The two complementary 18-hole courses at Mijas were both designed by renowned architect Robert Trent Jones with Los Lagos opening in 1976 and Los Olivos following in 1984.
Los Lagos is set in gently undulating terrain where wide fairways and water hazards dominate proceedings. Los Olivos on the other hand, plays shorter and tighter over a hillier landscape – a perfect foil to its older golfing sibling.
Upgraded by Cabell Robinson in 2000-1, the main features of the Los Olivos course are, as its name suggests, the olive groves that line many of the fairways and green complexes.Putting surfaces are smaller than the other course so the strategy here is keep the ball in play and be precise with approaches to the raised greens.
This course leaves a very good impression. Its condition is quite good, the greens were not very fast when we played but still quite enjoyable, and the environment is usually very pleasant despite the housing developments that are usually to be expected in the region.
Standing on the first tee at Los Olivos, at the top of the hill overshadowing the clubhouse, one sees a vast expanse of mostly open fairways and few obstacles to the green… other than well placed bunkers, elevation changes, and uneven fairway lies, that is. Still, you could be forgiven to think that this course is not going to be a very challenging test for your golf game, whatever level you are at. You will soon realize that when Mr. Trent Jones Sr. designed the course, he had his motto “A difficult par, an easy bogey” very closely in mind on every hole. The course is very pleasant, not very long at 5876 meters from the tips (if you play the “standard” white and yellow 9-hole loops). However, it is a par 70, and although it is quite walkable, there are many slopes to manage and conquer and the greens are not very big but far from flat.
The course seems to go tighter as you play: from almost wide open it changes to having out-of-bounds on one side (there are many houses boarding a good half of the holes), then water comes into play, most obviously on the par-four 7th where high handicappers will face a challenging carry over a lake, the same lake which looms around the green of the par-three 8th. The par-threes on this course are no bargain in fact. Apart from the 16th hole which is only 135 meters from the back tees, these “short holes are never less than 160 meters long, with the 8th the most challenging at 214 meters. In fact, this par-three is quite hard for most golfers, and caused a flight pile-up during our visit.
The par-four 9th and par-five 10th seem to leave a good deal of room to maneuver, but beware of the bunkers that will catch any shot not going full length, and make sure your approach shot is accurate if you are shooting for par. The second half of the course takes you for a hike into and around a couple of hills with villas looking down at the holes, some of them pretty impressive (check the properties on the right side of the short, tight 13th hole).
The “canyon effect” peaks with the 14th hole, a steep, downhill par-three into a gorge where one has to make sure and avoid the left side of the hole.
The par-four 17th is an odd hole from the back tees, where the drive needs to pretty much fly over private property to reach a good position on the left side of the fairway for an easier approach to the double green (with the 10th). The advanced men’s tees are a full 60 meters forward, which takes the properties totally out of the equation… but brings two large bunkers on the left into play. The final hole, a par-five, tempts the player to go for the green in two, however, there is water on the left to catch any miscalculated draw.