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 hidden 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 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.
Seriously… what a delightful experience!. Have you ever feel like there is a new wonderful surprise after every single hole you’ve played? This is Anfi Tauro, THE GOLF COURSE. Something special, magic not easy to explain with words.