Rio Real - Southern Spain - Spain

Rio Real Golf & Hotel,
Urb. Rio Real s/n,
29603 Marbella,
Málaga,
Spain


  • +34 952 765 732

  • Antonio Gómez

  • Javier Arana

  • Sergio de Céspedes


Visit Golfbreaks.com for a golf holiday at Rio Real

The oldest course in the Marbella area, Rio Real was built on a compact site back in 1965 when Javier Arana laid out an 18-hole course on the banks of the Real River where it enters the Mediterranean Sea. The valley location was fairly secluded when it was first chosen to site the course but, over time, housing has encroached all around and the noise from the number of vehicles that now use the adjacent main road can be quite distracting on several of the holes.

Still, Rio Real is a classic old Costa del Sol course that retains a fair amount of its original charm and its pine and palm tree-lined fairways play to slightly elevated, well-bunkered green sites, often crossing the river en route to the hole. The trees on the property have matured into fine specimens but a number now present more of a hazard than originally intended, screening, as they do, the best line of play in some instances.

One of the more memorable holes on the card is the par four 4th, doglegging left from the background sound of the traffic on the tee to the crashing of waves on the seafront, with the green located right on the coastline. Another fine long par four awaits at the 8th, a wonderful hole that veers left from an elevated tee position and ends with a downhill approach to a small green that's benched into the hillside.

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 Rio Real golf course was designed as an annex to the Los Monteros hotel, a development built east of Marbella in the late 1950s by the Salamanca-born businessman Ignacio Coca. After it first opened in 1962, the hotel had established itself as one of the grandest destinations for high-end tourists on the Costa del Sol, a magnet for film stars, aristocrats and other figures who dragged the paparazzi in their wake.

Despite the developers’ deep pockets, however, the plot selected for the site was not ideal. Though the terrain was gentle, only thirty hectares were available and a further fifteen were needed for a proper golf course to be built on it. The back and forth between Arana and the developers continued until work finally began in October 1963, after Javier extracted permission to build several holes along an elevated stretch of the property that had originally been allocated to residential use.

As with some of Arana’s other designs, the routing is perhaps the highlight of the Rio Real course. Those who witnessed the construction work attested to the endless hours Javier spent examining the site to solve the puzzle of fitting eighteen holes into this small 45-hectare plot and achieving a design that met the standards expected of him.

The result is a tightly compact layout where fourteen holes are sited on a long flat tract flanked by the river Real and bounded at one end by the beach. The remaining four holes are located on higher, sloping ground on an adjoining hill; besides providing variety to a flat course, they offer wonderful views of the Mediterranean.

In contrast to other designs of Arana’s, the Rio Real greens today are small, regularly shaped and almost wholly lacking internal contours. On a course that otherwise displays all of Arana’s hallmarks, this is perhaps the least exciting feature. The high point at Rio Real is its excellent set of long par fours (4th, 5th, 8th and 15th), some of which are among the best that Arana ever designed. All four holes are entirely different from one another despite the scorecard stating similar lengths.

If you would like to find out more or purchase “The golf courses of Javier Arana” then click the link.

If the above article is inaccurate, please let us know by clicking here

Write a review

Reviews for Rio Real

Av. Reviewers Score:
Description: The oldest course in the Marbella area, Rio Real was built on a compact site back in 1965 when Javier Arana laid out an 18-hole course on the banks of the Real River... Rating: 4.1 out of 6 Reviews: 14

Having played Rio real 4 years ago I was very excited to be playing it again. We had a bad experience with slow play last time and was hoping not to encounter this again.

I arrived at the course straight from the airport and received a great welcome. Had a great lunch, enjoyed the driving range which is great value and waited for fellow members of my tour to arrive. The service from the pro shop and starters was excellent. Much better than previous time.

The course was in excellent condition and greens very true. The course is very playable with some great holes. There are some bad holes (10,11,6) but the rest are very good indeed. Course may not be the best in the costa del sol, but certainly considering price, service and the course itself, must rank as one of the best. For me and my group, we preferred playing courses like Rio real and Santana rather than places like San roque.

Overall Rio real ranks very highly. Only negative this time again was slow play due to too many groups teeing off within a short period and starting us off the 10th. I always like to play the course in it’s intended format so this was a shame.

5 / 6
Rio Real
May 05, 2018


Was this review helpful? Yes / No
1 person found this review helpful
Respond to above review

A nice course that welcomes you from the very start, it has a good variety of holes and having played it a few times now you can see how well the designer worked with the land available.

Unlike most courses in this part of the world there is not an enormous elevation change on the course , but still hilly enough to keep it interesting, well worth a visit

5 / 6
Rio Real
January 05, 2018


Was this review helpful? Yes / No
1 person found this review helpful and 1 did not
Respond to above review

I fell in love with this little beauty during my recent trip to Marbella. She played hard to get (it took me three attempts over three days to get out on the course – long story involved there) but it was worth waiting to play, believe me.

It’s not just the Rio Real course that seduced me because the clubhouse (which is precariously perched on the side of a hill) is also a very attractive amenity that complements the 18-hole layout which is built around it.

I chose to visit here as it’s one of three Javier Arana designs located in the Marbella area and I’d already been to the other two at Aloha and Guadalmina – Aloha was wonderful but Guadalmina disappointed so I was keen to see how Rio Real compared.

It’s built on a tight site so every single square foot of space is precious, not to be wasted, and you see this right away at the opening two holes where elevated tee shots are played across the river onto fairways running along the other side.

Rio Real Golf Course - Photo by reviewer

The shallow, Biarritz green at the par three 3rd sits just behind the river on the opposite bank, maximizing the land available. After visiting the coast at the next two holes on the other side of the A7, a unique-looking par three has somehow been shoehorned into the hillside between the river and an apartment building that now looms over the greensite.

The best three holes on the front nine then follow (the brilliant par four 8th sandwiched between a couple of terrific par fives) and they rise up to higher ground before falling back down to the floor of the valley next to the river.

A couple of quirky par fours start the back nine: the 10th climbing steadily uphill then doglegging 90 degrees right to the green, followed by a plunging tee shot at the 11th, which also veers sharply right, back across the river, to the target.

I wasn’t enamoured with the short par three 12th, which is laid out beside what looks to be a recently extended irrigation lake and there’s an awkward walk around this new water hazard to the tee box for the following hole, a doglegged par five where the tee box now appears misaligned to the tree-lined fairway.

The par three 14th is squeezed into the hillside on the west side of the valley (directly opposite the aforementioned 6th on the other side of the river) before the final four holes run back and forth along the floodplain of the river, with the 18th sliding right and up towards the home green.

The only slightly disheartening aspect of the Rio Real course is the lack of contour in the greens, which are relatively bland. It would also be nice if Arana’s trademark par three 17th was still in place but this was lost some time ago due to safety considerations, replaced by the rather unsatisfactory 12th.

Still, these are minor quibbles about a charming little track that ticked just about every box for me. It might be holiday golf that’s on offer here and it may not be the most challenging course you’ve ever played but if you want to guarantee walking off the 18th with a smile on your face then this place will do exactly that for you.

Jim McCann

4 / 6
Rio Real
April 02, 2017


Was this review helpful? Yes / No
2 people found this review helpful and 1 did not
Respond to above review

Despite being one of the oldest courses on the costa this has become a favourite. Conditioning for January was little short of miraculous given a bucket load of rain overnight while we were there. In fact there was less than 2 puddles anywhere on the course and the greens were superb. Not a huge test given the resort course rough but some very pretty looking holes to take in. Nothing too threatening other than the silly par 3 on the back nine with huge drop to the left. In fact they were repositioning the 12th to go over the large lake which should be fun when finished and will also make the 13th a much tougher par 5.

5 / 6
Rio Real
January 30, 2017


Was this review helpful? Yes / No
1 person found this review helpful and 1 did not
Respond to above review

I played Rio Real for the first time today and was pleasantly surprised by how good the course is (particularly having subsequently read the reviews on this website). The course is compact, but not horrendously narrow (which is an annoying feature of a lot of Marbella area golf courses) and there are some fantastic holes (holes 4, 7, 8, 10, 11 really stick In the mind). The designer has made great use of the space and this is a real test of shot selection and discipline - on a few holes ( eg 1 and 2) v tempting to use driver when clearly not a sensible club!

For the price €66 with buggy in September, this course is far better than the likes of La Quinta, Santa Clara, Los Arqueros, and if not keen to spend £££ on green fees for the likes of Aloha, Las Brisas and Finca Cortesin, this is a v good option.

4 / 6
Rio Real
September 06, 2016


Was this review helpful? Yes / No
1 person found this review helpful and 2 did not
Respond to above review
good layout especially for this part of the costa del sol
5 / 6
Rio Real
October 09, 2015


Was this review helpful? Yes / No
1 person found this review helpful and 1 did not
Respond to above review
A massive disappointment due to the state of the greens which were universally awful. Work is planned to improve them but there is a huge amount of work needed to bring this report course up to a decent standard, not least telling visitors who provide the bulk of the custom, to rake footmarks in bunkers and repair pitch marks on the greens.There are some interesting holes on the back nine but the general feel is a cramped course that has been let get into bad condition. Once green hillsides are now littered with housing, some of it extremely ugly, and traffic noise is also off-putting. This might have been a beautiful course when it was opened in 1965, but now it looks old and tired. A real shame.
2 / 6
Rio Real
December 02, 2014


Was this review helpful? Yes / No
3 people found this review helpful
Respond to above review
Response
Ron Sloane
August 06, 2015
I totally agree with this review. I played the course in Oct 2014 and the greens were terrible. The whole course suffered from a lack of maintenance and it really showed. Needs a lot of work to regain its past reputation.
Great course, played in June 2012, good condition and nice mixture of layout. starts to get a bit tighter on the back nine, nice setting. this is much better than many other courses in the area, and didn't feel overly busy or slow in terms fo pace of play.
4 / 6
Rio Real
June 07, 2013


Was this review helpful? Yes / No
1 person found this review helpful and 2 did not
Respond to above review
I played this course for the second time last week and I have to say that this second visit gave me a far better impression than the previous one. Rio Real Golf Course - Photo by reviewerI had played the course in November 2008 very close to winter and after some heavy rain and have to say I was a little bit disappointed, as it was not in a real good shape. But this second time during late spring gave me a far better impression, the course was in great shape, greens rolling really true and fast and the course itself is both playable, challenging and very fair. Although in a very narrow piece of land, this parkland designed by Javier Arana is one of the best courses in Marbella. There are some memorable holes, a couple that need a little redesign but all the same the overall experience is very good. And one playing advice: the Driver is not the best option in most of the holes, accuracy is needed and as it is not a long course, you´d better make sure you play from the short grass, away from rough and dense woods. And pay special attention to 2 holes: par 4 8th and par 4 11th. The first one from an elvated tee offers a big challenge not only for the tee shot but for the approach as well, if you go right you will drop more than one shot. And at 11th, the elevated tee box shows you most of the course and the ocean, a very nice view.
5 / 6
Rio Real
June 18, 2012


Was this review helpful? Yes / No
3 people found this review helpful and 1 did not
Respond to above review
A group of 8 played here on 29/3/2012 - a great layout. Well maintained, good greens, and lush fairways, plenty of trees and the Rio Real river bed attracting wayward shots . No complaints. Highly recommended.
5 / 6
Rio Real
March 31, 2012


Was this review helpful? Yes / No
1 person found this review helpful and 1 did not
Respond to above review