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​Top 100 Golf Courses of Spain 2018

24 January, 2018
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Top 100 Golf Courses of Spain 2018

It’s time to reveal the latest edition of our Top 100 chart for Spain but it’s worth a reminder that, because we subdivide the country into five geographical areas, we actually feature more than 140 courses in mainland Spain, the Balearic islands and the Canaries. A recent KPMG report stated there were 349 courses in operation within the country in 2016 so we think we’re doing well enough to cover 40% of that number.

Incidentally, the same Golf Participation Report for Europe listed Spain as having the second highest increase in registered golfers between 2015 and 2016 (a rise of 28,000) out of forty-three countries surveyed and such an encouraging statistic (a 10% year on year increase) appears to show real growth for the game within the country, perhaps suggesting there’s less reliance on visiting golfers to economically support the domestic golf market.

And why would the game in Spain not be in rude health when there are so many first class courses where golfers can practice their golf skills? It’s true that some of the top clubs around the capital are prohibitively private, allowing only very limited non-accompanied guest play but, throughout the rest of the nation, there’s normally an opportunity to tee it up at even the most exclusive facility, even if there’s a substantial green fee to pay for the privilege.

Here’s a rundown then of the chart highlights before we reveal the full Spanish hundred below.

Holding on tenaciously to the top spot, the Stadium course at PGA Catalunya retains its status as the number 1 track on the Iberian peninsula, despite it falling one place to #4 in last month’s European Top 100 revision, which was only due to Utrecht de Pan’s meteoric rise to number 3 in the continental rankings. A reviewer last year had this to say about the Stadium course: “the condition is fantastic, bordering on perfection – the greens were so fast and true. Of the forty plus Spanish courses that I have played, this remains the very best for me and a real shame this as a Ryder Cup venue in 2022 missed out to the Italian bid”.

Climbing one position to number 2 is former Spanish #1 Real Valderrama, a course which did manage to famously host the biennial series of Ryder Cup matches between the USA and Europe in 1997, when home Captain Seve Ballesteros guided his side to a narrow 14½ - 13½ victory. Three months ago, club members were reported to have acquired the company that owns the course for 28 million euros and, in recent years, more than five million euros has been invested in renovating greens, bunkers, the irrigation system and practice areas. There’s no need to question the scale of green fee here when you realize the amount of money it takes to keep such a course at the forefront of Spanish golf.

Less than two kilometres to the north of Real Valderrama, the golf course at La Reserva Club is a Cabell Robinson new millennium design that jumps six places to re-enter the Top 10 at number 9, having previously been as high as #7 in the 2012 edition of the chart. There’s plenty to enjoy about La Reserva, as expressed by the last person to post a review who commented: ”would that I lived down here this would be my choice to play day in day out… the clubhouse is spectacular… the staff welcoming and helpful… the course is long and intimidating off the tips with slick undulating greens… it’s not cheap by Costa standards but you do get more exclusivity than some.”

A couple of Mallorcan tracks make moves in the right direction close to the top of the listings: the first of these is the perennially well-conditioned 18-hole layout from Thomas Himmel at Golf Son Gual (up two to number 7), which also holds onto the #1 crown in our Balearic Islands regional chart, and the second is the glorious Robert Trent Jones Jnr design at Club de Golf Alcanada (up five to number 16), located an hour’s drive away on the northeast coast of the island. Both courses are absolute “must play” venues for serious golfers visiting Mallorca so the advice is definitely pack your clubs if travelling here on vacation.

Another two courses make a lively leap up the standings and these significant moves propel them into the European Top 100 for the first time.

Rising a fabulous fifteen places to number 17, the course at Anfi Tauro Golf in Gran Canaria took almost ten years to complete – architect Rick Baril described it as “one of the longest golf design projects ever undertaken” by the von Haage, Smelek and Baril company – but, having entered our Spanish rankings at #39 in 2014, it’s now taken only four years to reach the national Top 20. Unlike any other 18-hole layout you’re ever likely to play, Anfi Tauro literally had a mountain moved to fashion the fairways on a really difficult site for golf course construction so it’s easy to see why some are so dazzled by their surroundings when they play here. Additionally, the course was a new entry in our European Top 100 (at #88) when it was published last month.

Soaring an incredible twenty-two positions to number 19, the course at Las Colinas Golf & Country Club in the Costa Blanca region is a Cabell Robinson layout that was complemented last year with a short game facility designed by Miguel Angel Jimėnez. Managed by Troon Golf, the 18-hole course has garnered a number of favourable comments from reviewers since our last chart reappraisal: “a very good course for one so young… during the next few years it can become even stronger… a modern classic that will thrill you beyond belief… has the right mix of demanding holes and strategically placed breathers… go and play the course and fall in love with it”. It also populates the #97 slot in our new European Top 100.

A little lower down the listings, the oldest course in the Marbella area at Rio Real Golf & Hotel rockets an astonishing twenty-nine spots up to number 38. It’s a Javier Arana design from the mid-1960s and this charming little track caught the eye last year during a delightful trip to the region that was encapsulated in the article Six Costa Del Sol designs by Robert Trent Jones Snr and Javier Arana. In many ways, Rio Real epitomises the sort of less well known little course that might just be awaiting its discovery along the Costa del Sol – how many others are hiding out there, we wonder?

Another course to advance up the chart at an even greater rate of knots (a rise of an incredible forty-three places to number 47) is the 18-hole layout at Golf La Moraleja (1) in Madrid. Set out by Jack Nicklaus and Desmond Muirhead back in the early days of Nicklaus Design, the course hosted the Spanish Open in 1986 and 1997 and it’s the flagship sporting facility of a private club that boasts four 18-hole layouts, a 9-hole course and a par-3 track as well as eight tennis courts, two squash courts and four swimming pools. It’s certainly a rich and varied sporting life at La Moraleja; more’s the pity that we’ve yet to receive a review for three of the club’s four highly regarded courses, including this one.

The highest newcomer to the updated Spanish hundred is La Finca Golf & Spa Resort on the Costa Blanca at number 46, which first opened its doors to visiting golfers in 2002. The course was laid out by Pepe Gancedo – known to some as the "Picasso of Golf" –and it’s the first of three courses operated by the Golf Quara group – the other two are Las Ramblas (#56) and Villamartin (#68) – to enter our new Spanish table for 2018-19. A reviewer recently summed up the experience of playing La Finca when he wrote: “there are no members here, so the vibe is holiday golf with players from all over Europe mixing in with each other which creates a happy atmosphere.” After reading that sort of endorsement, it’s time to get onto the booking agent, surely…

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To view further details of the Spanish Top 100 click the link.

We never claim to produce “definitive” golf course listings but we do take pride in publishing what we believe to be the “most informed” rankings that you will find anywhere in the world of golf. We positively welcome feedback so if you disagree with anything in our new Spanish chart then by all means let us know what you’re thinking via the “Respond to this article” link at the top or bottom of this page.

Jim McCann
Editor
Top 100 Golf Courses

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