983 U.S. Masters).

Seve became a global idol for millions who admired his spectacular stroke-playing and exceptional creativity in escaping from the most difficult situations.

Dave Thomas, co-designer with Peter Alliss of the famous The Belfry course, designed Almenara in Sotogrande (opened in 1998). In the same municipality, San Roque, where the Sotogrande macro-urbanisation is located, he also designed the second nine holes at La Cañada (2001) – the first nine (1991) having been the work of Robert Trent Jones.

He designed two other courses in the same Campo Gibraltar area: the first layout at San Roque Club, the Old Course (1991), and the second at Alcaidesa, Heathland (2007).

In 1999, another of his creations was opened, Marbella Club Golf Resort, located in Benahavís municipality and part of the company group that owns the renowned Marbella Club and Puente Romano hotels.  

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, Thomas – who passed away on the Costa del Sol in 2013, aged 79 – was one of Britain’s most famous golfers in the 1950s and 1960s, winning a dozen tournaments in Europe and twice finishing runner-up in the British Open (in 1958 he lost a play-off against Australian Peter Thompson and in 1966 he was beaten by Jack Nicklaus). He was a member of Europe’s Ryder Cup team in 1959, 1963, 1965 and 1967

José María Olazábal has left his mark on the design of three golf courses in Andalucía. The first was the acclaimed Royal Sevilla Golf, which opened in 1992. In 1997 his second Andalucian course, Costa Ballena, on the Atlantic coast of Cádiz, was opened to the public, and in 2008 his third was inaugurated, La Monacilla, a short distance from Huelva capital city.

The 58-year-old star from Fuenterrabía became, after Seve, the most international of Spain's top golfers. His professional track record includes two "green jackets" for winning the U.S. Masters at Augusta in 1994 and 1999, as well as seven participations in the Ryder Cup, winning four of them with the European team in 1987, 1989, 1997 and 2006, and forming – together with Ballesteros – the most successful Ryder Cup pair in the history of this tournament. His last great success was in 2012, also in the biennial tournament but this time not as a player but as captain of the European team that won against the United States after a historic comeback – a victory that Olazábal dedicated to Seve.

His achievements and the respect he has earned among colleagues led to Olazábal being inducted as a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2009.

Peter Alliss designed Alcaidesa Links with Clive Clark – the club’s first 18 holes, opened in 1992, almost in the shadow of the Rock of Gibraltar. 

Alliss, who was 89 when he died in 2020, was known around the world as the “voice of golf”, in his facet as a tournament commentator. Born in Berlin, where his English father worked as a club pro, he was one of Europe’s leading players in the 1950s and 1960s. He won 21 titles and, even though he never secured a major, he finished in the top 10 of the British Open on five occasions. He played in the Ryder Cup eight times, before giving up full-time competition at the age of 38. In 1961, at the British Open, he launched his career as a TV commentator for the BBC. As a designer, he signed his name to 75 courses.

Manuel Piñero, three times a World Cup champion, has been a prolific designer of golf courses in Andalucía. His first was La Quinta Golf, with Antonio García Garrido, in 1989, and he also designed El Campanario and Monte Paraiso, both opened in 2003 (the latter is currently closed). In Cádiz province he designed the Golf El Puerto and Lomas de Sancti Petri courses, both inaugurated in 2006. His last Andalucian work was the Hato Verde course in Sevilla, which opened in 2008.

Like most of Spain’s professional golfers who gained fame after the 1970s, Piñero was a caddie as a youngster, an invaluable school in which to learn all the tricks of the trade.

He turned pro in 1968 and began playing on the European Tour at the start of the 1970s, eventually winning nine titles, including the British PGA. He finished in the top 10 of the final order of merit on five occasions, with a best finish fourth in 1976 and 1977.  

The 71-year-old Extremadura-born star competed in two Ryder Cups. In 1985 he played a key role in Europe’s first win in 28 years, collecting four out of five points including a 3&1 victory in his singles match against Lanny Wadkins.

Piñero represented Spain in eight World Cups, winning two: in 1976 paired with Severiano Ballesteros and in 1982 with José María Cañizares. In the latter, he also won the title as best individual player.

Interesting fact… in 1977 he was playing at the La Moraleja course in Madrid with Bing Crosby when the singer and actor (aged 73) suddenly died from a heart attack.

José María Cañizares has signed his name to two courses on the eastern Costa del Sol – Añoreta, opened in 1990, and Baviera, in 2000 – and a third in the Málaga hinterland, Antequera, opened to the public in 2002.

Born in Madrid in 1947, “Cañi” was a caddie at Royal Puerta de Hierro Golf Club in Madrid before turning pro in 1967. He made a memorable appearance in the 1978 Swiss Open, carding 27 for the first nine holes in the third round – equalling the world record at the time.

During his long career as a pro, he won a dozen titles, both individual and as a team member. He was victorious in two World Cups – with Manuel Piñero in 1982 and José Rivero in 1984 – and in the latter he also won the title as leading individual. Cañizares competed in two Ryder Cups won by Europe, 1985 and 1989.

Miguel Ángel Jiménez, the 60-year-old Churriana-born star who continues to amaze the world with his charisma and extraordinary results, has also left his mark as a designer in Andalucía. The design of the nine par-3 holes at the academy that bears his name in Torremolinos is his work, as well as the re-design of several holes at the Guadalhorce course in Málaga, where he is a member and has often practised during his stays on the Costa del Sol. Abroad, Jiménez has carried out the complete designs of the courses at Diamond Country Club (Austria) and Prosper Golf Club Celadna (Czech Republic).

Content provided with the collaboration of the Junta de Andalucía’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.