Designed by Javier Arana, the Guadalmina South course was constructed in two phases. The first nine (now holes 6 to 14) were ready for play in 1959 and the second nine (now holes 1-5 and 15-18) followed four years later, making it the second oldest layout on the south coast of Spain.
Blake Stirling and Marco Martin from Global Golf remodelled the course in 2002, when they added some internal contours to the original Arana greens and installed a significant number of new bunkers around the course, most notably on the fairways.
Laid out on much flatter terrain than the North, the wide fairways on the South course wind through stands of pine and jacaranda trees with water coming into play only now and then – though the pond at the short, par four 13th does leave a lot to be desired in terms of its fairness when catching perfectly well played tee shots.
The outward half is definitely the weaker of the two nines and back-to-back par fives on holes 6 and 7 do nothing to avoid the feeling that the front nine are a bit of a slog – Henry Cotton is reputed to have named the long 7th hole, “Tipperary” as it's a long way to go!
The much stronger back nine begins with a real rarity on the Costa – a couple of holes that actually play right beside the Mediterranean – and some hotel guests actually start at the par four 10th which is a great way to get the round underway.
The following edited extract is from “The golf courses of Javier Arana” by Alfonso Erhardt Ybarra and is reproduced here with kind permission from the author:
Arana first visited the property in February 1958, when he staked out the holes and gave instructions for ground to be cleared for subsequent sowing. Next he sent detailed plans, a proposal for planting trees, and the specification of topsoil, sand and manure needed to prepare the ground for sowing. To minimize the influence of the waters of the River Guadalmina, it was diverted by building a containing wall, the former riverbed being filled in with earth.
Just two years after the inauguration of the first nine holes, the Goizueta family [who owned the property] realized that the golf course was a powerful magnet for tourists and would-be holiday-home buyers, so they again had recourse to Javier to build an additional nine.
For this new project, Fernando Goizueta sent Javier a plan of how he wanted the holes to be arranged. The new holes were to form a circle, allowing space for housing both within and outside the circumference. The job was trickier this time around, because the terrain was rougher and the intended circular sequence of holes severely constrained Javier’s choice of the most suitable routing.
In February 1962, he laid out the nine new holes. Javier visited the course twice to put finishing touches on mounds, level out greens and place sand traps; by March 1963, the course was complete and ready for sowing, despite the delay caused by rainfall.
Goizueta’s requirement for a circular configuration entailed having steep gradients across the course, which Javier integrated intelligently into the layout. Whereas in the original routing each hole abutted the ones before and after it, now they were islands of greenery in the midst of crop fields, with fairways waiting to be enveloped by residential developments.
If you would like to find out more or purchase “The golf courses of Javier Arana” then click the link.
It was a long awaited one, we have been working with them and sending customers since long ago but for one thing or the other it never came together to play it. Now living here the chance came thanks to generous Ignacio Cuvillo (GM), I was able to play both course in consecutive days and finally have an idea of how they play.
The course has 2 halves defined very clearly, not because it is divided by the A7 Mediterranean Highway (from 4 to 5 and back from 15 to 16) but because the piece that ends on 5 where a small streets crossing leads to 6 and then back to this same spot to tee it off at 15th are very different from each other. The upper part goes down from 1 to 4, then 5th plays pretty flat and the other way round where 16 and 17 go up the hill. The closer part to the ocean is smaller, more tight and with shorter holes except par 5 6th hole.
Green 10th ends at the Ocean in a very good hole, one of the best ones and then 11th goes parallel to the shore where wind will be a factor always. Then the course stretches two short par 4s before a par 3 and back to the upper part.
This might be too much, but it was my sensation: after having watched Riviera last week it had the same feel with rye grass overseeding on fairways and many oak trees with no leaves. This course in early October must be stunning.
About the design, I found firm greens rolling so good … the test of golf is there. A windy day, some tough pin positions, a couple of demanding tee shots and you have a fun round of golf.
There is one weak hole in my opinion: 13th, a short 4 with a pong on the left side that starts 175 yards off the tee and ends 70yds from the hole with a tiny space on that stretch to place a tee shot so almost everybody has to play short, not a fan of design that tell me how to play a golf hole. Lake should be 50% size and allow shorter hitter to have an easier approach to the green.
Some very good holes apart from the two famous ones on the ocean:
- 4th has a great tee shot, it looks tighter from the tee but there is space on the left.
- 12th is a great 4, short and with a short second to a very difficult green … my favorite!
- 17th, which was turned to 18th for the LET Event … a short 5 up the hill for second shot with a natural amphitheater around the green.
The Course ends to be a good one, on the second tier after the top Sotogrande ones plus Las Brisas and there it has a good fight with Santana, Mijas Lagos, Torrequebrada, Aloha to build a good itinerary. Definitely worth a play and many pictures during fall!!
I had definitely expected a LOT better course when I saw the high green fees and the stupid buggy prices but I was to be VERY disappointed with both Guadalmina South and the clubhouse.
It is a VERY OVERPRICED club and I could not recommend PAYING to play here. There are many other MUCH better value golf courses in the area.
The course maintenance was reasonable but often looked like it had been squeezed between the houses and patched together. There were no memorable holes or much challenge.
If the price was a THIRD of what they actually charge it would be the right level.
They squeeze the golfers together and didn't seem to look at compatibility. We were teamed up with two quite old Spanish that didn't speak a word of any other language. We had previously asked to ensure any playing companions could speak either English Dutch or German but didn't help. Didn't make for a nice playing day at all.
In fact all in all it was the most unpleasant golfing experience I have ever had of the many courses I've played around the world.
The club house facilities were also very under par.. one poor tiny WC for all greenfee players and very poor restaurant/terras facilities.. also at prices above other clubs.
There was no Club parking.. only a parking lot between the houses and that was already full.
A very UNpleasant day golfing .. a waste of time and money.
We will DEFINITELY NOT return to Guadalmina.
My first impressions on arrival at Real Club de Golf Guadalmina weren’t great because the car park opposite the clubhouse was being resurfaced and it was absolute chaos trying to dodge the “boys from the blackstuff” who were on the job but I eventually found a space nearby where I could leave my hire car.
Things hardly improved after leaving the caddiemaster’s office as I tried to find the 1st hole, which turned out to be located literally hundreds of metres away, uphill and along several little residential streets – I actually found it by entering the course down a narrow lane onto the 18th fairway then crossing another road behind the green to finally arrive at the 1st tee.
It was only when I came home and read the appropriate chapter from Alfonso Ibarra’s excellent book “The Golf Courses of Javier Arana” that I realized the course didn’t originally start from its rather convoluted current position. Instead, it once set out from the shores of the Mediterranean at what is now the par three 11th hole, next to the Hotel Guadalmina – now that’s a more sensible starting position for a golf course!
Housing hems in many of the fairways and I’m sure the course is completely different now to the one that first opened as an 18-hole layout back in 1963. It was upgraded early in the new millennium when new greens were constructed but the remodelling work didn’t do much to endear it to me, especially the largely bland bunker work around many of the greensites.
The front nine ends with a great par three, played slightly uphill to a long, narrow 2-tiered green that’s bunkered all along its left side. This of course would have been Arana’s trademark par three 17th hole in times gone by and it’s followed by a meaty par four (stroke index 2) that plays gently down to a seaside green next to the hotel (pictured above).
I made mention in my notes of a “horrible artificial pond” on the short par four 13th, the low point of a rather disappointing back nine that ends with back-to-back par fives – the second of which is a tough hole, bounded by trees on the right and the river on the left – at holes 16 and 17 then a par four which sweeps left and up to what is now the home green.
As this is the first review for the South course at Guadalmina, you’ll have to take my word for the time being that it’s not quite the classic Arana track you might hope to play, which is a real pity. In its heyday, without the encroachment of housing (and before the modernization work in 2002) it would no doubt have been a joy to play but, for me, only small snatches of its original charm (at holes 1, 4, 9, 10, 17 and 18) remain.