Review for Real Valderrama

Reviewer Score:


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.

Date: January 22, 2020

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