James originally nominated the Europa course as a Gem and his words follow:
Opened in 2005 and designed by Cabell B Robinson, the architect responsible for the America and the Asia courses on the property, the Europa has matured wonderfully well and is now more than the equal of the other two.
Maybe it was natural progression for Robinson to return to the site of two of his earliest designs and lay down a challenging course that shows how he has matured into one of the best designers out there.
The 4th hole is one of the strongest par fours you will ever play. You tee off to a narrow fairway in the distance requiring a not inconsiderable carry over a river and scrub; the river runs along the entire left flank and mountain scrub guards the right flank. Brutal. Then you have a long iron or wood back across the same river to a picturesque green protected by Robinson’s signature bunkering. Fantastic.
The rest of the course is very solid with lovely par threes including the 14th, needing a long carry over river and scrub. There are demanding par fives that snake around more ravines and scrub and as a whole it is a stern and unremitting test of golf.
It enjoys spectacular far reaching mountain views and is far less quirky than the other two layouts having long, gently undulating fairways carved over less challenging topography for a golf course. As a consequence it is far more playable. There are fine stretches of holes that are exhilarating and more than a little demanding.
This is a fine addition to the complex and by no means a poor third. I think it is more than a match for his previous work and gives the other two a run for their money. It would be my pick as the best of the bunch in fact.
The Europa is the toughest test at the La Cala resort, it has the feel of a proper tournament course that demands strategy and precision, definitely not set up to flatter the holiday golfer. I last played in 2009 when it was new, I enjoyed it a lot more this time and its matured into a fine layout. Unfortunately on the visit in May 22 the course was suffering from the problems with the greens (also afflicting the Asia course), recovering from a disease which seems to have severely damaged them, mostly sand and spiky patches of grass, really should closed the course IMHO.
Putting aside the conditioning (and lack of service) issues there is enough quality to maintain attention. The round commences with an easy short par 4 (SI18), the course really bares its teeth on the 4th, longer hitters can try and cut the dog leg and carry the hazard with a gentle draw, that gives a much better approach shot. The safer option which has almost as much jeopardy is to hit a straight drive (and I mean dead straight) which leaves an approach needing to carry the bunkers and avoid rolling off the green, one of the best holes at La Cala and cost me a ball every time I played it! Compared to the other courses at the resort the par 5’s are tangible challenges, no crazy downhill drives where a 5 iron can fly 250 yards. None of them straight so being able to move the ball left or right pays dividends especially from the tee. Most players will need to play them as 3 shotters, you’ll need to hit 280+ yards from the tee to have a realistic chance of an eagle putt, not dropping shots on the par 5’s will normally result in a decent score given most of the par 3’s and 4’s are relatively short.
As with the other courses as La Cala its buggies only given the terrain. Service and course marshalling were a shambles during our visit, long waits for buggies, pro shop running out of water, 5 hour+ rounds with no on course marshals. The resort were indifferent to our complaints about the greens and no compensation was offered, we won’t be returning to La Cala. I would avoid until the greens recover and there is some evidence of investment in service.
I had played the other 2 courses a couple of times but never before had the chance to play this one until last week when a free afternoon on a rainy day I found the time and even with the climate it was worth. The course is currently suffering a little bit the Covid situation as the bunkers renovation was due to happen last year but once done in my opinion this is the most fun and challenging layout in the Resort, for many reasons.
Greens design is quite similar to the other 2 and a trademark of Cabell’s designs, not very big and with corners where you can place the pin usually protected by a roll off. It is many times the call to hit the center of the green and play safe but sometimes you just can’t help and unnecessarily go for it.
As in the other 2 there are dramatic level changes, up and down, off the tee and for the approach shots. Some holes play way longer than it show and some others shorter like 1-2-8-18 where you can feel very proud of the yardage your tee shot has carried!
The strongest part of the course is the set of par 3s with five very good demanding shots with the highlight on downhill 3rd were you have the river on the right side and monster 14th playing 245yds off the back tee. I felt it was worth to be played from there and again it is wider than it shows from the tee box. Raising it maybe 1m and taking away one single eucalyptus tree that hides the green will make it even better. The alternative tee box playing 175yds from another angle is also a very nice shot.
Par 5s are not bad at all, again way better from those on Asia and America, this ones are not “forced” par 5s but real 3 shooters for most golfers and with a good variety among them: downhill reachable 8th, then 11th with a demanding tee shot and narrow green, 15th with a tough tee shot and a dramatic carry for the second if you wish to go for it and uphill 17th where everybody will need 3 good strikes to get upstairs.
Set up for competition and hopefully in a sunny day, I feel this one should be the most liked and better ranked. If I am invited to play at the Resort, Europa is my first choice.