So what about Andalusia?
We may know the names or Malaga and Marbella, but do we really know the regions diversity and what it can offer visitors, golfers and non-golfers alike?
I had the opportunity recently to visit this part of Spain on a whistle stop tour and what a pleasant surprise – why, because I haven’t been to this part of Spain for a long time. At that time we had the we drove the length of the country heading for South to Costa del Sol. What and eye opener – the boom had only just started to hit the country and it was just becoming popular with the British public as a place to invest in. My lasting impression from that holiday was not great, the concrete jungle of Torremolinos didn’t float my boa with high rise buildings dominating the roadside. Maybe for this reason we didn’t venture that way for many years, never considering it as a family holiday destination or latterly one for the golfer when the children had flown the nest. Mistake.
Now 30 year later I return to Malaga, with some trepidation but also looking forward to seeing what changes had been made to this part of Spain – and what a transformation. Tropical trees line the streets, built up areas turned to green spaces for eye softening appeal and as the sun shone I began to wonder why hadn’t I been back for so long. In fairness I was taken aback as to how pretty this part of Spain had become, like a good bottle of red wine – Spanish of course, it had matured gracefully.
I had a hire car and drove through the Ronda Mountain Range to Cadiz whilst a lovely drive it was a bit hairy in places on those narrow roads, bending and twisting and twisting again in dance floor fashion, but it was stunning. The views were beautiful, passing through villages I wished I had more time to stop and embrace the atmosphere; villages where the children played in the street and the locals wandered around chatting with not a care in the world in the warm sunshine.
Popping out the other end and dropping down in Cadiz for just one night to stay at Elba Costa Ballena. Staying in this accessible and easy to find four star hotel, I only chance to visit the golf course, with no time to play but it looked like it was worth the trip back again. The course condition looked to be great and with the hotel just round the course, quite accessible too.
Elba Costa Ballena Golf Course
The Andalusian province of Cadiz is known for Sherry production and is reputed to be the origin of Tapas. Sweet sherry would attract the fruit flies, so in an attempt to stop the flies getting in and spoiling the drink between sips bread, ham or chorizo was placed on the top of the drink as a practical measure – tapar in Spanish means to cover. With the introduction of salty ham, bartenders made more sales! As it evolved tapas became more sophisticated and diverse and is now a major part of socialising in most parts of Spain.
The next morning I set about completing the loop and drove back to Marbella.
My mind wanders to paper umbrella spinning, fruit laden cocktail drinking David Jason of Only Fools and Horses saying – “Mar – bel – la Rodney, Mar-bel-la” deliberately emphasising every letter ‘’l’ . I was staying in the three star Hotel Pyr. Ive got to be honest with you – I don’t often stay in 3 star places, not because Im a hotel snob, I just haven’t been invited to many. But the Hotel Pyr is a very good three star, under new management the hotel doesn’t strive to be something it isn’t and in my opinion sits towards the top of the star rating. Investment is being made in this 500 plus bedroomed hotel and with its location in Puerto Banus, it has a lot going for it. The breakfast was plentiful and had a good selection from cold to hot buffet in fairness befitting a hotel of more stars. My room had been recently nicely refurbished and had everything I needed (even a little kitchenette)- it was very clean and comfortable with plenty of space, with a wrap around balcony to capitalise on the distant views of the Sierra Blanca. Surely I couldn’t be in the centre of Marbella? Yep – right in the middle of Puerto Banus
Puerto Banus conjures up party town, with noisy bars- these television programs have a lot to answer for! In fact it is lively and yes there are bars sitting alongside some amazing restaurants and of course the harbour front which is very pretty if you have the opportunity to wander around and enjoy as the sun sets on the bobbing boats. There is a lot to offer in Puerto Banus, my focus in the evening was where to get good food. Tango is an Argentinian Steak House, if you’re a meat lover and like good quality, then Tango is the place to be. Investment in the restaurant with clean-cut monochrome decor and amazing food by way of a good selection of steaks, as you’d expect but also a good selection of other dishes too. Argentina steak is world known, with Tango adding to and enhancing that reputation.
Tango Argentinian Steak House
A trip back to Europe for some o the best Italian food restaurant on offer is Jam. Definitely worth a visit with the owners delight at showing you his best Italian dishes from family recipes, homemade pasta cooked perfectly accompanied by a whole host of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes. My suggestion when visiting Jam – don’t have any lunch as the pasta comes in bowls big enough to wash your dishes in afterwards – only fancier. Puerto Banus certainly knows how to entertain when it comes to dining but it also has shops aplenty; all just a short walk from Hotel Pyr. I was impressed by the selection of shops on offer from big department stores to small boutique shops selling local wares.
A short drive from Puerto Banus towards Estepona is Atalya (pronounced at-a-lie-a) Golf course. A golf complex who’s clubhouse welcomes the visiting golfer opening to vista views over the two on site golf courses towards hills in the background. Hills full of blocks of predominantly white buildings vying for position for the all important sea views. Both the Old and the New Courses are undergoing a major program of regeneration with new tee boxes, fairways being repositioned and in truth whilst a bit of a navigational challenge whilst there, it will be great once finished in the coming months. In fact the only slight disruption to the game was my DMD was not on the correct hole some of the time – but that all adds to the element of surprise (when I hit the green that is!)
I would rather see a golf courses investing with the inconvenience short term than seeing no investment at all. The new greens played well, not a particularly hilly course with the odd stream or ditch and tight greens Atalya Old was quite playable. A parkland course with wide enough fairways and perfectly positioned bunkers Atalya is one of the oldest courses in the region and worth a visit.
Atalya Golf Course
The following day and in an attempt to continue to identify quality local golf courses I had the opportunity to play Dona Julia. A small golf business with bigger named neighbours overshadowing this little gem, Dona Julia doesn’t have the big flash clubhouses, it is simple yet honest. The staff are the organisation, they seem to enjoy what they do and relish in the positive comments made. And positive comments were plentiful. The menu was basic, the food good. The clubhouse was spartan, yet the golf course packed a punch with a gradual climb up the hill offering views towards the sea this golf course is a great compliment to Atalya parkland offerings, playing similar to a hilltop links – or maybe that was just the sea views! Again proving that golf in Costa del Sol doesn’t have to costa packet. Both Dona Julia and Atalya golf courses are a short distance from Hotel Pyr, they round up the golf package with ease and whilst offering different experiences when playing, make a complete package.
Dona Julia Golf Course
Driving 50 minutes to Malaga I was heading for Lauro Golf the following day. Lauro have given a prize for the 2016 Red Tee Tour winners, so I was quite keen to see what it had to offer. Not really knowing what to expect as the website gave little away, I was greeted by Fran, an enthusiastic young man studying Tourism and a budding golfer, Fran is pretty much involved in every aspect of this family run resort, and a valued asset too. We played holes 19 to 27, the newest addition to this golf complex, but not showing its tender years. There are hills to walk up and down- it is a walking course but that 9 is a test of ones fitness! Sat at the base of brown hills the lush green of the course added depth and contrast to the overall view only hinting its location close to Malaga. This back nine are a bit up and down but there are some good holes too – getting to the par 3 green is a challenge over a ravine to a fairly long yet narrow target green you need to hold your nerve on this one. Coming back down the hill towards the clubhouse gives you the jubilant sense of being able to whack the ball a country mile from its elevated tee box. A good start to my Lauro experience.
Lauro Golf Course
We sat in the half way house watching the sun go down after play – we only just made the sunset as we putted out loosing the light! Being shown to my room was a pleasant surprise, they were not hotel rooms, they are units of accommodation over two levels, a full kitchen and two bedrooms, one with en-suite. Holiday homes are often a little impersonal, and whilst the base colour of the units was neutral, the units had been spruced up with artwork and added bits of a homely items to make you feel welcome and less like a visitor to someones place.
Breakfast the following morning was in the main typical Malagan walled courtyard. Breakfast is a la carte and sitting eating you can watch the locals come and go, enjoying their time before going about their daily chores, the family atmosphere is evident here more than anywhere on the resort, with guests visiting for their food and a friendly catch up.
Playing the original 18 holes of golf after breakfast, I played with two members of staff, a nice touch to welcome the visiting golfers, and who better than the staff to really showcase the resort. The original 18 holes, whilst they do have a few hills, was flatter than the new 9 hole played the previous evening; slight dog leg fairways in places and target greens and the shining sun these 9 holes are no easier but again offering just rewards for good play with receptive greens and well maintained parkland fairways Lauro is a good all round golf resort run in an open friendly fashion to welcome you. Lauro is an ideal location for just a couple of days away from it all, it offers good golf and good accommodation in a home form home environment.
That evening I was taken into Malaga – I was surprised how beautiful Malaga is. We wandered around the port, saw the incomplete South Tower of the cathedral, with locals regaling the story of the cathedral with the lost arm, it does look strange to see it only half built yet full operational in the centre of this beautiful part of town. For dinner we visited the famous local restaurant El Pimpi.
El Pimpi is unusual – I don’t really know how else to describe a place where courtyards with hanging flowers meet a crowed bar with a mass of photos showing proudly the famous visitors to El Pimpi, alfresco dining where entertainment could be by way of flamenco dancers or poets as the mood takes, such is El Pimpi -a sprawling mass of wonderment. We settled on a table upstairs, in a sophisticated bar area serving the local fried fish delicacies. WOW.
Andalusia is a lovely part of Spain, offering a diverse range of golf courses, from budget to top notch, from named must plays to some pretty good courses less known. It is served from many airports in the UK into Malaga and is easy to drive around you might want to re-think the Brits Abroad reputation, as it really is pretty good. The Tourist Board are great supporters of ladies travelling to play their golf, but don’t take our word for it, 2015 winners Rebecca, Jane and Linda have recently been to take up their golf prizes winnings from the Red Tee Tour and say:
“An extremely enjoyable time in Andalusia playing golf on some incredible courses in glorious November sunshine! A huge thank you to Red Tee Tour for an amazing prize.”
“We were delighted when we made the finals (of the Red Tee Tour), the whole event was perfect, and we loved playing the course (in the UK) to finally win the prize of a golf holiday in Andalusia. We went with two friends and played some the best golf courses and would like to go back again to play some more” “To give such a brilliant prize for your Red Tee Tour is absolutely brilliant”
Also the Andalusian Tourist Board have been the main sponsors of the ladies Red Tee Tour for the past two years, tantalising us with their great courses and places to stay and play in this vast region in Spain. Sitting just at the bottom of the country the climate is good all year round offering a nice reprieve from our great British weather. We have been promoting Andalusia through the Red Tee Tour for a couple of years now and the posters and literature whilst good, don’t really do the place justice, they don’t tell you about the culture, the diversity on food, not even the array of golf courses, but this part of Spain has all of that on offer. In fact the only way to really appreciate these aspects of this lovely part of Spain is to go along an experience it for yourselves.
Want to experience these courses see www.redteebreaks for golf packages in Andalusia or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for your next golf trip. Or join us next year for the Red Tee Tour.