The California-based architect Robert Putman – who also designed the North and South golf courses at La Manga, just a 45-minute drive further south – laid out the course at Villamartin, cleverly routing the holes over the natural, undulating terrain. The layout first opened for play in 1972 so it's one of the more established courses in the region with a classic golf atmosphere that will be enjoyed by players who know a good course.
The course opens up with a lovely left doglegging par five over rolling ground with the narrowing fairway framed by olive trees and then, a familiar site at Villamartin, a green with even more olive trees as protection! Another fine example of this arboreal defending is found at the short par four 7th, where the fairway veers right and downhill to a bunkerless green that's completely surrounded by olive trees.
The pick of the holes on the back nine are the 14th and 17th. The 14th is a difficult par five (rated stroke index 1) with a gorge running along the left of the fairway before a ditch then cuts across in front of the green. The par three 17th can genuinely be described as one of the great European "short" holes, measuring 220 metres in length, with a deep gully located between the tee and a multi-tiered green.
This is my third posted review for Villamartin the previous two from 2007 and 2017. The style of course remains ‘old school’ and as I previously reported a very strong members club with the obvious supporting visitors coming in from all around Europe. The course will be 50 years old in a few years’ time and remains as popular as ever. It is part of the Quara group that also includes La Finca and Las Ramblas and those courses are much improved in recent years and I really hope that those standards can be applied at Villamartin too. I am a fan of the course and if there was a serious effort to upgrade the presentation, the conditioning and give the place a makeover, then I am sure it would be placed a little higher in the Spanish rankings, with a Top 50 spot the objective, I think.
Favourite hole remains the par-3 17th – played up to 230 yards from an elevated tee to a severe green – one of the very best short holes not just in the area but the country.
It has been 10 years since my last Villamartin game - things have improved on and off the course which is great to see. Back in 2007, the course was not in great condition and the facilities were minimal - now presentation has improved and off course is now very relaxing, especially on the new terrace.
The club here is very much a members club, with many competitions each week, so the course is very busy but there are plenty of visitors slots too.
There are still the many blind shots that I remember but maybe not so much of an issue second time around.
A big hole opens the round; long and dog-legging to the left, with key shot the approach, which needs to fly the olive trees just short. The 2nd hole is reached and exited by crossing a fairly busy road, which isn't ideal but the hole, a 390 yard par-4 is good to play. I am a big fan of the 5th - an uphill par-5 on the edge of the property with great bunkering from the tee, on the lay-up position and at the green.
The green at the par-3 6th is memorable - plenty of pin positions available and a steep step through the middle. The 7th is a certainly a fun hole - only around 330 yards and downhill and turning right - this can be reached from the tee but you must take an extreme left line as the sloping fairway will bring the shot back to the centre.
The 10th is one of Villamartin's shorter par-4's at 340 yards but one of the hardest - driving through a narrow avenue of trees, out of bounds on the left, add in a large gully short and right and you have a tricky start to the back nine.
The SI-1 hole comes and the 14th and it stakes a claim for the signature hole on the course, a par-5 with water down the left-side that comes back into play 100 yards short of the green - the approach is to a raised green with bunkers on all sides; this hole has the highest tariff on every shot and a joy to play. The 15th and 16th, a couple of par-4's that can be described as a little up and down are just ahead of the best par-3 on the course, no doubt about that but even a potentially best short hole in the country for me (certainly of the 50 or so Spanish courses I have played). This is around 150-230 yards from the various tees that are placed high in the trees - an all-carry shot is required to the green that has a severe run-off short and some amazing slopes that splits this big green affectively into three.
The final hole is a tough par-4 that can divide opinion - a lone bunker and around eight olive trees litter the fairway - so there is an element of luck to your view of the green for your approach shot - should the trees be removed? Not for me as they are part of the Villamartin story which has improved in the last 10 years.
Villamartin is in a very popular area and there is a great community around here – easy access from two airports too.
I agree with the reviewer about the course. I have played a few times with members, who help with advising where to play some of the blind shots, not that I always follow directions when I have a wobbly day