Philip Mackenzie Ross is well known for his course design work in his native Scotland just after the Second World War at Southerness and Turnberry, but he also laid out the Maspalomas course on the island of Gran Canaria, six years before his death in 1974.
Residents and holiday golfers to Gran Canaria have a very good selection of courses to choose from, with Las Palmas and El Cortijo in the north, Salobre, Melonares and here at Maspalomas in the south. The course sits next to the busy resort of Playa del Ingles with a spectacular undulating sea of sand dunes situated between the fairways and the coastline.
Despite a very reasonable overall length of 6,800 yards, there are only three par threes on the scorecard, with par for the course set at 73. The two short holes on the front nine are pretty straightforward but the tee shot at the 154-yard 16th must carry a small lake all the way to the green at one of only two holes on the course where water comes into play.
The tropical vegetation throughout the Maspalomas course is a delight to the eye at a location where fickle sea breezes often play a large part in determining the degree of scoring difficulty.
We played Maspalomas today without great expectations seeing that the average reviewers’ mark was a paltry 2. We were therefore greatly surprised by the quality of the course as well as the friendliness, ambience and general layout of the facility.
We have played the top 5 golf courses in Gran Canaria over the last 6 days and, in our view, this was the best ‘holiday’ course. It is easy-going, flows well, there is a good mix of holes on an flat site, and the challenges are clearly set out. Maspalomas is not a difficult course, despite being nearly 6500 yards from the yellow tee boxes with a par of 73. The fairways are comfortably wide between rows of palm trees, the greens are good and mainly flat, the bunkers are very strategic but not unduly taxing and everything is maintained to a good standard.
The course was built over 50 years ago and in Mackenzie Ross employed a top architect of the time. It is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a huge swathe of sand dunes which are a popular tourist attraction. Holes 3 to 6 play right alongside these dunes helping to create a picturesque backdrop, see photo, and I would agree with a previous reviewer who commented that this is the standout section of the course.
There are some good holes, I particularly liked the par 4s at 2, 6 and 12 but there are no breath-taking ones, just a collection of pleasant challenges, well worthy of a full day out. And if you play reasonably well, there is every reason why you will end up feel pleased about your golf and play to handicap or better.
Having played Maspalomas a few weeks ago, I struggle to remember all but a few holes on the back 9. All the non par 3's are more or less straight, where you can hit the same drive - there's just not much to think or worry about. The views of the dunes for some of the front nine are certainly different, but you can see those without playing golf.
If you're in Gran Canaria for a golf holiday, there may be some utility in playing this course first, to shake off the cobwebs and get used to the different turf, or to just play a more relaxed round. However, there is significantly better golf to be found within a 20 minutes drive, for a similar green fee.
In Gran Canaria, with a hefty green fee that must take advantage of holiday makers with little understanding of the area, this place is not worth seeing. Flat, uninspiring holes (and also poor conditioning). There are a few semi-interesting holes towards the end, but this doesn’t make up for the rest of the routing.
Maspalomas celebrated its 50th anniversary last year so, along with the course at Real Las Palmas, it’s one of the more established golfing layouts on Gran Canaria. It was also designed by the same well-respected architect, Philip Mackenzie Ross, even though a number of modern-style bunkers have since been added.
The front nine lies within the most interesting part of the property, immediately next to the famous Maspalomas Dunes – which occupy a massive 1,000-acre stretch of coastline at the most southerly part of the island – and this massive expanse of sand is really a sight to behold, especially from a relatively close distance.
The back nine is then routed round a couple of residential developments – though the housing isn’t by any means intrusive – with water coming into play at a couple of the holes, and a small road is crossed twice while connecting from the 10th to the 11th then the 16th to the 17th. Like the outward half, it’s an easy walk to make on a gently undulating site.
The opening couple of par fours ease you into the round before reaching by far the best stretch of holes on the card, running alongside the dunes between the 3rd and the 6th. I particularly liked the old-fashioned fairway cross bunkers on the 4th and the half-moon-shaped greenside bunkers on the 5th and 6th.
On the back nine, short par fours at the 12th and 15th are highlight holes, the first one playing to a two-tiered green, the second one requiring an approach to a green that’s protected by water to the front right hand side of the putting surface. I also liked the eye-catching stone wall lining this water-protected green.
Unfortunately, the extreme left pin position on the 16th green made this par three virtually unplayable unless you could draw your tee shot round the row of tall trees lining the pond on that side of the hole – and the three big blue buoyancy markers in the middle of the water didn’t do anything to help the playing aesthetics either.
I’m awarding 3 balls for Maspalomas as it’s “an OK course with a couple of noteworthy holes” according to the new Top 100 rating scale implemented last month. The other criteria for that mark is “well maintained” which wasn’t exactly true as, for example, the unkempt tees didn’t look at all good.
It doesn’t take a lot of effort to sort out such minor conditioning concerns but, left unattended, casual golfers might leave here with the wrong impression. Don’t let such a small issue put you off playing Maspalomas as course presentation (especially in low season) can be patchy and the clubhouse facilities in particular are very good.