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.
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.