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: 15
TaylorMade
Andrew Markham
I clearly played a different golf course to that so glowingly described in the introduction. "Technically it is a masterpiece of the art" - translation - a lot of soil was shaped and a lot of money spent. This is somewhat contradicted by being "a celebration of golf in its purest form" - translation - a terrain which naturally lends itself to a golf course leaving the designer the task of levelling land for tees, shaping greens and siting bunkering. This is a decent enough course, worth playing, but certainly not top 20 in Spain. In the immediate general area La Cala, Mijas, Los Naranjos, Rio Real and Santana are superior. Another average course pushed up the rankings.
June 28, 2010
4 / 10
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Hugh
July 06, 2010
Played both courses at La Cala and Mijas along with Santana and IMO San Roque New is by some distance the best course... are you sure you didn't play San Roque Old?
Andrew
July 11, 2010
Having a differing opinion is not an indication that I was unaware of which course I played, the quotations from the effusive introduction proved this. The reference to the Old course is puzzling as it has consistently received higher ratings from reviewers, whereas I am not alone in having reservations with the qualities of the New. For brevity, only comparative courses in the general area were named. Unranked courses such as Girona, La Envia, Las Ramblas and Playa Serena are as good as, if not better than, San Roque New. Hopefully, a future reranking will see the New move down the list to a more realistic position. I have played thirty plus courses in Spain and San Roque New would not make my personal top ten. On a related point, reviewers do seem to award the six ball rating far too readily.
Francis Payne
November 08, 2010
Of course opinion depends on when the said person played the course and the conditions at the time many courses change with season and maintenance through the year. As someone who resides here permanantly and who plays all the courses mentioned with many other local golfers at many different times though the year i cannot see how Santana, Mijas or a holiday course like La Cala can be anywhere near the league of San Roque New in fact I know they are not. Maybe if you had mentioned Las Brisas Sotogrande La Reserva Finca Cortesin. My view is that the New course is a beautifully designed and maintained course and for winter play its possibly the best on the coast.
Carlos
November 16, 2010
We played this course last saturday and it is in SUPERB condition. Way better then La Reserva, Old course and Alcaidesa which we played as well. Good value for the combo but New is the course to play at the moment.
TR
February 28, 2012
A nice course, but not a great course. We played it in October 2011 when it was in perfect condition, but lovely fairways and greens do not make up for the fact that the layout feels very artificial and is crammed in to the land available. I found a number of the holes a bit gimmicky, with features thrown in for the sake of it rather than to enhance the challenge of the holes. The cart paths as well are very prominent and frequently seemed to be in play. I can only assume the high rating is down to the San Roque name. This is nowhere near my top 10 in Spain.
Ronan O'Driscoll
This is a brilliant golf course. It is long but fair, with inaccurate drives often falling off the banks back towards the fairway. The greens are superb and the full variety of shots required is great. It is a beautiful place - some of the vistas from tee towards green are really spectacular. I preferred San Roque New to Valderrama and all of the other courses on the Costa (although I haven't yet played Sotogrande). This is not to be missed. For me, my favourite course on the Iberian Peninsula including the best Portugal has to offer. Good value too.
January 18, 2010
10 / 10
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Carl Tushingham
This is a stern test of golf that will test all levels of golfer. After receiving a nice welcome we went off to the 1st tee and we didn't see another person until we got back to the clubhouse after the round, so it was nice to have a private course for the day, however it seemed to lack a bit of atmosphere as a result. The course is links like in many areas and plays very long, there are bunkers everywhere and it seems a bit manufactured. The condition of the course is good, but I think there are a lot better courses in the area.
June 23, 2009
4 / 10
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Keith Baxter

For me, Perry Dye’s New course at San Roque is better than its sibling the Old. I agree with some of the points mentioned in the earlier review below, but found the New course to be in excellent condition last week (including the greens) and felt the course was one of THE most natural and least manufactured on the Costa Del Sol. OK, so there are buggy paths, but this is a course that can easily be walked. But how many golfers want to fry themselves in the Spanish summer sun? The aesthetics of cart paths are not great but sadly needed. I found nothing tired about San Roque as a whole, in fact, to the contrary, I felt the whole club was lively, vibrant and rather up market. The New course is the most technically challenging of the two San Roque courses and it feels more mature than the resort-like Old course… better players will favour the New and from a design perspective I think Dye’s New is a cut above Dave Thomas’s Old, which I also think is a nice course. Take a look back at Seve’s tee on the spectacular downhill 4th which is an incredible one-shot hole across a deep chasm to a Donald Ross styled raised and domed green perched some 200 yards distant. I loved the links-like feel of the course and I would add it to my personal itinerary ahead of most other Costa Del Sol tracks.

June 15, 2008
7 / 10
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Carl Statham
I was expecting a great deal from San Roque and some of it did live up to my expectation, but not much. The club house is very decent, the practice facilities good but there is though this air of slight tiredness about the whole place. To be fair the green fee was not that prohibitive, however off setting that was the club rental, which was an absolute rip off. The course itself starts off very well and after the first there are some dramatic holes, but it all peters out and whilst there are some clever uses of blind shots and the narrow fairways are surrounded by very friendly mounding it just doesn’t quite gel for me. In fact it feels claustrophobic and it appears as if the designer wanted to throw as many golf course design bits into the smallest piece of land he could find. The conditioning of the course was OK, the fairways were in very good condition which is certainly more than I can say for the greens which were really poor. Maybe my dislike of the design is down to taste and I could see the clever design work of which there are some really good points especially the 3rd, but would you ever get me to play it again ………… no. The reason for this is that it is a manufactured course, it doesn’t compliment it’s surroundings it’s just built on it and try’s to exploit it, some of it well and some of it very poorly. One major spoiling factor is the concrete track that blights the whole course and is definitely needed for those that prefer go kart golf, because this is a very undulating course. Actually now I think of it without the go kart track it would actually be a much much better course ……… they should cover them over, ban the idiotic golf karts and get caddies who can direct you round the blind shots.
September 26, 2007
6 / 10
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