Travel is often about expectations. The challenge is to establish realistic ones and not build up a destination in advance to such a level it has little hope of reaching these dizzy heights. A recent trip to Northern Spain was accompanied by few expectations beyond a natural curiosity as the trip was the suggestion of a well-traveled friend.Read more “Northern Spain: A Hidden Gem for Golf, Wine & Gastronomy”
For all of Spain’s charm and widespread appeal, perhaps golf has received a short shrift from casual observers in discussions covering the nation’s allure. Like a hidden diamond in a showcase of gems, the golf courses are eclectic, entertaining and enjoyable, offering a variety of styles from an outstanding collection of architects.
Later this month, PerryGolf’s cruise to the Iberian Peninsula departs Barcelona as guests board the elegant 690-seat Azamara Journey on a nine-night voyage that includes six rounds of golf. The Iberian Peninsula Golf Cruise (May 29 – June 7) is one of many options offered by PerryGolf aimed toward travelers seeking to explore the golf available in this intriguing region. The incredible beauty, culture and gastronomy in Spain are a given, and the world class golf shall no longer be overlooked.
From Ballesteros to Olazabal, Jimenez to Garcia and today’s blossoming star, Jon Rahm, the Spaniards have, for decades, made a significant imprint on professional golf. Without compare, this nation with 46.5 million residents produces fiery champions and colorful characters. Each year it’s also becoming apparent to an international array of guests that the golf courses scattered about the nation are excellent.
The climate, of course, is ideal.
While there are nearly 350 courses sprinkled through Spain, many of the best are concentrated along the Southern coast from Isla Cristina in the west along the Portugal border through Costa del Sol and east to Costa Blanca. Splashed with sun and later sipping sangria, embrace the beauty of the coastline and azure water of the Alboran Sea in pursuit of pars and postcard memories.
Make sure you make a tee time at one of these five Spanish delights.
Located 45 minutes north of the iconic city of Barcelona, the Stadium course at PGA Catalunya is Spain’s answer to the original Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass – known best for its diabolical 17th hole that terrorizes pros each spring during the the PLAYERS.
European PGA Tour veterans Angel Gallardo and Neil Coles collaborated and designed a layout measuring nearly 7,400 yards from the tips but also catered it to golfers across the handicap spectrum by building five sets of tees (the yardage is 5,500 from the forward tees). Large firs and ample water hazards border wide fairways and undulating greens. Expect the trademark semi-island greens surrounded by railroad ties.
PGA Catalyunya golf professional Enric Lopez shares these tips to taming the hearty Stadium course, which can be intimidating from the teeing ground and has been ranked No. 1 in Spain.
Tiger Woods made his Ryder Cup debut on this venerable Robert Trent Jones Sr. design in 1997 and the matches produced a unfavorable result for the young professional and his American teammates. Feeding off the passion and purpose of captain Seve Ballesteros and buoyed by phenomenal performance in the foursomes and fourball matches, the Europeans claimed the Cup, 14.5 to 13.5.
The course remains a fixture on the European PGA Tour schedule, serving as host for the Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Oct. 18-21. Sergio Garcia is the defending champion for the event certain to attract yet another strong international field.
The members purchased the club, which includes the par-3 course and clubhouse, last fall for $28 million Euros and there are plans to add another 18-hole championship layout.
With holes reminiscent of a Scottish links and others winding through a Mediterranean forest, variety and beauty are the hallmarks of this short yet challenging design. Located just south of Valencia, overlooking the Balearic Sea, this gem from architect Javier Arana measures nearly 7,000 yards from the championship tees and is guaranteed to test a golfer’s acumen in every area of the game.
Bernhard Langer tamed El Saler in the final round of the 1984 Spanish Open, firing a course-record 10-under 62 to seal the victory. He went on to win the European Tour Order of Merit that year. Langer again won the event on El Saler five years later. Robert Karlsson (2001) and Raphael Jacquelin (2013) also have fond memories of Spanish Open titles at El Saler.
Arana designed 10 courses in his career, starting in 1946 until his passing in 1975. He considered El Saler the masterpiece due to the unspoiled land and intricate green complexes. Learn more about Arana in this excellent profile from 2009.
Not fond of earthmoving, probably due to the associated cost, Arana held that 80 per cent of the course was nature and that man should only be responsible for 20 per cent of the final design … Good routing and usage of available land was one of his main strengths: in flatter seaside property, he excelled at minimizing green-to-tee walks
With a healthy 7,500 yards from the championship tees and more than 100 bunkers, this three-time host of the Volvo World Match Play Championship (2009, 2011, 2012) underwent a significant upgrade and renovation in the summer of 2017. The greens were the centerpiece of this project and the reviews since have been positive for this Cabell B. Robinson design.
Robinson, an American, received a bachelor’s degree from Princeton in the late 1960s and attended graduate school in design at Harvard. He went to work for legendary Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1971 and led his European department until 1987 when he started his own firm. Robinson has courses throughout Europe but none are held in higher regard than Finca Cortesin, slightly inland from the Mediterranean, routed through a valley. There are many unforgettable holes, thanks to the lack of residential development on the property.
When a man as esteemed in his field as Robert Trent Jones Sr., claiming 500 courses designed or renovated, proclaims a course as ranking among his five favorites then it’s wise to heed the words – and better yet, procure a tee time, with alacrity.
The course was RTJ’s first in Europe, opening in 1964. It surely opened the doors for him to spread his genius across the continent. Any smart developers or landowners who were anxious to contribute to Europe’s rapid golf course growth at the time hoped to lure Trent Jones to design their layout.
Better still, the course enjoyed a significant renovation, completed in July 2016 and engineered by the team of Rulewich & Fleury that included the installation of 419 Bermudagrass fairways.
Ballesteros won the Spanish Professional Championship at Sotogrande in 1987, holing a greenside bunker shot on the 16th hole in the final round. The members probably still talk about that one in the 19th Hole.
Traveling with your spouse creates an opportunity to recharge and reconnect, while sharing lifetime memories visiting interesting locations that are rich with history, beauty and fantastic golf. PerryGolf recommends these three destinations for adventurous couples who enjoy spending time traveling, chasing birdies and basking in the wonders of the world.
Savor the majesty of Barcelona, with its ideal blend of food, scenery and nightlife. The second-largest city in Spain is one of the most frequently visited destinations in the world and was the host of the 1992 Summer Olympics.
Equally unforgettable is the beautiful port city of Malaga and its glorious renaissance cathedral, which was built between 1528 and 1782 and whose interior includes both the renaissance and baroque styles.
Walk in the footsteps of golf’s legends during a round at Valderrama, considered the top ranked course in continental Europe and site of the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, won this year by tournament host Sergio Garcia.
Finca Cortesin, which played host to the Volvo World Match Play Championship on three occasions, is a divine Cabell B. Robinson design routed through a dramatic valley located near the Mediterranean. It’s routinely ranked as one of the top courses in Spain.
When it comes to romance, history and gastronomic delight, Italy is difficult to beat.
PerryGolf’s escorted tour includes 14 Nights and 6 Rounds of Golf.
Admire the countryside while traveling stress-free on Italy’s wonderful railway system.
Enjoy the Roman Edifices while touring the city of Verona, which served as the setting for three Shakespeare plays, including Romeo and Juliet as well as The Taming of the Shrew.
Perhaps glimpse a celebrity while taking a moonlit stroll on the banks of Lake Como.
Spend time studying the intricacy of Leonardo Da Vinci’s magnificent painting, ‘The Last Supper.’
The Marriott Venice Resort & Spa is known across Europe for the most luxurious accommodations. Nights spent there are relaxing and divine.
And, of course, there are terrific golf options.
Roma Acquasanta is Italy’s oldest golf course and features stunning views of the Rome skyline.
Also located only 10 miles from Rome is the delightful championship layout Marco Simone, which is the site of 2022 Ryder Cup. Saint Peter’s Dome is within view from several holes on this Jim Fazio design which unfolds on the grounds of an 11th century castle.
Venice Golf Club basks in a spectacular setting between the Adriatic Sea and Lagoon of Venice and features distinct links characteristics and the ever present bora and sirocco winds. Great champions from Palmer to Jacklin to Trevino have battled this formidable foe.
New Zealand has roughly four million residents, making it one of the world’s least populated countries. Golf is the most popular sport with more courses per capita of population than any country in the world. And the world-class courses are complemented by food, wine and phenomenal scenery.
PerryGolf takes you there for a 13-Night, 7-Round Escorted Tour that simply must be experienced first-hand.
Admire native birds like the Kiwi or the Moa. The Kiwi, which is a flightless bird, has loose hair, strong legs and no tail. It is the national icon of New Zealand and the unofficial national bird. They can live from 25-50 years, although they are vulnerable to predators because they lack a sternum and have underdeveloped chest and wing muscles.
For the wine lover, Hawke’s Bay and its world-renowned wineries, is a highlight of any trip to New Zealand. It’s the nation’s oldest wine producing region in New Zealand is known for its full-bodied red wines and complex Chardonnays.
Speaking of breathtaking beauty, the golf at Cape Kidnappers provides the pinnacle. This unique Tom Doak design in Napier ranked No. 44 in the world in Golf.com’s 2017-18 rankings delivers stunning panoramic views of Hawke’s Bay. The fairways perched 157 meters above the sea, on the grounds of what was formerly a 5,000-acre sheep station.
Our goal in designing golf courses is to create interesting holes you wouldn’t find anywhere else. That wasn’t hard to do at Cape Kidnappers, because the site is not like anywhere else in golf. If it were any bigger or any more dramatic, it would probably be cordoned off as a national park. – Tom Doak
The only Jack Nicklaus signature course in New Zealand, is Kinloch, a links-style design tucked between gorgeous views of Lake Taupo and rugged farmland. Often compared to the classic seaside links of the British Isles, Kinloch is a fair, yet demanding and memorable test of golf.
And, tucked inside Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables Mountain Range, is Jack’s Point, located 20 miles from the cozy resort town of Queenstown. Measuring nearly 7,000 yards from the championship tees, the course winds through a natural environment of tussock grasslands, native bush and massive rock outcroppings.
Valderrama has played host to many European Tour events and the 1997 Ryder Cup. It’s consistently rated as the No. 1 course in Continental Europe.
Warm breezes, the fresh aroma of eucalyptus and beautiful scenery make the Mediterranean a desirable destination for golfers any day of the year. PerryGolf offers a variety of Cruises and Custom Tours to the region, enabling travelers to enjoy the arts, architecture and gastronomic delights so readily available. These five golf courses are certain to challenge and enchant all golfers.
Considered the top course in Continental Europe, the demanding layout at Valderrama has been the home for many European Tour events and the 1997 Ryder Cup, which Europe won in thrilling fashion, 14.5-13.5 over the United States. It’s the only time the matches have been held in Spain and is remembered best for the fiery leadership of captain Seve Ballesteros, the nation’s finest golfer. Another native son, Sergio Garcia, claimed the 2011 Andalucia Masters title at Valderrama.
Located in the southern tip of Spain, near Gibraltar, Valderrama enjoys a rich history, opening in 1974 as Las Aves, and taking its current name in 1985. Three-time Open Champion Henry Cotton served as the first golf professional at Valderrama. Tiger Woods played in his first Ryder Cup here in ’97 and was No. 1 in the world when he won the 1999 WGC-American Golf Express tournament on the venerable layout two years later, defeating Miguel Angel Jimenez in a sudden-death playoff.
The signature hole on the Robert Trent Jones Sr. design is the 17th, a 540-yard, par-5 featuring a steep-banked pond that defends the green. Many matches were settled in this dramatic amphitheater during the ’97 Ryder Cup as the world’s best golfers accepted the risk and attempted to reach the green in two shots. The course has earned the reputation for immaculate conditioning year-round.
Robert Trent Jones Jr., a legendary architect as well, designed Alcanada, which opened in 2003. This sparkling gem on the Mediterranean Island of Mallorca winds through pine and olive groves, measuring more than 7,000 yards from the championship tees and delivering sparkling views of the nearby island Alcanada and its iconic lighthouse.
In general, internet reviews describe Alcanada as a tough but fair golf course. Perhaps the stunning beauty of the sea offsets the challenge. Regardless, a round on this hidden gem is certain to be memorable.
Down in the southwest corner of Portugal, 30 miles west of Lisbon along the shore of the Atlantic Ocean lies a breathtaking golf course designed by renowned American architect Arthur Hills. Oitavos Dunes, which opened in 2001, was ranked No. 55 in Golf Magazine’s 2017 World Top 100.
Hills’ natural links rolls and flows through the sand dunes, umbrella pines and coastal transition areas. The course measures 7,010 yards from the tips as a par-71.
“We disturbed little of the environment as we routed the golf course in harmony with a piece of property sculpted by nature,” the architect said.
How pure is Finca Cortesin?
So pure it wrested the Volvo World Match Play away from Wentworth in England after a 45-year run, and played host three times (2009, 2011, 2012) in four years.
Ross Fisher, Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts earned titles in the prestigious event which routinely includes many of the world’s top-ranked golfers. Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood praised the immaculate condition of the course, which is located in southern Spain. Garcia even compared the greens to Augusta National’s, which he conquered in dramatic fashion last April.
Cabell Robinson’s design is not for the weary or weak-spirited. The beast measures nearly 7,500 yards from the back tees and features 102 bunkers!
In the Central Algarve region of Portugal, the six-time major champion Nick Faldo designed a fair, yet demanding par-72, that registers more than 7,100 yards and features a slope of 138 from the championship tees.
“I like my courses to be challenging to whoever plays them,” said Faldo, who has more than 50 golf course projects completed or in progress around the world. “There might be easy holes in some places, but they are a challenge because you have to think about them, and that is what I am after. The best compliment you can get in the design business is when players come off the course and say ‘wow, that was a challenge.'”
The resort also features a floodlit par-3 course – just in case there’s not enough daylight to get your fill of golf.