San Roque (New) - Southern Spain - Spain

The San Roque Club,
11360 San Roque (Cadiz),
Spain


  • +34 956 613 030

  • Guillermo Navarro

  • Perry Dye

  • Thomas Johansson

The wheel has turned full circle for golf on the Costa del Sol. Forty years after Robert Trent Jones Senior built the first two courses at Sotogrande to kick-start European golf tourism, the scion of another US architectural dynasty has created a comparable masterpiece at the adjacent San Roque Club.

Comparable is an apposite adverb. While the architectural style and terrain are only vaguely similar, Perry Dye’s creation has elevated the stylish San Roque into the exclusive echelons of European golf courses of which neighbouring Valderrama is the flagship.

Known as the New course, it perfectly compliments the David Thomas layout that transformed the site back in the 1980s and which put San Roque onto the world stage of golf. Both Trent Jones and David Thomas had expansive sites on which to practice their arts. In this case, Perry Dye, son of the illustrious Pete, found a limited canvas at odds with the magnanimous acreage to which most US golf architects are accustomed.

The New course is laid over a scant 45 hectares, a vaguely triangular-shaped oblong lying parallel to the ocean and with a sacrosanct nature reserve running along one boundary. To complicate matters, its centrepiece was a huge hill festooned with cork and oak trees. Plainly, “shifting dirt,” as the Dye dynasty has it, was a priority, as was transplanting trees, hundreds of them. Because of a wet winter, two years were to pass before the first ball was struck, in September 2003.

The consensus: San Roque New may be one of the finest new courses in Europe and certainly one of the most beautiful. Visually it is a joy; technically it is a masterpiece of the art, fun for beginners and a thorough test for those capable of strutting the back tees. Because of the shape of the site most of the holes run east to west, or the reverse, so the prevailing winds, from the mountains or the sea, are generally across the line of shot. The exceptions are holes 4, 5, 6, and 13 that lie at right angles at one end of the site. There are sea views from 12 holes, often over a carpet of waving treetops. You’ll gather it is not displeasing to the eye.

Illusion, the architect’s accomplice, is rampant. Stand on most tees and the knuckles will turn white. But a treat, not a trick, lies in wait: the course is much easier than at first it appears. The fairways look narrow but frequently they widen out beyond a mound, or a sand dune that gives a links appearance in places. In the Dye tradition, all the bunkers are visible. Some are strategic, some are penal; some purely aesthetic, some are traditional pot bunkers and some are monstrous. The latter are US-style waste bunkers that, as at the short 8th, stretch the length of the fairway or, as at the 7th and the 9th, act as buffers on the edge of a lake that guards each green.

San Roque New is an all-round examination of ability and character where the major test invariably awaits with the approach shot. This is because the greens, though large, present small targets in that they have a narrow opening or are angled, often side-on and partially hidden by subtle mounding. The lay-up will be a popular option here.

Horticulturally speaking, the New course is unique in several aspects. In what he classifies as his wilderness areas, the architect has introduced a species the Americans know as love grass. Similar to marram grass but finer stemmed and lusher, it lays a knee-high carpet that gives a “Mexican wave” in a breeze. It forms a beautiful backdrop to many holes, along with another innovation: cascading wild flowers, acres of them, whose seeds were brought over from their native Colorado, where Dye is based. The more practical grasses are unusual, too. Dye has used five varieties of hybrid Bermuda on each hole: tees, fairways, green surrounds and on the putting surfaces. On the greens it is Tifeagle, a species ideally suited to the climate of Southern Spain. It is one that doesn’t hibernate in winter. It gives a good matt cover and has a finer grain, too, bringing a more consistent roll than the old fashioned Bermuda. Good putters will be licking their lips, although they’d better be sharp-eyed. The greens get a tad slick down-grain and consequently more than a hint slower against it. On cross-grain putts the ball will wander just a touch at the death so bring your reading glasses!

A compelling vista is enhanced by a series of rock retaining walls, built from material unearthed in the construction, and two large lakes. The latter provide irrigation and add spice to four holes: the 7th and 14th greens straddle one lake; the 9th and 18th are separated by the other. The New Course is simply a celebration of golf in its purest form. We commend it to all who love the game.

Article by Barry Ward.

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Reviews for San Roque (New)

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Description: The New golf course at the San Roque Club may be one of the finest new layouts in Europe and certainly one of the most beautiful. Rating: 6.3 out of 10 Reviews: 16
TaylorMade
Jim McCann

The San Roque club is currently experiencing what could best be described as a period of transition. The Old course and clubhouse were acquired by new investors in January 2019 and they’re now operated by Golf Estate, a golf management, development and marketing company. The New course, which is owned by the local authority, is leased by the club at the moment.

When I visited two weeks ago, the Old course looked like a battlefield, with the empty clubhouse just a pale imitation of the building it once was. When the extensive renovation work to both is San Roque (New) Golf Course - Photo by reviewer completed later this year, San Roque is set to rise once again like a phoenix from the flames. In the meantime, members and visitors satisfy their golfing needs on the Perry Dye-designed New course.

I’d only ever played one Perry Dye layout before (Lykia Links in Turkey, which didn’t particularly impress me) so I was a little wary of what to expect here. Sure enough, there were a few things going on that surprised me (and had me wondering at the thought process that must have occurred when setting out some of the holes) but there’s nothing wrong with a few edgy design features, of course, as long as they work…

As early as the 3nd hole, the distinctive nature of the scooped mounding alongside the greenside bunkers really catches the eye and this theme is repeated at several other holes throughout the round. I’ve seen a very similar design trait at Courson, where Robert von Hagge designed the two 18-hole courses a decade earlier, but I doubt very much if Perry Dye took his inspiration from the other American San Roque (New) Golf Course - Photo by reviewer architect’s project located almost 2,000 kilometres north of San Roque!

The long, skinny fairway waste bunker on the left side of the par four 5th (pictured above) was a bit of a head scratcher, as it constricted what was already a very tight approach into the green. This rather unconventional use of sand was nothing compared to the downhill par three 8th, measuring 206 metres from the back tee, where a long, narrow bunker runs from tee to green all the way at a lower level down the left side of the fairway, with wooden sleepers placed at an angle between the sand and the grass – it’s a totally bizarre set-up (pictured on the right) but what an interesting hazard from an architect who was obviously thinking out of the box when he designed the hole!

There are more mad moundings and whopping waste areas – even a couple of beach bunkers – to contend with on the back nine (along with a few tee box placements where the back markers are set at a substantially lower elevation than the others) but, despite the nonconformist nature of it all, the New course is actually rather an entertaining romp across a landscape that isn’t short of movement. You’ll be able to compare and contrast against the Old course when it returns at the end of this year. I suspect they’ll be like golfing chalk and cheese.

Jim McCann

February 24, 2020
6 / 10
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paul pin

The New course was in terrible condition. There were huge areas in the fairways with almost no grass. Some of the bunkers had new sand and some had none.

I understand this course has just been sold to someone interested in improving it, which is great as the layout is excellent. Would never return until I was convinced the conditions were improved.

November 05, 2019
3 / 10
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Andy coaten

Great holes especially on the back nine although a bit scruffy in places it was great value and an enjoyable 3 hour round

July 14, 2018
8 / 10
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James
From the very back tees this course is an intimidating and stern test. The cork trees pinch into the fairways and the greens are parsimonious. It is easy to fall by the wayside here as an errant shot on the early holes can be callamitous. Never the less We really enjoyed the layout and the conditioning, I like Perry Dye courses, The other one I have played being Lykia links, Currently Turkey's number 1. There are echos here. in the shaping of the bunkers and the hazards. The Planting is exquisite. It is a really strong challenge throughout and although I understand what other reviewers have written about the middle stretch of holes running side by side they are different enough and super challenging holes so I enjoyed them none the less. I have not played the Old but I bet it is not as hard as this one. There are more than a few Wow moments here. The par 3 from Seves Tee requires a big carry over a nature reserve to a peninsular green 200 yds away. its a course that requires accuracy and length to make the most of the challenge from the back tees. Holiday Golf, it is not. Definitely one of my favourites on the Costa Dle Sol. Attached to a Really lovely club with welcoming and freindly members. JCB LAY
October 27, 2016
8 / 10
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tamas
Technically, this place is a triumph of design and construction, in that the architect and JCB drivers have managed to sculpt a long and testing course in such a small piece of land. However, the end result doesn’t add up to the sum of its parts. The course feels artificial, is dominated by cart paths which are frequently in play, and many of the holes seem to merge into one as the same design features have been copied and pasted. On some holes I stepped on to the tee and found myself thinking: “haven’t we played this hole already?”It’s not a bad layout, I'm giving it 4 balls, but there are a lot of much better courses in the area, and it doesn’t come anywhere near to my top 20 in Spain.
November 20, 2015
6 / 10
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Maciej Nachtlicht
The course maintenance could have been better but it could be excused by heavy rains in the preceding week. The accommodation at The Suites might have been 5-star in 1997 but now could be given 2 stars at most. Our room smelled of stale tobacco, the plaster was peeling off in places and the entire resort was in need of urgent repairs. I can recommend the nearby restaurant Bucintoro located in the San Roque Club Commercial Center.
March 27, 2015
6 / 10
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Nick
March 27, 2015
What about the golf course?
Claudio
Better than its older brother, San Roque New has been a nice surprise. Very enjoyable course with many challenging holes and with different difficulties. Water comes into play in several delicate holes while in others fairways are quite tiny. Unfortunately when we played (September 2014) maintenance was not so great and the course seemed a little "abandoned", which is not acceptable given the price paid.
December 29, 2014
6 / 10
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paul
Played this a few times over the last 5 yrs and never been disappointed. Venue, setting etc.... are all fantastic as you'd expect on the Sotogrande estate and clubhouse very unusual inside. Course always in great condition, even for Spain these greens are slick .... they are as quick as they look ! its good value for the price .... only downside is that it is perhaps a little too squeezed into a small plot of land and hence can at times feel a little too manufactured and manmade.
June 07, 2013
6 / 10
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Gerard Fancourt
The New course is no doubt a good technical design, in that a decent golf course has been squeezed into a tiny parcel of land. It is also without question, a good test of golf, and was in really good condition, especially the fairways.However, I felt that the course felt manufactured, formulaic and lacking in soul. There are obviously artificial humps and bumps everywhere, the bunkers are often decorative rather than useful, and the same visual tricks are repeated on too many holes.If you enjoy a purely technical test of your game, I can see that this course deserve it high rating. If you want more from your round, I fear that you will, like us, come away rather disappointed or even disgruntled.The clubhouse was in some ways the same. Good food, efficiently presented, but a bit charmless.Of a party of eight, one said he would return. The rest categorised the experience as 'glad to played there, have enjoyed a lot of other courses a lot more, would not return.'
March 02, 2013
6 / 10
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Javier Pintos
Although I had already played her famous neighbours Old, Valderrama, Finca Cortesin and Real Sotogrande, I thought that for my job as a Tour Operator I needed to play and test New to see what it can offer. San Roque (New) Golf Course - Photo by reviewerAnd believe what I found is really good, a very fun course to play with good par 5s, a couple of drivable par 4s and the set of par 3s asks you for different shots to very challenging greens. Designers cannot be blamed when the piece of land is not that good and this may be the case, as some fairways stretch too narrow and the elevation changes in a couple of holes are too much and sometimes unfair, but I believe Mr Perry Dye did a great job and the course in its own is really worth to be played, and if you can more than once. And what was better in my experience is that as course is set for a Pro Tournament, the greens were rolling very fast and true, even better than Valderrama. Hole 12, a drivable par 4 gives a great example of a risk-reward shot, it can be done but if missed God help you! Holes 9, 15 and 18, three very tough par 4s with water in play for the approach shot are maybe the best holes on the course. And at last, if you are by The Costa del Golf (Sol), get a ride and come and play San Roque New, you wont be dissapointed!
June 13, 2012
6 / 10
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