A relative newcomer on the Costa del Sol golfing scene, Santa Clara Golf Club first opened its doors to golfers in 1998. Enrique Canales Busquets was the architect here and his remit was to create a course that would suit golfers of all abilities.
The result is a very pleasant 18 holes laid out on relatively level ground with little rough, wide fairways and large, receptive greens, though there are several water carries and one steep climb at the short par four 7th.
Part of an estate that is being developed with luxurious apartments and villas, Santa Clara measures just under 6,500 yards with a par of 71. Such is the quality of the layout, it was chosen to host the 58th Spanish PGA Championships in 2003 – quite an honour for a new course.
I had played Santa Clara back in October 2007 during my honeymoon and though I came back many times to La Costa del Golf (now my permanent home) the chance of a replay had never come. That time I played it with crappy golf club and my memories were not that good although had in mind some good holes.
Recently I had the chance of a replay and there are some visible good changes. 2 and 3 were redesigned and tee boxes at number 8 were moved left to try avoid wayward right missed shots to get into private swimming pools which I feel makes the tee shot a little bit nice facing that huge home on the left side of the green and the ocean.
In rough times due to this silent enemy called Covid they are also investing in renovating part of the Club House, ProShop and Restaurant which clearly states there is backup to get through this and be prepared to welcoming customers again as soon as this is open.
As many courses in the area, the sloppy piece of land in between the mountains dictates the routing and part of the design but in my opinion at this course the changes have made it better and there are some very good holes like 3-10-12-13-14 and a demanding tee shot at 16th.
1st is a easy opener with no big deal with the tee shot while 2nd who used to be a tough par 3 now is a technical reachable 4 where going for it demands a very good precise shot. I would like to “see” the green from the tee, get some less trees on that side and be able to decide what to do. 3rd has become a great par 3 downhill from very nice tee boxes and demanding a long iron. It used to be a crazy 90º short 4 which I didn’t like at all. Nothing great or too bad on 4-5-6 while 7th is something I am not good with and is a 370yds par 4 which plays at least like 450yds as the green might be 50mts elevated from the tee. It is what the land dictated but I would like it not to be so severe. And homes are too close to the left side of the green.
8th now gets a wider tee shot but then if you go for it (it is reachable) the space is too narrow, but it is the price of the risk you take. 9th is a good front 9 closer where you need to avoid getting to close to the green as there are 3 trees on the fairway.
10th was not that clear in my memory but it is a good hole, with a stream crossing the fairway and making you decide if going over it but you need a good tee shot. 11th is similar to 7th but not homes close and not that sharp, liked it and felt similar to 17th at Dye Fore in Dominican Republic. Then 12th is a good downhill par 4 with a demanding tee shot and views from the entire Marbella. 13th is one of the toughest par 3s in the area, playing 230yds over water though the carry is just 175tds.
14th is a very good 5, 2 shots for everybody playing 600yds from the tips and with hazard on the left side but on a wide fairway. 15th is maybe the toughest par 3 due to the lack of space to miss and small green.
16th has a very nice tee shot from the back over the stream and then to an uphill approach shot. 17th from the middle tees allows you to go for it but if short you might lose the ball and if even shorter you face a wall of bushes to an elevated green, not a bad hole at all!
Final hole in my opinion has a mistake and is a flat green surrounded by an artificial lake and lacks of definition from the fairway. I feel that water is out of place and the place offers the chance of a challenging green without water. It is understandable people may think water adds beauty but in this case it doesn’t feel right.
A very welcoming staff in these times, greens rolling very good and nice views complete a good combo for holiday golf. Some greens could soften slopes and platforms and that would improve design, but with what they’ve got they will do very well.
Santa Clara Golf Club was clearly created to share players with (or take away from) the course located 200 meters away, Marbella Golf & Country Club which has been a star in the region for many years. It is built on terrain slightly less demanding, has a sprawling clubhouse with an impressive flight of stairs to the main bar and terrace, and is surrounded pretty much everywhere by housing developments, some of them very expensive looking.
The condition of the course on this February, 2019 day was fair, not optimal, but still quite enjoyable with greens of average speed and lush fairways. On the day we played the tee boxes were obviously lacking a trim, but this may not be a habitual lack of maintenance.
As far as golf goes, good players will most probably like it because the design mixes long holes and strategy oriented ones. The starting tee is located in the middle of a flat little valley, with no less than four fairways (1, 9, 10, 18) parallel to one another in a rather cramped space where trees do not provide much of a screen between the holes. The second hole is a very short par-four, very drivable. But then the trouble begins with the first taste of the course’s par threes: they are all rather long and difficult. The first one runs for 180 meters from the back tees across a river bed. The green of the next one (the 6th hole) is perched on the hillside, you don’t want to miss either right or left. The third, the 13th hole, is not only a very respectable 208 meters long, but it has also water in front so unless you feel very comfortable about reaching the green, laying up is a sane strategy. And the last, the 15th hole, is the “shortest” at 173 meters, but again it is played along a sharp hillside so there is no room for error.
The par-fives are no bargain either, especially the 13th hole, 547 meters from the back tees and 487 meters from the front, a length which makes reaching the green in regulation not even a dream for most golfers and especially women. The 10th hole is also a challenge, with a river bed crossing the fairway diagonally so as to catch any imperfect second shot, and the third shot having to climb a sharp hill toward the invisible green. So what about the par-fours then? Most of them are reasonable in length and difficulty, even though the 12th is 420 meters long (but with a long downhill portion where your drive is supposed to land); it is a par-five for women. The 18th also spans over more than 400 meters from the back tees with a tight driving target across a river bed (but the next tees are only 323 meters from the hole!).
Average players may look back on this course and feel happy they survived the challenge. They certainly face an uphill battle to score well here. The top tier of golfers will appreciate more the variety of the layout.