Valderrama played host to the 1997 Ryder Cup matches between the USA and Europe. Team Captains were Tom Kite (US) and Seve Ballesteros (Europe). The first Ryder Cup to be hosted on mainland Europe was a tale of Europe’s five rookies who produced an impressive performance in the pairs during the first two days, giving Europe a five-point lead going into the singles. The US rallied during the final day, winning the singles 8-4, but it came down to the last match between Colin Montgomerie and Scott Hoch which ended in a halve after Monty sportingly conceded Hoch’s 15-footer on the final green. Europe 14 ½ - USA 13 ½. The Ryder Cup was played at Oak Hill in 1995 and at the Country Club, Brookline in 1999.
Everybody has heard about Valderrama “the Augusta of Europe” but its success is really down to Jaime Ortiz-Patino and a few of his golfing mates. In 1985, the industrialist billionaire bought what was then a fairly average course. He then spent an absolute fortune on it and now it’s one of the best courses in the world.
In 1975 Robert Trent Jones first laid out the course, which was originally known as Los Aves. It is located prominently on a hill above the old Andalucian village of Sotogrande. The layout remained relatively anonymous until 1985 when Jamie and his mates recalled Trent Jones to subtly reshape Valderrama and the club has not looked back since.
Many golfers will be familiar with Valderrama from TV coverage. The club has hosted a plethora of championships, including the Volvo Masters and the legendary 1997 Ryder Cup, which saw a narrow one point European victory under the captaincy of none other than Seve Ballesteros.
The closing holes are always described as tough with a capital “T” but if you choose your tee sensibly from the off, it’s an eminently playable course for golfers of most abilities (the maximum handicap allowed at Valderrama is 24 for men 32 for ladies). The 17th hole is naturally the most memorable. It’s called Los Gabiones and was once just a long par five until the water was installed just in front of the green. Now it’s a question of shall we lay up or should we go for it?
Despite the fact that Valderrama is an elite private members club, visitors can still obtain the key to the first tee. It’s certainly not the cheapest green fee in Europe but, because Valderrama is never overplayed, it’s always in tip-top condition. Valderrama is also completely in tune with nature. Apart from Loch Lomond, it’s is the only other European golf club to be awarded full Audubon status (Audubon's mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems). Play Valderrama and prepare to be impressed… very impressed.
Jaime Ortiz-Patino, the owner and honorary president at Valderrama, died in a hospital in Marbella in January 2013. The legendary figure played a key role in bringing the 1997 Ryder Cup to Spain. “Valderrama is his masterpiece, his legacy,” commented Jose-Maria Olazabal. “He wanted to make it a very special place, and he did it. He put Valderrama and that part of Andalucia on the map.”
In June 2014, Ortiz-Patino would have been extremely proud. A few days before his abdication, His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain, granted Valderrama the Royal title. Club de golf Valderrama was duly renamed to Real Club Valderrama. Four years later, the club completed an extensive renovation programme which has completely transformed the course.
This was my fourth visit to Valderrama in 7-8 years and I must say that it is a joy to see how the course continues to evolve positively. Post the extensive renovation work a few years ago, the course's condition is absolutely world class.
I haven’t found somewhere what changes to the golf holes themselves have been made in connection with the latest renovation but what I spontaneously experienced has improved is an expanded landing area on hole 7 and a leveled fairway on par 5 hole 11 including a much-improved green area. On the long par 3 12th hole, trees have been removed around the green to the absolute better. All changes have taken three slightly weaker cards to strong holes. I also experienced that some trees have been removed on hole 12, which have resulted in a straighter hole. Something that have made the short par 4 hole more of a risk reward even for the more ordinary golfer. It also felt like the third hole, par 3, had developed for the better without me being able to explain what had been done. Maybe someone can update me on this issue. An updated tee position to improve angle to the green?
Valderrama is simply a golf course of absolute world class that continues to develop. Above all is this challenging course becoming more playable for the average golfer. The golf holes are varied, memorable and well balanced with a routing that makes the holes flow forward in a nicely undulated terrain. The course is clearly walkable, but if a golf cart is desired, they have managed to hide the car path in a positive way. The greens are certainly small, but since so relatively few rounds are played every year, it works.
Is there no weak part? Well, hole 15 is still not a good golf hole.
But all in all, I recommend all serious golfers to play Valderrama, at least once in their lives
I am already looking forward to the next visit.
“It’s 102 yards to the flag but against the wind, so, 110 yards.”
Our forecaddie had spoken, I played the chip and his information was so accurate that the ball hit the flag… and then deflected into the greenside bunker! The pitch mark was two inches from the cup but I blobbed the hole.
Luck was against me for much of the round as we followed the steps of Seve’s 1997 Ryder Cup team on the hallowed turf of Valderrama.
But I couldn’t blame fate for my inability to handle the mix of Penncross grass and Ryegrass around the greens.
However, the words of wisdom from the man in the white overalls transformed Mrs W’s short game. Thanks to him, she recorded one of her best rounds of our holiday on one of the toughest courses in the world.
There is probably a greater sense of place at Valderrama than at any other venue I have played.
I will be honest in saying I thought near-neighbour Real Sotogrande had better views and more dramatic holes but it doesn’t have the cache of Valderrama.
Here forecaddies are compulsory and ours certainly added significantly to our enjoyment with his keen eyes and impish humour.
Valderrama is imposing but not stuffy.
After being waved through with a smile into the property, our bags were taken from the car by one of the enthusiastic caddie-master team who showed us the ropes after our friendly welcome in the pro’s shop.
Every aspect of this club is on point – from the locker room to the practice facilities, there is a clear intent to be the best.
The same is true of a course which was in magnificent condition even though we were playing it in November.
Valderrama is not a particularly long but it was clear that our forecaddie was keen we avoid the gnarly corked oaks which line the holes (acorns were dropping from the trees throughout the round and initially had us scampering because we thought they were errant golf balls!).
Therefore, on the first, after decent tee shots and the lay-ups he advised, we chipped towards the flag, had par-putts and walked away with two points for our bogeys (we always play Stableford on the top 100 quest).
I can’t say his methods were fool-proof but we only lost one ball between us and we didn’t succumb to either trees or water, Valderrama’s key defences.
However, I lost count of the number of times he said ‘bunker’ with a wry smile and his eyes towards the sky as our shots found sand.
There are several blind tee shots at Valderrama so I was grateful of the advice of ‘aim at the tree’ on the second. This allowed the right-to-left slope feed the ball into the perfect approach position.
Beauty is the eye of the beholder but the 4th was one of my favourite holes – a par-five with fine views and a slither of a green between a water feature on the right and bunker on the left.
The 6th is a picture par-three. Downhill into a green beautifully framed by bunkers. Mrs W and I were both thrilled to hit the centre of the target.
She was delighted with her par and I was left scratching my head when my second putt defied gravity to stop on the edge of the cup.
The 8th is where the corked oaks are there most populous and lured me down the right-hand side. I took my medicine and punched out before the aforementioned chip against the flag.
The sea emerges for the first time on the par-five 11th, which demands a tee shot down the left-hand side to avoid the ball sliding down the slope into the bunkers on the right.
Its green is perched on what appears to be the course’s highest point with a gorgeous outlook over Sotogrande and the Mediterranean.
By this time, the caddie had rectified Mrs W’s struggling bunker play and a disgruntled eye firmly fixed on my faltering ‘wide-stance, low tailbone and swish’ technique.
Consequently, I was particularly chuffed to lob to two feet from the left-hand bunker on the par-three 12th.
The 16th and 17th are brilliant holes.
The former is a long bending par-four which goes steeply uphill towards a green defended by a fiendish complex of sand traps.
The latter is a glorious par-five where strategy is key to avoiding bunkers and a stunning water feature in front of arguably the trickiest green on the course.
My approach was so good that it drew applause from the group in front but neither they nor I knew that being above and right of the hole leaves a near-impossible putt.
The caddie suggested almost a right-angled trajectory which I followed but hit it way too hard.
Mrs W played the shot of the holiday by chipping beneath her feet from the thick grass to within a foot of the target.
It was one of the many moments we had to savour on the trail of Seve, Sergio, Jon and co.
Yes, Valderrama may be a very expensive day out but once you have accepted the cost, it delivers in every way right down to our meal in its illustrious clubhouse and the final shine of our clubs by the caddie team.
Marbella has always been my second home. There has only been one summer in my life where I haven’t been to the Costa del Golf. I have been very fortunate to have played some of the best courses in Spain or indeed mainland Europe, thanks to this stretch of Spanish coastline. Valderrama is of course a cut above the rest.
When my brother was applying for golf scholarships in the US, one of his agents just happened to be the Professional at Valderrama. Gonzalo Sanchez. Possibly the most handsome Spaniard I have ever seen. The usual summer holiday was booked to Marbs and as we set off we received confirmation that my brother and I will be teeing off the most historic and stunning Spanish course in 5 days time.
Excitement bubbled over the next few days. I think we insisted on going to the driving range and booked practice rounds at neighbouring clubs every day leading up to it. Thanks Mum and Dad!
Valderrama was a 45 minute drive west of our accommodation. The entrance is stunning and the pristine courtyard drew our eyes towards the clubhouse doors. World leaders, Royals and Golfing greats have all walked through those doors. So would we very shortly. But first we said “Hola” and “muchas gracias” to Gonzalo. Gonzalo informed us that to break 90 on a first outing would be commendable. The target was set, merchandise purchased and buggy prepared.
Just Wow! This course is breath-taking. I still can’t believe we had the opportunity to play here. My Driver headcover (White with a navy Valderrama logo – Hola Seve) generates conversations with playing partners of all ages.
he cork trees are moody and charismatic and a perfect gilded frame for the 18 masterpieces laid out in-front of you. 19 if you include the range. The tee boxes don’t have a mark on them. The fairways are like a silk blanket. The greens are so so pure. The rough, however, is punishing. ‘Valderrama Neck’ is a recognised condition for those experiencing soreness post digging around for one’s ball in the ocean of sticky emerald-green grass.
We were the only ones on the course. And I mean the only ones. The course was closed to the public. Blessed. I honestly wish I took more pictures. But I remember the experience and that’s what is most important. I would go back in a heartbeat. It probably won’t be for some years now as Gonzalo has moved on. Shame.
I shot 89 and my brother shot 85. The course is tough but the sense of achievement upon reaching 18 is fantastic. The 19th hope is also rather delightful, with photographs and memorabilia adorning the walls.
I truly believe that this course should hold as much prestige as any ‘top’ course in the world. It’s world position in rankings is unjust and I think you’d agree with me if you have ever walked Valderrama’s fairways.
Real Valderrama is an amazing place, you know this right upon your arrival. I think the range is the best I've seen, right in front of the club house. Everything is manicured and in place. This club is Royal and it feels Royal.
I've only played one round here so far but want to go back soon. It's a difficult course and I'm not sure I broke 100 that day. But it was the experience that counts. The greens are quite small so make sure you're dialled in with your irons. I don't think you need to be long, but you better be straight.
The setting is magical and the views wonderful. It's a real pleasure to play a round here but also check out Sotogrande down the road. I would probably play Sotogrande as my every day course and Valderrama once a month. But yeah, one can dream. If you have the chance, play here.
My only regret, if that’s the right word, after playing here is that I didn’t get to see the course before the start of the 5-year renovation that began in 2012. Now that the drainage and irrigation systems have been replaced, and the more visual aspects of cart paths, tees, greens and bunkers have been upgraded, it would have been great to be able to compare the old with the new. Still, I’m grateful to have finally got to visit the latest European course to make it into our World Top 100.
Head greenkeeper Adolfo Ramos made the time to speak to me and my playing partner before, during and after our round, describing the main changes that have been made in recent times to return the course to its pre-eminent position at the top of the Spanish rankings. It’s obvious no expense has been spared in renovating the infrastructure, with on course conditions that easily match the near-perfect environment in and around the clubhouse.
Out on the course, poa annua has been banished from the property. Agrostis bent now rules on both the tees and greens – which are linked by Bermuda grass fairways – and many hundreds of cork trees have either been removed or pruned to improve grass quality in shaded areas and enhance the playing experience. From what I’d read in the past, I expected a far greater degree of arboreal interference but playing corridors were generally wider than I’d anticipated.
The bunkering is sublime, which is not unexpected if you look at the other work Kyle Phillips has been involved with in Spain and other European countries in the last few years. Beautifully proportioned, they’re always presented as an optical treat, either off the tee in the fairway or as intimidating greenside defences. Putting surfaces were a little less contoured than I’d imagined but when they’re rolling at double digits on the stimpmeter then they can’t afford to be too wild.
Favourite holes for me on the front nine included the only par five on the outward half, the par five 4th (which plays to a fabulous raised green with a gorgeous little pond protecting the front right side of the putting surface) and the short par four 8th, where a huge bunker defends the front of the green (and trees do encroach very close in a semi-circle around the elevated putting surface).
The back nine begins with a tremendous par four that veers right and up to a benched green which slopes from back to front. The par threes at #12 and #15 are also pretty special short holes but the iconic par five 17th is probably the one that most players will remember best as they relive the moment when Europe retained the Ryder Cup in 1997 (Bernard Langer beating Brad Faxon 2&1). It’s been softened a bit since then but it’s still a brilliant hole.
At least one forecaddie accompanies every group and Matteo, the young man assigned to us, was really helpful, especially when deciding the correct line off at holes such as #11 and #16 which require a blind tee shot. After a quick lunch of soup and sandwiches in the spike bar, it was time to head off for an afternoon engagement, back to the reality of the outside world. At least, for one morning, I’d been privileged to experience what a recent reviewer described as “a step away from heaven”…
Arguably the most famous course on the continent, I'd wanted to get onto Valderrama for some time. I'd played Real Sotogrande and the nearby San Roque, and last year eventually got round to playing the most famous course in Spain. Given people will look at this as an experience rather than just a round, I thought I'd give some views of the club before going onto the golf course. As everyone knows, it is expensive, and when you drive up to the club you immediately get a sense as to why. People working everywhere, immaculately presented and excellent service. The course was quiet, as was the club generally, which allowed us to take our time and hit some balls before going out. As you'd expect the practice area was perfect, albeit a little unnatural given you hit down a big hill. The clubhouse is lovely, though perhaps lacking some of the charm of the nearby San Roque. Food good, and spending time sat on the balcony allows you to soak up the atmosphere and get excited about the day ahead. To the course...
It hits you on the first tee that the course is tight, with cork trees in abundance on either side of the fairway. This doesn't make the course a chore, as it's all quite open under the canopies and whilst you may hit out a few times, you're unlikely to be in real trouble other than 4 or 5 holes. It's in perfect condition, the closest you're likely to get to Augusta in Europe. The design is good, if a little over engineered at points (the tree in the middle of the 2nd fairway is frustrating). There's more undulation than I'd anticipated, with holes playing up and down hill, and some great elevation changes throughout. The course makes you think, but off the tees we played off you can plot your way around without needing to slash driver too frequently. Off the tee it's tight but somehow feels forgiving, but it's the green complexes that are where you need to score. Like Pebble, the greens feel tiny, and are often surrounded by high cork trees, narrowing the angle of attack to many of them. On five or six occasions I hit a greenside tree before dropping into the many bunkers that seem to circle every putting surface. The small greens makes your short game tricky too, often playing from think, heavy grass and needing to stop the ball on a dime. The course flows nicely, and it's fantastic visually. A few of the holes stick with you, but my sense is that the overall experience is better than the sum of its parts.
It is worth playing once, though given the price of the green fee I'd struggle to justify returning. Perhaps that has slightly soured the experience...
All in all a great day, a really enjoyable golf course and an experience I am glad that I bought.
Yes, this is one of the best golf courses in Europe. Yes, Ryder Cup was here. Yes, Volvo Masters an Spanish Open were played here. And it is Members Club - and staff will make sure, you as a visitor will know it. Your 400€ fee will help them to keep it private. Add 60€ for buggy (actually, I would prefer a trolley here) and 60€ for mandatory forecaddie (nice local guy, happy to give him a tip), and the question is - is it value for money? I am not sure. Despite the course maintenance is Top, the practice area is just ok (practice tees very dry and rough, full of sand) and for visitors with limited access only to 45” prior to tee time. Regarding course design, sorry to say that, but with the exemption of 17. hole, most of the other holes are about the same: narrow landing area guarded by cork trees, and dogleg to another small green guarded by another cork trees. At the best, a cork tree in the middle of the fairway just in the dogleg, demanding precise wood or 4-iron to have a shot into the green. Everybody admires Valderrama, but for me it is a bit monotone layout. Check-marked on my bucket list, but just that.
Playing Valderrama on a warm September morning feels like a step away from heaven (if indeed there is a Heaven).
From the moment you arrive you feel as if you are in a golfing paradise bubble. Service is exceptional, course conditioning the best I've ever seen, fairways like some courses greens, greens like something I'm unlikely to see again.
The course is difficult but manageable, hit your tee shots in the right section of the fairway & you will have a good day. miss the landing zone or fairway & you are struggling to make bogey.
Would I play again, I'd play it everyday for the rest of my life. until next time, thanks Valderrama, you are beautiful.
2 years ago I played it for the last time in the middle of the renovation project redoing some minor details in greens, some new tees and reconstruction of all the bunkers with new drainages. And I had never played it in summer, when most of the Madrid members are there. And this is one of the highlights.
Early in the morning I teeid off with GM Javier in a fun fast twosome game where at each step he was showing the changes, updates and modifications the course went through in the last couple of ears. I feel this is even more valuable than just playing the course.
As I have already played it and also wrote a couple of reviews, I feel the most important thing is to show how the restoration has changed how the course plays. Par 3 3rd has a different angled tee which gives you more alternatives of where to place the pin and the angle of the tee shot.
Green 11th has been a very deep improvement, it used to be a flat straight green with the shape of a zero and now it has been widened, sloped and theere are some new very good pin positions for championship events.
Bunkers are way better, more firm but with the feel you can shape perfectly well your shots.
Course was in perfect, and when I say perfect I mean it, shape and in a sunny and little windy day we experienced a fantastic golf round. Course is arguably the best in Continental Europe and with no doubt Top 100 in the world. It is always a great experience to play it and a nice reward to putt for eagle and make birdie on 17th.
The course is perfect!!! It is a must to play... what a chance i had....