Neguri, or Real Sociedad de Golf de Neguri to give the club its full title, was founded way back in 1911 and the original course was an 11-hole affair located in Lejona. Forty-five years later, the club moved to its present site in Getxo, Punta Galea, to the north west of Bilbao.
Architect Javier Arana, a Neguri member, was asked by the club to design its new course and he duly obliged, routing the fairways around 65 hectares of a large estate in such a way that they were able to comfortably co-exist with residential plots which had been set aside to fund the golf project.
Measuring 6,900 yards from the championship tees, the course is laid out in two loops of nine that each end close to the clubhouse. It is a golfing layout for the connoisseur, with wide fairways, enormous greens and minimal greenside bunkering.
Some of the holes on the property sit along the cliff tops, two hundred feet above sea level, and there are fine vistas of the Cantabrian Sea to be glimpsed through the trees.
One of the best holes on the course is the 211-yard, par three 14th which is played uphill to a green protected by a single bunker – but what an intimidating sand trap that solitary hazard is, with its steep face visible from the tee, sitting right in front of the raised putting surface.
Neguri was also chosen as the venue for the 45th edition of the prestigious Jacques Léglise Trophy in 2011, when the amateur boys team from Great Britain & Ireland defeated Continental Europe by a score of 14.5 points to 9.5 points.
Visitors must play the course with a member but Neguri has a reciprocal arrangement with many Spanish clubs to allow their members courtesy of the course. Tenby also has such a link with Neguri so some lucky golfers from Wales may have had the chance to play here for nothing. If you are one of them, why not write a review?
The following edited extract is from “The golf courses of Javier Arana” by Alfonso Erhardt Ybarra and is reproduced here with kind permission from the author:
The course of the Real Sociedad de Golf de Neguri benefits from an excellent routing that extracts the maximum value from a relatively small property; the distances between each green and the following tee are virtually non-existent. Arana had no need for aggressive earthworks or artificial trappings to breathe life and excitement into the course. Despite an apparent absence of hazards, Neguri has withstood its first fifty years admirably, without any lengthening or any addition of sand traps to the forty-five existing ones.
The course defences have always consisted of extraordinarily tall Atlantic pines – which have disappeared from some of the holes, but are in the process of regaining ground – and the cliff-edge location, with the wind playing a central role in shot execution, such that Neguri can feel like an entirely different course depending on the strength and direction of the breeze.
The routing is divided into two clearly distinct portions. The first nine holes lead us to the edge of the cliff over an un-wooded area exposed to the sea breeze; the back nine flow through the majestic forest of Atlantic pine. One of the main impressions one takes away from the course is that it plays longer than the scorecard length. The terrain is very flat, and there are hardly any elevated tee shots; in addition, the various doglegs are almost impossible to shortcut.
The orientation of the greens is another of the highlights at Neguri. Other than perhaps the 17th, the greens at La Galea are apparently simple, with no very noticeable folds or internal contouring. It is standard practice for the green to be built with the far end higher than the near end, affording the player a view of its entire surface and which helps stop the ball on target.
At La Galea, however, Arana decided that his greens would follow the tilt of the fairways; and this, coupled with his customary fondness for tiers, means that no fewer than eight of the greens run away from the player and to one side.
If you would like to find out more or purchase “The golf courses of Javier Arana” then click the link.
I wanted to play this course, because it was ranked in the top 100 courses of Continental Europe at Top 100 golfcourses. Making reservation was difficult, it took more than a week before a response, and one mail I got back in Spanish. The normal greenfee price is 197 EUR and a buggy costs 69 EUR. That's heavy priced, but then I had not seen the course yet.
At arrival and after a drive of 160 km, they told us that the first 9 were closed and only the back nine was open. This is something that should be mentioned before arrival, they had my email. The reduction I got was 150 EUR and buggy for free.
This was in fact the most overpriced course I ever played. Holes going up and down, not very interesting. Fairways and greens were sanded (not told) and several bunkers were taken out of play and GUR. Hole 16 was considerably reduced because of work at a green and was played to a temporary green. Hole 17 also shortened and played from a mat.
After this very dissapointing round we drove the first 9 and these seemed to be superior to the front nine with a few holes bordering the ocean.
It’s easy to discern the somewhat understated elegance of Neguri’s course at La Galea, where the club has been in residence since the mid-1950s. I thought the course would be laid out on flatter terrain but there are plenty of gentle elevation changes encountered on a site that generally slopes away from the clubhouse towards the sea.
It’s said more than 2,000 trees were removed during construction but stands of tall Atlantic pines still proliferate around the property, affording it a stately quality and a majestic ambiance that just oozes class. There’s plenty of fairway width on all the holes so these magnificent arboreal specimens frame the fairways somewhat benignly.
The big disappointment for me was the general lack of contour in the greens, though I understand architect Javier Arana fell out with the club before course construction was completed back in the day so he never actually oversaw the building of the putting surfaces. They’re not flat by any means, but I’d have liked to have seen a bit more movement in them.
The opening half dozen holes are more open, situated closest to the coastline, and they’re obviously more exposed to the winds that blow in from the sea. The short par four 4th is a brilliant hole in this sequence, playing downhill to the furthest point from the clubhouse, with a huge dip in front of a green that runs away from front to back.
The run of four holes from 10 to 13 is fabulous, set close to the housing that lies along the southeast perimeter, and these fairways dogleg one way then the other, asking golfers to draw or fade their tee shot alternatively. The 10th and 13th are really strong par fives, as is the uphill closing hole at 18, and these three-shotters might actually be the best holes on the scorecard.
Neguri has only hosted one Spanish Open, which is a bit of a surprise, though I suspect that may well be because the club doesn’t care too much about hosting professional golf tournaments. Elite amateur events have also been relatively thin on the ground here in recent years which is a pity as the course’s tournament hosting credentials deserve greater recognition.