With more than 50 golf courses on the Spanish Costa del Sol any additional layouts need to be very special to succeed in this market. The course at Finca Cortesin Golf Club opened for play in early 2007 and has already received promising accolades attracting the serious golfing aficionado.
Finca Cortesin is set a short distance inland from the Mediterranean Sea and is routed through a dramatic valley. Cabell Robinson designed the course, which is one of Europe’s longest layouts measuring almost 7,000 metres from the tips. Robinson’s vision was to create a golf course where “no hole has less than championship quality”. This vision is rapidly turning into a reality.
The absence of property development around the course provides a welcome change and with so many great holes at Finca it’s really difficult to pick out the best. However, a few holes deserve special mention and the 3rd is a delightful par five with an approach over water. The 10th, a long down-hill par three, has far-reaching views of the Estepona Mountains and then straight after is the 11th, a long double doglegged par five which is a great test and thrilling to play.
Probably the pick of the holes at Finca Cortesin is the par four 13th, driving to a wide fairway with a water hazard cutting across the hole. The approach shot to the green then crosses water again as the same creek now runs diagonally across the front of the green. The pleasing greensite is also bunkered left and right and surrounded by trees.
Finca’s practice facilities are based around the ‘Jack Nicklaus Academy’ which include revolutionary methods based around swing characteristics of the student. Clearly Finca Cortesin is already an excellent facility, but couple this with a relaxed atmosphere and excellent customer service and you have a truly memorable experience. The new five star hotel and spa opened in 2008 placing Finca Cortesin firmly on the world’s golfing map.
Finca Cortesin Golf Club is now well and truly on the world stage. In June 2008, it was announced that the World Match Play, usually held on the West course at Wentworth in Surrey, was to move to Finca Cortesin as part of a raft of changes to the competition. Click here for more. England’s Ross Fisher claimed the 2009 World Match Play Championship title by defeating America’s Anthony Kim 4&3.
After a one-year break, the World Match Play Championship returned to Finca Cortesin in 2011. Ian Poulter claimed the title, beating fellow Englishman Luke Donald 2&1 in the final. The following year, Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts beat Graeme McDowell on the final hole to claim the World Match Play title.
In 2018, Finca Cortesin became the first Spanish
course to relay all its greens with environmentally friendly Ultra Dwarf
MiniVerde Bermuda grass. The facility also reconstructed all its bunkers using the
‘Better Billy Bunker’ system.
The Ladies European Tour fittingly announced In October 2020 that the 18th edition of the Solheim Cup is to be staged at Finca
Cortesin in 2023. Spain will become the sixth European nation to host the
biggest team event in women’s golf after Scotland, Wales, Sweden, Ireland and
Course maintenance and customer service hits superlative levels at this testing course on the Costa del Sol which has clearly been selected by the European Tour as one suited for Match-Play competition. Three later versions of their now defunct World March-Play Championship (initially played at Wentworth for over 40 years) were played at Finca Cortesin, as will be the Solheim Cup in 2023. However I am not aware that a Tour event over the more conventional 4 round Stroke-Play format has ever been held here.
Having just played Finca I understand why. The opening and closing holes on this immaculately groomed layout are relatively easy even for the average amateur golfer whereas the middle stretch from 7 to 15 are a severe test, a perfect mix for elite match-play. Of the earlier holes I particularly liked the wide-open first, the dogleg fourth from a raised tee around the edge of a lake to a green which is driveable by big-hitters of the golf ball, and the rough-and-tumble downhill fifth.
The middle holes include some highly difficult challenges none more so than the sharply uphill 8th which played much more than its 540 yards into a strong breeze, another long drag at 11 and a beast of a par four at 15. The golf course had thoroughly beaten me up by this stage, but the final three holes provided good scoring opportunities and I was pleased to end with some welcome par scores.
A final memory is of the amazing practice facilities, delightful clubhouse and extremely helpful staff, even if the up-and-down nature of the course and hefty green fee would not make me rush back.
“Hot soup? Sandwiches? Fruit? Water?” “No, thank you, but can you tell me how to master these blessed greens?”
I precis conversations around Finca Cortesin where the diligence of the staff matches the quality of the course but the over-riding memory is how tricky (impossible) putting was.
In fact, we were so bamboozled that we have promised ourselves tickets to the Solheim Cup in 2023 to see how professional players get on with them.
For tourist mid-handicappers, this is a fiendishly stern test. I was driving as well as I can and also struck some pretty decent fairway woods and long irons but even if I held the ball on the green, scoring was still difficult.
I felt even more sorry for Mrs W who saw what appeared to be several accurate approaches go unrewarded.
Indeed, one on the 14th, looked an absolute pearler and as if it was going to nestle next to the flag only for the ball to run on about teen feet, slip off the back, down the hill and never be seen again (I suffered an undignified fall, looking for it!).
Finca Cortesin is between the Mediterranean and the Sierra Blanca – consequently, the views are impressive whichever way we turned.
From its stunning downhill driving range in front of the magnificent clubhouse, the huge tract of land is used to excellent effect.
The first hole is typical in the sense that the wide fairways allow easy placement in advance of the approach. But, do not be fooled - bunkers and run-offs await.
I have since watched a video of Spanish golfer Noemi Jimenez playing the hole. Her ball ran off by a few feet and her chip into the green is yards wide of the flag to accommodate the curve of the putting surface.
She has ‘the knowledge’ of Bermuda greens and the clues of where the ball will run because it is her home course! We didn’t!
The third is a beautiful par-five, bending around a lake with the sea in the background. Sensible course management should yield results.
The fourth appears to be a risk-and-reward par-four at only 256 yards from the elevated yellow tees but those going for the green would have to carry bushes and then a lake. I have no such power.
For me, the back nine has more stand-out, quirkier holes than the front.
The tone is set by the 10th, a steep downhill par-three which falls dramatically from left to right.
I aimed to bounce one down from the left but became tangled in the grass. From there, there is only a sliver of green with a deep bunker behind. Suffice to say, I blobbed but I still loved it.
The 11th is a par-five from a tee in a wood that demands a decent carry over bushes with bunkers lurking on the other side. It’s a heck of a hole.
Another long par-three awaits on the 12th demanding a thread between bunkers to hit the target. I was delighted with my tee shot, only for the familiar tale of a three-putt!
But the best sequence is yet to come… beginning with the short par-four 13th and its green behind a wide stream which is hidden until you are on top of it.
Even those who make it over will do well to hit the target which is also defended by a tree. I eluded both only to find sand! I chipped out and putt in for my most satisfying par of the day.
The 15th is arguably the most dramatic at Finca Cortesin. The almost 90-degree dogleg to the left follows a tee-shot which must carry at least 175 yards across thick bushes. Anything short is lost.
By the way, I ought to point out that the women don’t face any of these intimidating carries because their tees are a bus ride forward (not that I’m bitter ).
The course has an entertaining mix of eight par-fours, five par-threes and five par-fives and finishes with that sequence.
The final hole leaves a clear imprint on the mind of the mountain view, the Mediterranean backdrop behind, lots of sand (I counted 14 bunkers) and treacherous green.
I was delighted to find the latter in regulation, struck my first putt towards to hole only to watch it go sliding past, gather pace and fall 25 feet down the hill! Obviously, I had learned nothing.
Finca Cortesin provided another stellar memory of our Costa Del Sol trip and a delicious (if slightly expensive) sea bass overlooking the driving range polished off a gorgeous day.
By the way, it becomes clear why a buggy (I still hate them) is the only option here. There is such a long distance between some of the holes that walking would be impractical.
Good luck to the caddies at the Solheim Cup – they will not only have to know the greens intimately but they will have to be ruddy fit.
This course is a beast. A buggy is a must. The course at Finca Cortesin opened in 2007 and has already received promising honours attracting the serious golfing aficionado.
Finca Cortesin is located inland and sits elevated above the Mediterranean Sea. The course is one of Europe’s longest layouts measuring almost 7,000 metres from the topes. The absence if property framing the course is a welcome change and leads to some stunning vistas.
Due to its elevated position, it can get pretty windy up here and your best game is often required. Fairways are tight and waste areas are unplayable. The course conditioning is superb and it is really tough to establish a signature hole. The length requires a thinking golfer, but there are a few shorter risk/reward holes which offer just as much of a challenge.
Finca’s practise facilities are based around the ‘Jack Nicklaus Academy’. The range is the best I have ever been on and its truly breath-taking to see your golf ball fly out in front of you and descended onto perfect practice greens.
The whole property at Finca Cortesin is stunning. A five star hotel and spa opened in 2008 and placed Finca Cortesin firmly on the world’s golfing map. Needless to say it’s a bit spenny (£££).
I can’t believe I passed on the opportunity to play here a second time in favour of a beach day (I was 14 or so). No excuse. And you have no excuses to not add this gem to your itinerary.
And holding the Solheim Cup in 2023 ... a coup indeed
The club has recently upgraded the course, converting the former bent/poa greens to Bermuda grass putting surfaces and reconstructing the bunkers using the “Better Billy Bunker” system. The improvements to the layout still continue, with the complete refurbishment of the irrigation lake to the left of the short par four 4th hole. With a course that was only brought into play in 2007, the owners certainly can’t be accused of not investing in their prime asset.
Along with Kyle Phillips, I reckon Cabell Robinson is one of the best architects in the business at framing a hole from start to finish with fairway and greenside bunkers that seem to fit the land and add visual stimulation to even the flattest of landscapes, not that there are many holes played out on a level playing field here. There’s plenty of movement in the landscape, particularly on the back nine, with lots of interesting elevation changes to enjoy.
The opening six holes are situated in their own little compartment and they’re configured as two par threes, two par fours and two par fives. My only criticism of the short holes was that they were both very similar in length off the respective tees but they’re still terrific short holes. The par fives at #3 and #5 – the first playing to a pond-protected green and the second requiring a big forced carry off an elevated tee – feature fantastic micro undulations in the fairways, proving that good shaping can always add interest between tee and green on longer holes.
After navigating the last three holes on the front nine, the inward half begins with a drop shot par three, where the green sits on the edge of the Arroyo de la Jordana, and this water course comes into play with great effect at three of the following five holes. In fact, the sequence from #11 to #15 was by far the best on the course for me, largely due to the way the holes are beautifully routed around this creek running through the property.
In this special stretch, the par four 13th (pictured right) was probably my favourite hole on the card, with the arroyo twice cutting across the fairway and the green occupying a lovely setting at the foot of a little forest, surrounded by mature trees. The 15th deserves mention too, demanding a big tee shot carry over dense vegetation to the other side of the creek where the fairway then heads 90 degrees left and uphill all the way to a severely sloping green – what an epic par four!
The final three holes are a little tame in comparison but some relative “free-wheeling” back to the clubhouse can be excused after what’s gone before in the previous five or six holes. Some big-scale courses are best played with a buggy and this is definitely one of them – walking, even with a trolley, would be a very demanding exercise so why would you not ride and take in the wonderful views along the way, especially on the back nine?
Finca Cortesin is a truly stunning course, with spectacular views, jaw dropping holes and pristine conditions. I hade high expectations for Finca from what I had been told, however it exceeded my expectations.
The first hole is a ordinary par 4 with a slight slope of the right hand side, this par 4 is a perfect opening hole to get you in the mood for a positive start. One of the best tee shots in my opinion was the forth with a raised tee and water down the left, this tee shot really gets your heart racing, for the big hitters there is a opportunity to get close to the pin of the tee and make a eagle.
All the par threes have been crafted in the most spectacular way the all use the elevations and land around them to make the hole the best it can possibly be. With a few bunkers put in along the side but they have been put in very strategically. Two of the four par threes are long of the tee but still very reachable.
The architecture of Finca is remarkable, they have used the land to its full potential, they allowed for the humps and hollows to be there. The whole process of the design has been thought about with great care. They have thought of how to use the space around them wisely.
To conclude in my opinion I think Finca Cortesin is a truly spectacular!
Played Finca on a recent trip to play Valderrama. Course condition was superb as are the facilities & customer service. The course has some very good holes but a lot of similar holes, 400+ Par 4 followed by a 400+ par 4. However I would play again due to the service, Buggy supplying fresh fruit & water. then Gazpacho soup a few holes later. a fine addition to any course.
Would play again & plan to.
Great setup, great service and course always in emaculate condition. Good practice facilities and well maintained. Tough with a breeze but hit straight and a good score is possible.
I must admit straight away that this review might be biased by the horrendous winds on the day I played. But as I understand, these strong winds are quite frequent in the area, at least at this time of the year. Don't know how it is in summer time though. That actually raises a question. If the design looks great on paper (and it clearly does), some of it becomes silly in the wind. The par 3s except for one are 200 m or over. Couldn't reach them with a 5 wood! Do I want to play 3 wood on all par 3s? No, not really. Sure, I could have moved to a forward tee, but all courses are designed with back tees in mind, that's where you get the best views, etc.... Can you play low shots in the wind to the greens, links like shots? No, not really either. Most greens are elevated and have severe run offs and you're likely to find your ball rolling 20 m below. All in all, a very unfair course I thought, despite large fairways, unless you play match play golf. Service on the other hand was absolutely perfect. I came away disappointed, maybe largely because the wind was just ridiculous and unlike links courses, you can't really play chasing shots on that type of course.
Fun to play, excellent condition, championship course. no chance to walk this course. extremely friendly staff...
Finca Cortesin is one of the best resorts in Europe if not the best when you look at the entire package. It’s a spendy one but it’s offering the best service in a surreal setting like nothing else you will find on the continent.
The resort also has a solid although quite tough golf course. While it’s not advisable to attempt to walk it, the course itself will suit as an excellent challenge for the strong golfers. On most of the holes there is plenty of width off the tee and ample strategy to be taken into consideration when approaching the greens. There are two or three holes that I would classify as extremely tough and penal. The par 4, 7th hole playing at about 410 meters requires two daring shots that literally thread the needle. Something I myself couldn’t manage. The shots are both intimidating with little width and no margin for error as the native bush lines the fairways. A slight miss is a reload. In my opinion this is fine, especially since it’s not every hole. A smart player will hit the club they need to hit to play safe here. For me on this day it would of meant most likely hitting a 3 wood or iron from the tee and simply playing it as a par 5. By the time I hit the extremely tough par 5, 11th hole I was ready and played a far more conservative hole leading to a relatively easy par. I will admit it was interesting to experience how other players with a little higher hcps attempted to navigate these holes. Unsuccessfully I might add. In any case as mentioned already a couple very hard holes doesn’t detract from a course. Especially when playing matchplay as you really should do on vacation on courses you don’t know (in my opinion).
There is a really nice mix of long and short par 4’s. The short par 4’s, 13 and 14 are both excellent two shotters requiring intelligent strategy off the tee.
Finca has a nice set of par 3’s, two of which are long and challenging, two of which are solid mid irons. The 10th is a drop shot par 3 playing about 160 meters from the members tees. As there is a good 50’ drop and often a nice breeze to contend with this becomes quite a tough shot. Right is serious trouble.
In conclusion I’d suggest that Finca Cortesin is a challenging resort course adding an appropriate element to one of the best resorts in Europe. It would serve as a top high end home base for a wonderful golf vacation in the Marbella area.