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.
2021, La Reserva hosted the second of four stages of the Aramco Team Series
– the first team event of its kind on any professional golf tour – when three
female professionals team up with an amateur. In Sotogrande's team event Ashleigh Buhai
led her team to victory while Alison Lee won the individual title. The
unique series spans three continents with tournaments in London (Centurion Club),
Sotogrande (La Reserva),
New York (Glen Oaks) and Jeddah (Royal Greens).
A replica Ryder Cup alongside photographs of Manuel Pinero’s greatest moment – victory in 1985 - were the backdrop as Mrs W and I tucked into a well-earned post game steak at La Reserva.
We were 20 minutes late completing our round and initially were told that we would miss out on our late lunch.
But disappointment turned to delight after we were chased by a waiter who told us special dispensation had been given so our hungry bellies could be filled.
This exemplifies the service at La Reserva, where Pinero is a member.
Details matter here – from imposing hacienda-style clubhouse to the perfect triangles of balls on the practice area, everything is just so in this corner of the Costa Del Sol.
No surprise then that this is also true on the course – the bunkers barely have a grain of sand out of place and the water is azure blue.
But the most memorable element were the greens. This is the 60th course on my top 100 odyssey and I have not played on faster or trickier ones yet.
This was summed up on the par-four 11th.
After I had proudly found the back of the green in regulation, a 40ft putt trundled towards the hole, threatening a possible birdie.
And it went on and on and on leaving me nearly as far away going uphill. After three more putts, I walked away with a chastening double-bogey.
It is not that we weren’t warned. The practice green is so slick and the reads so tough that golfers were laughing as they watched their balls finish yards off target.
The toughness of the test at La Reserva was recognised. My handicap of 11.1 was converted to 15 off yellows and the starter smirked while shaking his head when I asked whether we should be hitting off whites.
The course holds the interest from the opening hole a right-to left dogleg which entices big hitters to cut the corner. A stream guards the front of an elevated green.
Greenside swales are a key part of La Reserva’s defences. Concentration and guile are demanded.
Anyway, I started pretty well, given that I had dropped my phone on the third and had to drive back for a sweaty chase given that it had our plane boarding passes, QR codes for vaccines and Spain entry on it.
I discovered it the middle of the fairway but, despite my sweaty panic, nailed pars on the uphill 4th and par-three fifth.
The 6th is one of the most memorable we have played during top 100 challenge so far with a high tee looking down on to what seems like a slither of fairway and thick wood to the right.
Even if that hurdle is negotiated, sand and the water to the right of the green demand a route is taken down the undulating left-hand side.
Mrs W’s face was beaming when she grabbed three points.
The 8th also sets pulses racing from the tee because water cuts in from the right hand side, drawing down balls which are even slightly off target.
The 9th looks and easy hole but many bunkers lurk off the tee and it has an upward gradient to the green which means even a good-looking shot can find itself falling 15 yards back down the fairway.
The 12th has another elevated tee, with a steep right bend to a green which has the backdrop of some of the estate’s stunning properties
There are plenty of opportunities for those with a canny short game, especially the par-fives like the 13th. They aren’t particularly long but run-offs into greenside bunkers can still wreck cards.
The 15th is my favourite of the par threes, requiring a long iron down the right to avoid water and a deep bunker. But a strike too far will also land in sand.
The uphill 18th looks great with the clubhouse in the background. It is appropriate that it has another raised green with a steep slope in front of it.
Our round at La Reserva was played in a buggy and I have to say, I hate them. They don’t allow for the tempo a good round requires but, beware, it would be a heck of a long walk with a trolley.
And the signposting is poor. We managed to get lost a couple of times and saw others meeting the same fate.
However, our overall experience of La Reserva was very positive. I would just love to go back and try to conquer those greens.
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.