The oldest course on the Costa Del Sol, Malaga’s fairways were first laid out sometime after the formation of Málaga Golf Club in 1926 by none other than Harry Colt. Tom Simpson, who also added another nine holes, restored Colt’s 9-hole course in the early 1960s.
Thanks largely to the financial clout of Paradores, the hotel offshoot of Spanish Tourism, the course has been preserved as something of a golfing historical monument and with such an architectural pedigree, you might expect Málaga to be a Costa classic but unfortunately, it falls a little bit short of the mark, largely due to its deadpan flatness.
Not that it is without a fair degree of charm – if only it were located further along the coast, rather than directly under the roaring flight path of Málaga Airport next door. Still, the sandy soil on this stretch of land by the Mediterranean give the fairways a links-like feel in places, even if eucalyptus, palm and pine trees define many of them.
Parador de Málaga has hosted several PGA European Tour events, including the Open de Andalucia in 2010 and 2011 (won by Louis Oosthuizen and Paul Lawrie respectively), but no professional tournament has been staged here since the airport opened in 2011. It’s now almost impossible to play golf (unless wearing ear defenders) due to the deafening roar of departing planes.
Málaga is a favourite course of locally born
Miguel Ángel Jiménez (click here to read the story), who holds the course record,
but it’s unlikely that many tour professionals will choose to play here these
days – unless the airport is closed.
The outward and inward halves both contain sequences of strong holes (and the heavily bunkered 12th is one of the best par fives in all of Spain) but more discerning observers feel that if some improvements were made to the last three or four holes on each nine, it would propel Málaga up the rankings.
On paper, given its history, its design (apparently quite classic parkland, even though a few holes are very close to the Mediterranean sea), and its length which at 6,259 meters from the tips and still a healthy 5,935 meters from the yellow tees, Parador de Málaga (originally called Real Campo de Golf de Málaga) seems an interesting proposition.
It was probably just that until a few years ago. Since then, the new Málaga airport was opened for business, and business it sees every day of the week in a very loud and constant way, at least during the high season which spans from early March to late October here. I had played many years ago at the Glyfada golf course, located close to the end of the runway of the then Athens airport, and I had been flown over by several planes during my round. They were quite low, but then they were few… and landing. During my visit to Parador, the very early planes were also approaching to land, but very soon the prevailing winds took over, and the flight path was changed, the planes soared into the air over the course, probably less than 300 meters high and at full jet engine thrust. The effect on everyone’s game was pretty devastating, and not many in my party expressed any liking for this kind of almost constant, deafening noise.
Moreover, the course was in pretty bad condition. Obviously it had suffered in major way from the summer drought, and only the greens had been kept in good condition. The roughs and also the fairways were heavily marked with blue stakes signaling G.U.R., and planting your tee at the start of each hole required a detailed survey of the ground to find a spot where the tee and both your feet could be stable and level. All of the fairway surface of the 15th hole, a long par-four, and a good part of the 16th, a par-five, had been replaced with new “bricks” of grass and sod, which had not been leveled yet, which resulted in questionable lies.
The modern developments such as the new airport are really a pity for this course, which would otherwise be pleasing to play, with lots of birds, including “rude” bands of green and blue parakeets, varied species of trees, and nice views of the mountains inland. Maybe it is still, around the end of the year, when planes are fewer. During our visit, they proved to be a very real and lasting nuisance, and I would not recommend this course to anyone looking for a relaxing golf experience.