Its been 8 years since I last visited Valderrama and to be honest although I enjoyed the challenge I found the course more tricky than difficult. The main frustration was that at times you could hit the fairway only to find your route to the green obstructed by over hanging cork trees. If you did veer offline back then even a route back to the fairway would be virtually impossible. But I am delighted to report that under the stewardship of their GM Javier Reviriego a number of these issues have been addressed.
Trees that previously blocked approach shots have been removed which makes Valderrama more playable from the short grass. The biggest improvement though comes from cleanliness of the offline areas where nearly all the trees have either been pruned or removed giving the player options either to pitch out or try the hero shot towards the green….this gives Valderrama a fun factor which I am not sure was the case from my past visit.
As you would expect the course was immaculate with fast greens, perfect bunkers and tightly mown fairways and approaches. Valderrama has a number of great holes but for me 2, 4, 10, 11 and 17 are the standout holes. The course has a variety of doglegs (both left and right) which test your course management from the tee and elevation changes to the greens which test your distance control.
If I had one minor criticism it is that I would like to see more run off areas around the green instead of rough. The greens complexes lend themselves to a variety of short game options but instead the player tends to reach for the lob wedge unless they come up short on the tightly mown approaches.
I have been fortunate to have played around 40 of the world top 100 and although I am no expert it would be difficult to imagine 100 courses better than Valderrama.
Date: March 26, 2019