La Reserva Club de Golf is the latest prestigious golf course to be constructed in this corner of the Costa del Sol, joining near neighbours Valderrama, Sotogrande and San Roque in a formidable quartet of quality golfing destinations.
Yet another design of the prolific American architect Cabell B. Robinson, the course only opened for play in 2004 but many already consider it capable of hosting a national or international competition.
It is located within two valleys which join in the form of the letter "Y" and when the site was first cleared of scrub, all trees and plants with ecological and aesthetic interest were moved to a nursery then replanted in their original place.
La Reserva is long – more than 6,700 metres from the back tees – but fairways are wide so you can afford to open your shoulders on the tees to aim at relatively generous fairways. Greens are on the large size but it is one thing to be on the putting surface in regulation and another to avoid three putting when a long way from the pin position! Water features at half a dozen holes, but apart from one hole, it does not present itself as a frontal hazard.
Both the outward and inward holes have par threes separated by long par fives. On the front nine, the green on the 164-metre 5th is guarded by a lone bunker while the
145-metre 7th is played from an elevated tee to a shallow
putting surface. On the back nine, water to the left of the green on the 222-metre 15th pressurises the tee shot and the 187-metre 17th also features water to the left of the putting surface, with bunkers further protecting the right and rear of the green.
The European Tour returned to Sotogrande in 2014 for a new tournament that was hosted by La Reserva Golf Club. Some may think a waste management company sponsored the NH Collection Open, but NH Collection is, in fact, a hotel chain with around 400 properties in their global portfolio. Marco Crespi won the inaugural NH event, claiming his maiden European Tour title after eventually progressing through Qualifying School in 2013 at the Italian’s eleventh attempt.
In May 2019 the club staged the inaugural La Reserva de Sotogrande Invitational (hosted by World Golf Hall-of-Famer Annika Sorenstam), which resulted in Céline Herbin claiming her second Ladies European Tour title.
The course at La Reserva took a bit of a tumble in the recent rankings reshuffle, falling out of the Spanish Top 10 and dropping ten places down the European listings so it felt right to have a look at what was going on here, especially as the three reviewers in 2019 gave it an average score of 5 balls.
First of all, Fergal O’Leary’s suggestion from four years ago that the club reverse the nines has been implemented – so all the hole numbers in his review are now the wrong way round, of course! This change to the order of play now creates a thrilling start to the round with the 1st hole plunging down and left to a green that sits on the other side of the Arroyo de la Morra.
I also gave top marks to the following two holes, a tough par five with a split fairway then a great par four with a roller coaster of a fairway, making the opening three hole sequence at La Reserva one of the most engaging during my 5-day trip to the Costa del Sol earlier this month.
The remaining holes on the front nine are also very attractive, especially the two downhill par threes at the 5th and 7th, which both play to heavily sand-protected raised greens. I have one word (“bunkers”) in my notes for the uphill 9th and looking again now at google maps I can see why, with huge sand traps either side of the fairway and another two immediately in front of the green.
Standout holes on the back nine (where the creek on #2 and #8 comes into play on several holes) include the two par fives at the 13th and 15th, where the first hole features a nifty Biarritz green and the second hole plays to a cracking raised green with lovely run offs. The 18th then climbs steeply back up to the clubhouse, with two mighty hits required to get near the home green in two blows.
La Reserva competes in a very competitive market and probably suffers with its close proximity to the other more established, highly ranked tracks in this part of the Costa del Sol, which is a shame really as it’s not a million miles away from the very high standards set elsewhere. For sure, it’s well worth adding to your itinerary if planning a visit to the area with your clubs in tow.
We arrived at the course on a windy and cold December day and knew it was likely to prove a hard test of golf. From the moment of arrival the service was smooth and easy and it was clear we were at a high class establishment. The clubhouse and practice area is 1st class, especially the putting green which is one of the largest I’ve ever seen.
The course begins with an beautiful down hole par 4, dogleg, left. You can take on the corner and cut of a significant chunk of distance, and if played well should get off to a par or birdie start. It’s important to bag a par early as the course gets increasingly difficult.
The characteristics of this course are great conditioning, cunning bunker placements, firm, true and fast greens and intimidating water hazards, designed to punish golfers who play with more gusto than precision. All of the greens are very well protected, mostly by deep bunkers, so it will take precise play and nifty short game to keep on the right side of par on most holes here.
There are some really demanding holes on the front 9, some which involve water hazards down the right of the fairways and greens. You have to be confident to play to a low score as the architect has challenged any shots that lack commitment. There aren’t many opportunities to play the ball along the ground here, as it’s a target golf course. That said, the greenside lies are tight in places, so, if the opportunity exists, the Texas wedge is a sensible option for the less confident chippers.
You’re treated to some glorious elevated teeing positions throughout, as most of the tee boxes give fine vantage points with expansive views of the fairways and greens in front of you. There are plenty of opportunities to open the shoulders on some of the later holes, with the 14th being an fine example. A strong finish awaits, with a devilish down hill par 3 followed by an uphill 18, both requiring solid shot making to close out the round.
If you like the courses on the Costa Del Sol you’re sure to like La Reserva, as it’s true to the region with high drama and impeccable conditioning. With so many classy and quality neighbouring courses in the area, La Reserva holds its own and should certainly form part of any golf tour in the region.
Wide and long fairways, and ultra fast greens. Manicured course, but overall a bit baked by sun, despite lot of watering (played in late October). Fairly long transitions between most of the holes, so buggy is good choice here. 10. hole is a tough start, but I liked the back nine much more than the front. Good practice facilities, just next to 1. and 10. tees. Otherwise typical C.B.Robinson course design - very professional and routine, but missing a real spike. As the course design left me cold, the clubhouse and its ambiance was a different story. I really liked the relaxed and almost lazy atmosphere, nice architecture and very friendly and helpful staff. At the and of our round, we enjoyed a good dinner in the clubhouse restaurant. It was a great day and say, reasonable value for money (despite the visitors fee is not cheap at all).
Love this place. Course is really interesting and In top condition. Can’t fault it really, not quite a six star, as someone else put it, the soul of a top course isn’t quite there yet, but I think it will be. We keep going back year after year and love every minute of the course.
I know this isn’t a clubhouse and food review, but La Reserva is the best of the big courses down there for food and service. Oh my days, the showers are unbelievable.
Service is top drawer, once we were playing and heavy rain pounded us for 30 mins, a guy came out with fresh towels and soup for us. That’s the way we like it :)
Played La Reserva on a recent trip to play Finca, San Roque & Valderrama. A great course, good design albeit not too challenging compared to Valderrama.
I would recommend due to the condition, speed of the green & pace of play. Customer service top draw & so are the facilities.
Very good course in great condition. why not a 6 ball rating? in my view there is the soul of a great golfcourse missing. but extremely friendly staff. great service
Would that I lived down here this would be my choice to play day in day out given how surly they are at Valderrama even when taking your 300 euros for the privilege to play. The clubhouse is spectacular, the staff helpful and welcoming and the food and beverages are first class. The course is long and intimidating off the tips with slick undulating greens and tricky run off's. Fairways though are wide and with a hot driver you have a better than even chance round here. Its not cheap at 200 euros by Costa standards but you do get more exclusivity than some and ipso facto less stag groups.
One of my favorites. Whilst it is long, most of the fairways are wide enough to allow you to "open your shoulders". I like the new clubhouse layout and I found the staff very friendly and helpful. Of course it isn't up there with Valderrama, I do think it deserves a better ranking that its got.
The opulence of La Reserva is primarily financed by an American hedge fund that recently bought the Sotogrande label, which includes a significant part of the region and a number of golf courses, including La Reserva. Just before Christmas, the club put the finishing touches to a clubhouse fit for the royal family. The membership now enjoy the finest facilities and a golf course that frequently offers oceanic views across the Costa Del Sol. Specific to the course, the opening stretch of three par 4s is most challenging for a variety of reasons.
The first has a crowned fairway, the second is long and tough and third has a very shallow green surrounded by deep bunkers. Fortunately the 4th hole finally offers a change in direction and is a reachable par 5. The 5th turns around and runs back parallel to the 4th, but has a large hill on the left side which helps bounce the ball back down to the fairway.
If you pay attention to the routing of La Reserva, you’ll observe that many holes run parallel back & forth (eg: 4, 5, 6 then 12 and 13). A common theme with the La Reserva routing is how the rise and fall of the land makes many fairways feel like a funnel working towards the green-sites. While the par 5s are reachable, the par 4s are where this course breaks the golfer’s hearts separating the boys from the men.
There aren’t many better uphill par 4s in Continental Europe than the 9th at La Reserva. The hazard placements are wonderful regardless of which tees you play from and put a premium on club selection for the tantalizing approach. It really should be the 18th hole as it’s an epic climax. When you stand on the 10th tee, you wonder why it isn’t the 1st hole as its fabulous downhill dog-leg left more in tune with the rest of the course. That’s the million-dollar question as a few years ago the two nines were actually switched! While the front nine was more in tune with a “golfer’s intuition” from a design and visual perspective, the back nine too often falls victim to the need for real golfers at the club to apply some golfing intelligence to a number of features. My humble observations include:
A) The 10th hole would be a thrilling opener. Amen.
B) The 11th hole is a par 5, which by itself is a brilliant hole, but when you put it under the magnifying glass, you’ll notice a questionable cluster of trees to the left of the green that blocks the sunlight and airflow resulting in unhealthy areas of scrubby land where the grass simply can’t grow. The green-site feels claustrophobic with excessive vegetation surrounding it too. Add in the overly undulating diagonal green, it’s far too penal for 99% of golfers and is not fun to play. A consideration is to thin out the trees around the green and improve the sunlight exposure.
C) The 14th is a downhill par 3 with two sets of tees in what feels like a Spanish Secret Garden. The issue I found with the primary set of tees is that there is a very large overgrown tree in front of the green which completely blocks your view of the flag if the pin is on the left side of the green. It just feels wrong. A consideration is to remove this non-value add feature.
D) If you look at early pictures of La Reserva, the view from the elevated 15th hole is often considered the signature hole. It sweeps downhill moving left to right and whets the appetite. When this hole was built, you could see the right side of the fairway and had an epic view of the putting surface. The problem today is that the club has let a large cluster of trees grow far too big which now completely block your view of the right side of the fairway, the lake and the green [see photograph]. This detrimental overgrowth is a terrible shame as the current visual of the hole suffers greatly from the original concept. A consideration is to get rid of all these trees completely and open up a fabulous view of the par 5 green restoring its days of glory and intrigue.
E) Similar to the 15th, the par 4 17th is a dog-leg right but unfortunately there’s a large cluster of unnecessary vegetation blocking the view of the strategic landing area, the lake and the green. The player has no idea that there’s water on this hole due to the visual obstruction, which is an awful shame as it would easily add tremendous value to the strategy from the tee. Too many balls get lost and this slows down play. A consideration is to get rid of all this vegetation to open up the clear vista towards the green.
F) The current 18th hole is an uninspiring short par 4 somewhat below and away from the clubhouse which offers no excitement. I played a long iron and a sand wedge into this highly anti-climactic finisher. It’s a perfect 9th hole to bring you back to the house. The two nines need to be switched.
When you consider my humble observations, it’s clear that massive improvements can be made to La Reserva without much investment. It’s the simple changes to the back nine that could yield such progress and turn this solid course into a great course. The club executives need to adopt the mindset of a golfer and quickly realise the swift enhancements that are sitting in front of their eyes. I look forward to returning to La Reserva as it is quickly establishing itself as a “must play” venue while in the same neighbourhood of nearby Spanish giants.