Located a few kilometres to the west of Maspalomas on the southwest coast of Gran Canaria, the Anfi Tauro Golf Course is one of Spain’s gems that was destined for a place in the Spanish Top 100 rankings.
Anfi Tauro was a gargantuan design achievement from the firm of von Hagge, Smelek & Baril, who spent years in the planning phase with the late owner and Norwegian industrialist Byorn Lyng. The golf course is at the heart of the Anfi Tauro resort and residential development and it’s set with a contrasting backdrop of dramatic, dark, volcanic mountains and the shimmering aquamarine Atlantic Ocean.
The build project was considered to be one of the most ambitious ever attempted in Europe and it literally required the movement of mountains. More than three million cubic metres of earth were shifted to create today’s emerald fairways that snake across ground that was formerly barren rock.
Nine holes first opened for play in 2006 and twelve months later the second nine came on stream. The result is an 18-hole course that bears more than a passing resemblance to an Arizonan desert course with craggy rock formations and vast sandy waste areas that are punctuated by three lakes.
With five tees in play, Anfi Tauro can be stretched from the gentle 4,448-metre forward tees to a stern 6,325 metres from the tips. Factor in the ever-changing wind and you’ll find the Anfi Tauro golfing test is rather exacting. There is interest aplenty here for even the most demanding golfer but we particularly like the one-shot holes, especially the 6th which plays straight into the prevailing Atlantic wind and also the 13th, which is literally cut into the side of the mountain where an old fashioned stone wall on the left serves as a hard reminder to keep your ball to the right.
The Tauro Valley provides a most remarkable setting for what is a golf course design achievement par excellence, so we doff our hat to von Hagge, Smelek & Baril.
We asked Rick Baril, what it was like to work on this project and he gave us the following exclusive quote:
“Anfi was our longest running project – it took more than 10 years to complete! There are dozens of great memories and stories. I meant to commit these to paper but I never fully got around to it. I loved working with Sr. Lyng, the original owner. He was absolutely brilliant.
In fact – one funny anecdote – during the construction of the golf course. Sr. Lyng had a dozen architects and engineers working on the development around the golf course. They were working in the original buildings which were in the middle of the site.
During one meeting in the site office, we were talking about a “conflict” between the golf course and the development. Sr. Lyng and I were debating the issue, making references and pointing… debating… then it got quiet.
Sr. Lyng looked around and asked if anyone else had an opinion. Blank stares. Nobody else had bothered to get out of the office and see what was happening on the site. They were meters away from the work, yet nobody (but Sr. Lyng) actually knew what was going on outside the office. He wasn’t happy. That afternoon, he took them all on a field trip…
Sr. Lyng was great to work with – he knew everything that was happening on site and was a joy to talk with. And, I think he appreciated that I knew the site as well. We would have long-ranging discussions about all the parts of the site and I think he enjoyed testing me to see if I actually knew all that was going on…”
Anfi Tauro is unlike any other European course I had seen or played. The course is located in Tauro, a small coastal town tucked in a small inlet from the Atlantic flowing through the spectacular volcanic mountains of the south of the island. It offers stunning views that try to grab your attention at every opportunity. To me, it is the perfect example of how a course should play - tee shots with a host of elevation changes to mirror the terrain with a variety of approaches needed to navigate your way onto guarded undulating greens. You need to hit it both ways to take advantage of the tee shots or you can really be stuck a long way back from some testing pins!
To add a bit of context, I was playing here post-COVID lockdown just after the course had reopened to visitors. Considering there were minimal ground workers and staff working on the premises, it was incredible that the course was in the condition it was… A few forward tees and weeds in bunkers meant nothing when the rest of the course was in the impeccable condition it was - fluffy bunkers, true greens and soft manicured fairways, just like you would expect in peak season.
After short drive down to the 1st tee, 8 middle aged Spanish men were kind enough to let me play through as I was on my own. They thought they were doing me a favour but the nerves were very real considering I hadn't swung a club in a month and these were rentals that I hadn't used before! Nevertheless, the first was playing the easiest hole on the course from some forward tees, so i just played within myself and took a smooth 4 iron off the tee leaving only a short downhill wedge in. I felt like the first easing you into your round was a lovely touch here, as you really are in for a roller coaster of ups and downs as you follow the topography round and up.
The course really comes into its own from the 4th hole onwards - a steep climb to an elevated tee offers the first of many spectacular views of the oasis like fairways. Palm tree filled wasteland areas skirting either side of the majority of the fairways make each tee shot seem that extra bit more tight, but if you're a confident driver of the ball you can really put yourself in some advantageous positions round here.
A few of the front 9 stand out holes for me have to be the 6th, 7th and 9th:
The former is a tricky par 3 that was playing long with a cross-breeze at 209 yards - I can easily see this commanding anywhere from a 5 iron to 5 wood depending on the day! Everywhere apart from short right was trouble, so club choice is crucial to save yourself from a scorecard wrecker. An epic hole and the first of many that give you a glimpse of the crystal clear wild Atlantic.
The 7th was back towards the heart of the island, with a tee shot that shows you the vastness of the landscape. Aiming down the right side opens up the green to long hitters, and with a long lake scaling the left side it's a no brainer to aim there. A proper Sunday pin was set up that day, tucked inaccessibly round the back left corner of the green. A driver then wood only just got me to the front edge of the green, but then there's a lot of work to do to get up and down for a par.
The 9th is a fantastic par 5 to a double green round a vast lake and is a treat to finish the front 9. Not the longest hole for big hitters, but it sure takes some guts to go at any pins on the left side of the green.
The back 9 really does bring a whole new adventure to the round. As you zig zag through and up the valley inland, you can really feel the anticipation growing for the moment when you u-turn back again and have to come all the way back down again… And it is something very special. The tee shots are no longer over just barren wastelands - these are rock filled chasms where you will most certainly need a reload if you find yourself in one. The sheer valley walls that seemed so distant are now right up against you and very much in play, so this is a very different beast.
The 10th throws you straight into an at first daunting tee shot, but in reality this should be taken as a confidence builder, as you won't have a wider fairway than this for the rest of the round. Just don't miss right on the approach, as it's either sand or OB for you!
The 12th is the culprit for the altitude gain - steeply uphill the entire way up to the green, this 467 yard par 5 seemed to go on forever! The Grand Canyon-esque valley walls that you're playing through are like nothing I have seen in a course anywhere, but if you don't get too distracted by it, there should be no dramas here.
What most consider to be the postcard hole - the 13th. From the whites, this treacherous par 3 leaves no survivors if you push it even slightly left (or any other side of the green for that matter…). Once you're down, it seems like such a big landing zone, but from the height you're approaching it from, it sure is daunting.
My personal favourite from Anfi is the 14th, and it is hands down the most breathtaking hole i've had the pleasure of playing - it really offers a one of a kind vista. The temptation to open up the shoulders is too much, but that's the right thing to do, as you can really knock one down there and make the approach between the lake and bunkers much easier on yourself.
As you drive along the 17th and admire the Atlantic again, be sure to take in and reflect on this uniquely manicured journey that is unfortunately coming to a close. The finishing hole is a great test of endurance - a reachable par 5 guarded by the same lake as the 9th is undoubtably a hotspot for lost balls and can be a late round game changer. Be sure not to get ahead of yourself think the win is yours without getting safely on the putting surface first!
A flawless course in the always sunny island of Gran Canaria - can it get any better than this?
Thanks again to Francisco and Raquel for such a warm welcome - I'll certainly be singing high praise about this round for a long time and will be back for more as soon as I can!
Spectacular. That would be the one word summary of this course - and certainly what I was thinking standing on the par-3 13th tee overlooking the baranco with half the golf course laid out in front, 50m+ below me with the Atlantic in the distance.
On the day I played, the first was playing as a par-3, with tees in the fairway, but other than that, and a few weeds in a couple bunkers, I can't fault the course - which is clearly still doing well despite the challenges that COVID19 brings and in excellent condition (a miracle in this arid rocky landscape). The front 9 highlights include the raised tee on the par-4 4th, which dares you cut the corner of a big dog-leg right. Also the par-3 3rd headed towards the ocean and the par-4 8th with green blasted into the cliffs which intimidate from 3 sides.
However, it is the back 9 which really impresses as you climb up the mountain to the highpoint on 13th tee. This is a tee shot that you'll remember, with a precipitous drop awaiting anything that's left of the green. The following tee shot is only slightly less spectacular - inviting you to swing hard with the driver towards the wide fairway waiting way below.
The 9th and 18th par-5 pairs are great finishing holes for the respective 9's, coming in on either side of a large lake, offering an exciting 2-shot challenge for any big hitters.
I would agree with a previous review that it's worth visiting the practice area first as it is set away from the course. Indeed, you could do worse than spending a day honing your short game playing several loops of the par-3 course adjacent to the practice area.
Just remember to pack that extra sleeve of balls!
I went into my round here with little knowledge of the course, having previously played at a nearby course (Maspalomas), and being left disappointed by the quality of its golf. All we knew was the green fee was the same, and so we were keeping our fingers crossed. The course (or what we thought was the course) came into view, and we knew straight away we were in for a more interesting round. We were only more excited when we realised what we had originally seen was just the par 3 course! Every hole is memorable, you can tell that a lot of time and effort went into getting all the small details exactly right. Apparently some of the greensites were built into the cliffs using dynamite! There is an abundance of mostly well-placed water, and great variety between short/long and wide narrow holes. Elevation is also a strong characteristic of this course, with lots of elevated tees. One hole in particular that stands out is the par 3 13th. Built into a side of mountain, if you miss this small green in any direction you are completely dead! Not exactly an easy walk, and at times this course can defy logic, but at the same time this is what can make it a fun experience.
My wife and I fancied some winter sun and having been to Tenerife last year decided to visit Gran Canaria for a week. Having heard that Anfi Tauro was the best course on the island we decided to play it twice and we were very thankful that we did as it stands head and shoulders above all other courses we played.
Designed by the excellent Robert Van Hagge, this course must have been a huge feat of construction, with several greens literally dynamited out of the cliffs. Despite this it is a very fair test, with large slopey greens in very good condition and all hazards (and there are plenty of them) in full view.
The only slightly disappointing hole was the last, where a downhill drive has a very small landing area and no bail out region - a little tough for what is supposedly the easiest hole on the course.
This course, like all others we played on the island was plagued with a dreadful standard of golfer, and once again both rounds we played here took close to 5 hours.
I also concur with other reviewers that the lack of clubhouse/bar detracted from our enjoyment of the round, as we had to get back in our car and head back to our hotel.
We loved Anfi Tauro and think that it should be rated as one of the top courses in Spain. Sadly we will not be returning as the other courses on the island were nowhere near the same quality.
Played around 20 times over the last 10 years. Set up a little strange as seems to be a small extension to the hotel and not really set up for the clubhouse post relaxation round. It takes some tome to get used to the "rough" or lack of it and if you are not straight you can find yourself in the desert very easily. The condition has always been excellent and well maintained with excellent greens. It has many spectacular holes and you 100% need a buggy on this course. Sunset while playing the last few holes is sensational and there are a wide variety of tee boxes that will test all standards. This is an under rated course and one to seek out. The villas provide a good standard of accommodation and with easy access to course. Needs a functioning club house but course cannot be faulted.
Anfi Tauro is the furthest golf course from the airport on Gran Canaria but it’s easily accessed via the autopista GC-1 highway, allowing you to go the extra mile to play here. It was the final Gran Canarian course that I played on a 7-day visit to the island a couple of weeks ago and I definitely saved the best until last!
I thought having played three von Hagge courses last year on a week-long trip to France that I was well prepared for what would undoubtedly be an epic design from a larger than life architect but I didn’t quite realize the monumental scale of a layout that was somehow dynamited and bulldozed into existence on the southern coast of the island.
If you’ve played Thracian Cliffs in Bulgaria and wondered how on earth they managed to build a course with a tall bluff running hard along one side of the property then imagine what it must have been like constructing a course here with canyon walls looming large on two sides of an immense gorge that opens out onto the beach at nearby Playa de Tauro.
The course gets off to the gentlest of starts with an easy, slightly downhill, short par four but this hole’s immediately followed by a demanding, double doglegged par five, with the bunker-free fairway pinching into the front of the green. The first of five par threes then arrives at the 3rd, played across a storm channel that runs diagonally past the hole.
The elevated tee position on the right dogged 4th affords a good chance to survey the landscape and take in the full extent of the large waste areas, volcanic rocks and cacti-covered terrain at the southern end of the property, providing a stark contrast to the verdant, palm-fringed playing surfaces on the course.
The par four 5th heads slightly uphill to a higher elevation and this hole is followed by a long par three that plays into the breeze coming off the Atlantic. The 7th then doglegs left to a green which is framed by a waterfall to the back left of the putting surface – and on courses like this, water features like this which would appear completely ostentatious elsewhere just fit the bill perfectly!
The 8th then climbs a little into a large crevice in the canyon wall, with a fabulous 3-tiered green surrounded on three sides by huge walls of stone before the routing then plunges downhill and left to a double green that’s shared with the 18th (with the fairway of the last hole on the other side of a dividing lake). Again, it’s a clichéd, totally American-styled way to end both nines but it works beautifully in this expansive setting.
The front nine is terrific but the back nine is even better, rising up into the canyon at holes 10 to 12 before turning around to gradually descend towards the home green. The par three 13th is built into the side of the mountain, with tee shots played from the highest point on the course, then the par five 14th plunges steeply downhill to a green which is protected by another attractive pond to the front left of the putting surface.
The final par three at the 15th is played across more wasteland to a rather understated, bunkerless green with three levels offering a number of challenging pin positions. Holes 16 and 17 are short par fours, the first doglegging right and up towards “the big wall” which then runs along the right hand side of the penultimate hole.
All that remains is the par five final hole, with the fairway veering sharply left at the landing area and downhill towards a lake that hugs the right hand side of the hole. Avoid the two large bunkers that bar the way to this double green with your second shot and there’s every chance of finishing with a chip and a putt for a very satisfying finish to a round on an unforgettable course.
The strokesaver course guide contains a one liner – “Anfi Tauro will exhilarate and captivate you” – which really sums this place up rather well and I also liked the scorecard quote from Robert von Hagge: “the golfer must think, between blows, “Boy, how lucky I am to be able to play here’” – and yes, that’s exactly how it felt during my stay here, both on and off the course.
Managed to play Anfi Tauro last week and had a great time. I played a twilight fee for €41 which included a modern set of Taylormade and R1 driver, and paid €5 for a buggy loaded with GPS and water.. Great value for a course of this magnitude.
The greens had been hollow tined a few days before, so putting was a bit of a lottery but it still didn't detract from the great lay-out of the course.
I went off the back tees (whites) and glad I did because it made a big difference on some holes especially on the back 9. Stand out holes for me was the fourth a dog leg right par 4 with a massively elevated tee, and the stretch from holes 9 through to 14 the 13th being a 220 yard par three with a ravine on the left and cliffs to the right.
Would definitely return to this course if I was in the area - especially with green fees like this. Would thoroughly recommend.