El Bosque is one of several courses designed by Robert Trent Jones during his most prolific spell in Spain from the mid-60s to mid-70s – others include Sotogrande (1964), Las Brisas (1968), Mijas (1976) and Las Naranjes (1977).
Club de Golf El Bosque opened in 1975, the same year as another RTJ creation, Sotogrande New (which became Las Aves before Jaime Ortiz-Patiño subsequently gained control and transformed it into Valderrama) so Mr Trent Jones and his team were at one time very much in demand in Spain.
The course is located in a residential estate, some 20 kilometres to the west of Valencia, on pine-clad foothills to the north of Chiva and the terrain can be tricky in places with golfers occasionally facing hanging lies on some of the fairways, despite the earth moving that was carried out during construction to level parts of the landscape.
The toughest hole on the course is the 540-yard par five 7th which slopes gently from left to right and doglegs to the right. Two bunkers lie on either side of the fairway to pressure the tee shot then another three sand traps await errant second shots further along the fairway. To crown it all, the long, narrow putting surface has a very tight entrance and is protected by another three greenside bunkers.
The 6,900 yard, par 72, course is laid out in classical style with two par threes and two par fives on both the outward and inward loop of nine. Most fairways are tree-lined and water comes into play in front of the greens on the 8th, 12th, 13th 14th and 15th holes. Several holes are doglegged (including the first three on the card) and there is an average of five bunkers per hole on the course. No holiday golf here, then!
Don’t imagine El Bosque is always played in picture-perfect weather conditions either. A good bit of ball shaping will be demanded if the summer Levante, a southeasterly warm wind, is blowing. The recommendation? Plot your way carefully round the property.
In 2019, the club commissioned Cabell Robinson
to update the course. The layout was re-grassed with Bermuda 419 and all bunkers
rebuilt using the Better Billy Bunker method. Work on the front nine completed in October 2020 and back nine renovations (including the reconstruction of all nine greens) finished in November 2021.
I was meant to visit El Bosque last year when the club was half way through a course refurbishment but the trip was cancelled due to covid travel restrictions. I’m glad I was forced to wait another year as the front nine has just been refurbished and it only reopened for play last week, allowing me to see the full extent of the overall improvement work.
Cabell Robinson was called in to renovate the layout and, truth be told, it was him who laid out the course forty-five years ago when he was doing all the European design work for Robert Trent Jones Sr. so he was no doubt familiar with what had happened here before in the mid-1970s.
Holes 1-9 have not just had the bunkers renewed, they’ve also had all the greens replaced so this is quite an upgrade on the back nine work that took place last year. Cart paths have also been replaced in what amounted to a multi-million euro overhaul of the course.
I liked the front nine, especially the closing couple of holes, with the long par three 8th played over a lovely little lake to the green then the short par four 9th doglegging left and up to a benched green next to the clubhouse. Things then step up a gear or two on the back nine, with the Barranco de Pelos brought more into play.
The par three 12th plays across this water course to a very shallow, peanut-shaped Biarritz green on the other side of a small ravine then the approach shot to the green at the following hole has to carry a dammed section of the same stream. The par three 14th starts from an elevated tee next to the previous green, with the tee shot played back over water to an unusual boomerang-shaped green – all a bit unconventional and rather interesting!
Housing lines the left of the 17th (like the 2nd and 3rd holes) but this outside residential element is well screened and never too obtrusive, allowing play to proceed unhindered on the course. The par four closing hole then brings things to a satisfying close from an elevated tee down into a valley then up to another benched putting surface (like the 12th) situated below the clubhouse terrace which looms behind the home green.
Members I spoke to while going round the course were absolutely delighted with the new developments, voicing the opinion that the disruption over the last year or so had been well worth enduring to end up with the reconditioned layout that’s now in play. If you’re in the area with your clubs in tow, you’d be advised to see for yourself what they’re so happy about.
Valencia is well off the golf tourist trail, but coupled with El Saler, El Bosque is a good option for a short trip.
To me, this is very recognisable as a Trent Jones course: big bunkers, big tees, lots of water. This also generally means it is fair and interesting. A couple of the par 5's are protected by water to create risk/reward but my favourite holes were probably the 1st for the high elevated tee shot, and the short par four 18th, back up the hill to the clubhouse, where it's all about accuracy and distance control not power.
The clubhouse is very stylish and modern, with great views over the course from its elevated vantage point. A lovely place to relax after your round.
I had watched a club match on this course about 15 years ago and welcomed the opportunity to play the course recently. It turned out to be a better course than I had remembered and is indeed a very fine test of golf.
It is well bunkered and has a great variety in style of hole. It is also well routed so you are changing direction frequently It is quite hilly but the hills are not a dominant feature of the course. There are some holes with water but it is well used and not many shots have to be played over water.
If you are staying in Valencia you can't go wrong playing this course and El Saler.