In the book entitled Globetrotter Golfer’s Guide Spain by David J. Whyte, the author describes Las Ramblas in the following terms: “whoever decided to build a golf course through this tract of land must have been imaginative. Las Ramblas works remarkably well and offers a completely different test from its neighbours.
“It has a complicated layout that rambles through humps, hillocks, deep ravines and rocky canyons with lots of trees and a lake. Coupled with tiny greens, this course is a nightmare for beginners and the tempestuous, so the best way to approach Las Ramblas is simply to have fun.”
Designed in 1991 by the late José "Pepe" Gancedo, former Spanish amateur champion, Las Ramblas is one of three courses (including Villamartin) operated by La Finca Golf & Spa Resort and it's certainly a layout that will test the resolve of even the most proficient golfers.
Feature holes include testing back-to-back par fives at holes 3 and 4, the only par three on the front nine at the all-carry 6th – where a gorge runs along the right side of the hole – and the demanding doglegged 7th, which is routed across a deep ravine before turning sharply right to an elevated green.
The 192-metre 12th is another tough, all-carry proposition, played from a raised tee to a plateau green. By comparison, the par three 14th is 50 metres shorter but it’s just as treacherous, with another gully fronting the putting surface. The par five 18th returns golfers to the clubhouse, doglegging slightly left and uphill to the home green.
Spoiler alert, I play in a golf society based at Las Ramblas. The course is a thinking person's course. You can't just blast away as the carries over the barancas (gullies) in holes 4, 5, 7, 12, 16 require knowing your club distances and your risk/reward line to avoid the gully and not stick it into the trees and hillsides on the other side of the somwhat narrow fairway. In addition holes 1, 2, 8, 14 tend to throw the ball to the side of the sloping fairways, so you need to adjust your line off the tee. The par 3s require accuracy, particularly the tree lined and baranca protected 14th, and the 10th with a fall off left and a cliff right, and the long 12th with another baranca right. It is usual to play several holes high side off the tee and let the ball come back to middle fairway or more. Many greens have steep fronts, so you need to carry your iron into the green to avoid it rolling 20m back downhill, e.g. 7, 13, 16, 17, 18. No need for bunkers! My favourites include the short par 5 4th despite the baranca, the short par 4 5th, and the fairly straight par 4 10th. I also like the par 4 9th but need a gale in my back to play over the lake with driver or take my medecine and play a short hybrid onto the visible fairway from the majestically high tee. When you are playing straight Las Ramblas rewards accurate shot making as it is not long, but the trees and barancas will punish errant shots, the latter can easily swallow more balls in one round. Having played with a +2 golfer several times, there is a clear premium on accuracy. One tip, nearly all greens slope to the low side of the surrounding terrain, even if it is not always visible as the whole surface can be sloping the same direction. Think and enjoy!
Wow, from the very first tee shot you know that you are in for a roller-coaster of a game at Las Ramblas.
This can never be called a classical design but when the designer Pepe Gancedo looked at this land in the late 1980's (1991 opening), only a genius could have seen 18 holes here. The imagination levels are very high - some may say too high as this really is a course where even small mistakes are punished heavily. Long carries, severe fairway slopes etc. The style of the course is a little like La Manga's West, El Chaparral in Marbella and also the recently closed Monte Mayor on the Costa del Sol but not quite as severe.
The opening hole sets the scene, an elevated tee to a small landing point and then up and left to the green. The second hole is a favourite of mine; not long at around 360 yards but to a tree lined fairway with the approach playing over a big gully; the green is wider than its depth, so easy to miss short and long. The 3rd is a par-5 with a similar tee shot to the first hole, here the second shot needs most thought as a lay-up. The 4th is a testing par-5; and probably not a driver as there is a run out to consider; only the very brave take the green in two - for most of us, it is a delicate layup and then a very tough approach.
You can take a small breather at next two holes but it is straight back to the tough stuff at the 7th; a plateau tee to a right angled fairway, with dead ground to the right, very very tough. The approach to this 390 yard hole is all carry and at SI-6, only the best play will walk away with a par. The front nine ends with a short par-4, where a couple of 180 yard shots will do you.
Ahead of mentioning some of the back nine holes, the problem that most golfers will have is there is a huge premium on every single shot at Las Ramblas, making it very hard to play to handicap.
The back nine, overall is more playable but right from the off, the par-3 10th just has to be hit – anything left and right of the green is trouble. The 11th is probably one of the more sensible holes, pretty straight, with a slight left to right fairway. The 13th hole plays very much like the 3rd, a little shorter but another big left to right shape. The 14th hole epitomises Las Ramblas - 150 yard par-3, surrounded by trees, a barranca short and to a small heart shaped green - only the best score well here.
The last four holes; three par-4's and a par-5 finish, like the middle of the front nine, allow you to relax a little as the punishment is not as severe; average drives and approaches will not be that bad in comparison to the majority of the course.
In summary, this could be described as a love or hate course but to play anywhere near your handicap, mistakes cannot be made as the 'pick-up' holes are so rare. for the record, I am a fan - and I played out of my boots for 33 points. If fun on a golf course is a measure of success, then head to Las Ramblas, it has it loads of it.