Golf plus: Andalucía’s secret weapon for enticing golfers off-course
Published on : Thursday, December 10, 2015
From festivals to flamenco and from white villages to water sports, there is no end of possibilities for golfers to enjoy away from the fairways in Andalucía.
The incredible array of things to do and see when they are not playing golf – often referred to as “golf plus” – is one of the reasons why Spain’s southernmost region is so popular as a holiday destination with golfers.
Avid players, particularly those on group trips, generally want to get in as much time on golf courses as possible, although for group organisers there are special events that can be arranged in historic or cultural locations in the evenings so that the participants can get a flavour of the traditions and culture still strong in this part of Spain. Meanwhile golfers travelling with their partners, families or friends will often want to see and experience the local area as much as they want to play rounds of golf.
Few, if any, golf destinations can match Andalucía for the diversity of its appeal. No matter where you stay and play golf there will be attractions both man-made and natural, all sorts of gastronomic and oenological diversions, history, art, local culture and other leisure pursuits such as horse riding, bird watching, hiking and sailing that await either right on your doorstep or within an easy drive.
These are some of the options for golfers when not teeing it up, along with nearby courses to play:
- Pueblos blancos (white villages): Andalucía’s white villages are clusters of gleaming whitewashed houses clinging to cliff edges or draped over hills in the west of Malaga province and in neighbouring Cadiz province. These timeless communities were built by the Moors in locations that could easily be defended. The clifftop town of Ronda, split by a deep gorge spanned by its cobbled Puente Nuevo bridge, is the most famous pueblo blanco and is the gateway to the villages from the Costa del Sol’s main holiday areas. Other notable white villages include Grazalema, Zahara de la Sierra, El Bosque, Setenil de las Bodegas and Arcos de la Frontera, regarded as one of the most beautiful.
Golf: Arcos Gardens is set right below Arcos de la Frontera and there are wonderful views of it and the surrounding countryside from the course.
- Food and wine: You can’t visit this part of Spain without sampling its celebrated gastronomy. The region is synonymous with tapas and you can savour it in many bars and restaurants in Seville, Malaga, Granada and throughout Andalucía. Enjoy the healthy Mediterranean Diet, now UNESCO listed, and a number of Designation of Origin products recognised for being produced and prepared locally. They include Huelva and Los Pedroches ham, olive oils in Jaen and Cordoba provinces, wines from the provinces of Huelva, Malaga and Cordoba, and the most well-known – the sherries of Jerez de la Frontera and Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
Golf: Five-time Volvo Masters host, the Jack Nicklaus-designed Barceló Montecastillo course, features a towering tee on the 18th hole looking out to Jerez. Sherry Golf is even closer, less than 5km from the city.
- Art and culture: Andalucía has long been associated with art, and famous sons include Picasso and Velazquez. Some of Spain’s best museums can be found here, too, with new museums in Malaga such as its Museo Ruso de Malaga and Centre Pompidou Malaga augmenting existing ones including the Picasso Museum. Other cultural institutions include Cordoba’s Julio Romero de Torres Museum, the Alhambra Museum in Granada and Seville’s Fine Arts Museum.
Golf: Play close to Malaga at Parador de Malaga Golf, the Costa del Sol’s oldest course, at Granada Club de Golf and Santa Clara Golf, both near Granada, on the Club de Golf de Cordoba course, 15 minutes from Cordoba, and Seville’s Club de Golf Zaudin, 10km from the Fine Arts Museum.
- History: The Phoenicians, Romans, Moors and many others have left their mark on Andalucía. There are five cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Granada’s Alhambra, Generalife and Albaicin; Seville’s Cathedral, Alcazar and Archive of the Indies; Cordoba’s historic centre; and Renaissance towns Ubeda and Baeza. Among other historic edifices are Malaga’s Alcazaba fortress, Gibralfaro castle, Roman amphitheatre and cathedral, the Roman amphitheatre and domed cathedral in Cadiz, and Seville’s Giralda bell tower. Follow historic routes such as the Roman Baetica Route through the provinces of Cadiz, Seville and Cordoba. The decisive Battle of Trafalgar, between the British and Franco/Spanish navies, was fought just south of Cadiz.
Golf: Jaen province’s nine-hole Parque Deportivo La Garza course is a short drive from Baeza and Ubeda. Montenmedio Golf & Country Club is 22km by road from Cape Trafalgar.
- Flamenco: Spain’s passionate music and dance art form originated in Andalucía and can be enjoyed in bars and other venues in Seville’s Triana district – one of its cradles – and Jerez, and across the region in cities such as Granada and Cordoba as well as fandango styles in the provinces of Huelva, Almeria and Jaen. There are flamenco museums in Seville, Cordoba and Almeria.
Golf: Real Club de Golf de Sevilla is less than 20 minutes from Triana and Club de Golf Bellavista is 15 minutes from Huelva’s city-centre flamenco venues. Golf Almerimar is about 50km west of Almeria.
- Festivals: Nowhere is the spirit of Andalucía and its people demonstrated more than in the festivals and celebrations that are held in cities, towns and villages throughout the calendar. They range from pilgrimages such as El Rocio in Huelva and Jaen’s Virgen de la Cabeza to the many Easter fiestas and the April Fair in Seville. Of particular note are the likes of the Cadiz Carnival, Easter in Malaga, the Jerez Horse Fair and the horse races on the beaches of Sanlucar de Barrameda.
Golf: Sanlucar Club de Campo lies on the outskirts of Sanlucar de Barrameda.
- Horse riding: The mountains of southern Spain provide some of the best terrain for horse riding in Europe. The trails of the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada and the hills between it and the Mediterranean are popular for multi-day riding breaks. Horse riding is among activities on offer at the Finca La Alcaidesa environmental education complex and there are riding schools and stables in the hills close to Mijas as well as in other areas.
Golf: Courses with horse riding close by include Alcaidesa Links Golf Resort and La Cala Resort, near Mijas. Granada’s Club de Golf Los Moriscos is near the riding trails of the Sierra Nevada foothills.
- Wildlife and bird watching: Andalucía’s extensive protected natural areas are havens for birds and wildlife. Magnificent griffon vultures soar high above the Sierra de Garazalema Natural Park, where you can also spot Spanish Ibex among the cliffs. Sotogrande’s Guadiaro River estuary is an important bird reserve. Other key areas for birds include Huelva’s Doñana National Park, Piedras Marshlands and Flecha de El Rompido natural area. Ospreys, spoonbills, greater flamingos, eagles, storks and bitterns are among species to look for, while colourful hoopoes can be seen everywhere.
Golf: Huelva’s Islantilla Resort has bird boxes and feeders around the course and bird-watching tours operate from it. La Estancia Golf, near Cadiz, has over 25 species of birds resident. Nearby Novo Sancti Petri’s 36 holes are all named after a type of bird and information boards similar to ones already installed at Barceló Montecastillo are being added next to tees. Ryder Cup venue Valderrama, in Sotogrande, is a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary where wildlife includes otters.
- Hiking and rambling: The region’s hills and mountains make for great walking. The GR7 footpath spans 1,250km of signposted paths through Cadiz, Malaga, Granada, Almeria and Cordoba provinces which can be done in small sections. The recently-restored Caminito Del Rey (King’s Path), an hour north-west of Malaga, is a scary wooden path suspended 100 metres above the Guadalhorce river. Senda Litoral de Malaga, a 180km coastal path through Malaga province, links existing promenades with new walkways. About 75% complete, it includes boardwalks in Estepona, Marbella and Mijas. Andalucía is also criss-crossed by Vias Pecuarias (old livestock paths) and Vias Verdes (green ways).
Golf: Lauro Golf, in Malaga province, is 40 minutes from Caminito Del Rey gateway Ardales. Choose from dozens of other courses spread along the province’s Costa del Sol coast.
- Water sports: With over 800km of coastline, Andalucía is a water sports paradise. It has numerous yachting harbours to venture out onto the Mediterranean, among them ritzy Puerto Banus, near Marbella. Windsurfing, kitesurfing, water skiing, surfing, kayaking and diving can also be enjoyed.
Golf: Los Naranjos, Las Brisas, Aloha and La Dama de Noche courses are minutes from Puerto Banus.