One of the more established courses on the Costa del Sol, El Paraiso was laid out in the early 1970s by “Black Knight” Gary Player and renowned architect Ron Kirby, back in the days when they were involved in a course design partnership.
The 18 holes are set in a valley that runs from the Mediterranean to the foothills of the Sierra Bermaja Mountains where palm trees and a variety of fauna including oleander and jacaranda line the lush fairways. Lakes and streams provide water hazards at a number of holes, adding both pleasure and potential pain to the playing experience!
The course measures just over 6,600 yards with a par of 71 and holes are routed in two circuits of nine that each return to a rustic clubhouse that was built from a number of old casitas, affording it an intimate and cosy feel.
The club at El Paraiso considers its signature hole to be the par five, doglegged 6th where a lake must be avoided on the right of the fairway and the putting surface is a tricky, two-tiered affair. Many however, rate the attractive, downhill, par four 8th hole even higher as its fairway and greenside bunkers are so pleasing on the eye.
Last week I played 13 holes (10 to 18 and then 1-2-3-9) but wanted to do all 18 in one afternoon so yesterday after my friend Robert’s kind invite we played all 18 in a fantastic “winter” afternoon here at la Costa del Sol.
As I commented to some friends, I feel bad for not have been considering this course for our customers trips to La Costa del Sol and the only reason is I had not had the chance to visit it and it just didn’t happen. But finally we were able to play it from 1 to 18, walking and I have to be honest and say this is a serious course to consider when travelling to this destination. It is not only very well kept, with amazing friendly staff, a great restaurant and challenging greens but one of the few courses where the designer was allowed to create the course and not just forced to lay a course in between homes of a Real Estate Development. And the product is a very friendly course in the piece of land, with allowance to miss off the tee, which is very pleasant to walk despite two very steep climbs (holes 2 and 15) and with generous greens in size but with slopes and challenging breaks which will for sure both entertain and challenge you game.
We are in winter and although fairways show it with less dense grass, the rest of the course is very neat and greens were rolling at very good speed, at this level in a windy day they have to be extremely tough!
The course has an easy opener, wide fairway and not long before the first big challenge which is 2nd: approach shot up the hill to a two tier green and any shot short could come 30 yards back so club selection is important and at least 1 more club than usual distance. 3rd has a very elevated tee shot to a wide fairway, one of the nice shots to hit. 4th is a good and long 4 before first par 3 5th which is almost 200yds from the back to a long green breaking left to right. The only par 5 on the front 9 is not long but the lake on the right might demand a 3 wood of the tee before the slightly up the hill second.
Par 3 7th has a small platform at the back of the green and pin was there, water on the right and a nice forest on the left makes it another very nice shot. 8th is a simple short 4 before monster 9th which is around 450yds off the back with a stream crossing 40yds before the green and to the right … a missed tee shot will be a layup to a sloped green from left to right.
10th goes down for tee shot and up for the second, green is huge and with many pin positions. 11th is another elevated tee shot playing over 420yds with a fairway sloping left to right as well. After this 12-13 are two simple 4s where tee shot is 80% of the job and again, greens will give you many pin positions.
14th is a very short 3, simple green, nothing strange but I really like short one shooters where pin position can make it a different hole in the every day basis. 15th is the highest green on the course, where the flag is longer than usual as on 2nd (and 14th at Carnoustie, Spectacles) due to the second half of the hole being way uphill … a 3 shots good 5 for everyone with dangerous OB on the left edge along the entire hole. 16th is the last real chance of birdie from an elevated tee and reachable for mid to long hitters, only danger is OB left but then greens has a hard break from back to front which is not that “visible” (I 3 putted due to a miss judged read). 17th the longest par 3 almost 225yds to a green that allows arriving to it landing it short and rolling, which is a good feature as not many players can carry it 200yds.
Final Hole has a nice view of a tee shot that goes down to a creek (and a sort of Swilcan Bridge) before an elevated approach shot to a wide but no long green so the big amount of pin positions vary from left to right but length of the sot is usually the same.
I have to be sorry for having missed El Paraiso until today, trust me it is a great course for vacation play with some very challenging holes, other very nice shots to hit and wide open views of the mountains. I found some familiar patterns with other Gary Player Designs (Guavaberry in DR) which shows he uses to follow a same line of creation. Liked it very much, the nice weather helped and hope to play it many more times!