Golf in Spain: Murcia

Dave Thomas was one of the first to recognise the region's potential, the renowned architect and former Ryder Cup player designing and building Hacienda del Alamo, Altorreal and Roda, now the winter headquarters of the PGAs of Europe

Hacienda del Alamo

Some big names have been queuing up to add their signature to Murcia's growing reputation as the new Spanish destination for golfers.

Dave Thomas was one of the first to recognise the region's potential, the renowned architect and former Ryder Cup player designing and building Hacienda del Alamo, Altorreal and Roda, now the winter headquarters of the PGAs of Europe.

Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal, Manuel Pinero and Cabell B Robinson have all joined Thomas in exploiting the Murcia explosion and designing new layouts at Polaris World, Pareleja, Corvera, La Serena and Las Colinas.

Las Colinas is due to open to the public soon but is already eminently playable. Designed by Robinson and managed by Troon Golf, it's a most interesting layout with wide fairways and undulating greens and numerous tees on each hole.

The par 71-course has a full range of amenities - clubhouse with restaurant, pro shop and golf academy, practice area, putting green and driving range. "Without a doubt, Las Colinas is an exceptional project," said Robinson.

"The holes run across the valley and a unique aspect is that the valley and consequently, the course, runs between hills which are high enough to give it privacy and isolate it from its surroundings, which is not possible at other courses in the area.

"The development as a whole is really self-contained, visually independent from what is going on outside. This was what most impressed me about Las Colinas - and still does."

Corvera, a sister course to Roda, is set to be a real gem, Olazabal creating an excellent layout albeit flanked by an extensive residential complex. The centrepiece is a huge lake and some of the holes at the far end of the course are exceptional. Again, it can be walked relatively easily but a buggy may be needed if you play off the back tees (6,652 metres), but there are six tees on each hole and it can be played as short as 4,452 metres.

Close to the town of Los Alcazares and with an excellent hotel attached, La Serena is flat and easily walked but has water on 16 of the 18 holes and at 6,168 metres, Manuel Pinero's layout is no pushover.

It's a popular course with an excellent clubhouse and driving range with 14 bays, eight of them covered, along with a good pro shop, restaurant and changing rooms. The 8th and the 12th are the pick of the holes while 17 and 18 provide a good finish.

Hacienda del Alamo, another Thomas masterpiece, is situated near the village of Fuente Alamo, close to the site of the planned international airport of Corvera and 30 minutes from San Javier airport and is also within a 20-minute drive of the Mar Menor to the east and the Mediterranean and the coastal resort of Mazarron to the south.

The first of three courses has been open for a while and a superb clubhouse is also up and running and the golf is the focal point of a Spanish pueblo which houses the majority of the resort's shops, bars and restaurants, plus a five star Melia hotel is planned.

There's a wide choice of villas and apartments for sale and to rent but the jewel of the 550 hectare estate is the golf course which stretches to 7,300 yards, a real challenge for most golfers, but it can be played considerable shorter off the yellow, blue and red tees.

With an average 300 days of sun a year and a temperature of 21ºC, golf can be played all year round in Murcia and it's hardly surprising the PGAs of Europe have opted to base their winter headquarters at Roda and recently held their annual international teams championship there along with their congress.

Roda boasts the first PGA Academy in continental Europe with the latest cutting-edge technology plus, a magnificent clubhouse but it is the par-72, 6,755 yard course which is the centrepiece of the a spectacular development of villas, terraced houses and apartments.

It's also possible to rent the properties, which will interest golfing groups and facilities include swimming pools, restaurants, sports facilities and also a private beach club. The golf operation is managed by De Vere Hotels and Resorts who will also be involved with a new hotel on site.

A massive plus is that Roda is five minutes from San Javier airport and is located alongside the fantastic Mar Menor and also within easy reach of Murcia, Cartagena, Caravaca de la Cruz and Lorca so there is no shortage of things do other than golf.

The spectacular 190-yard par-3 7th is the hole that best defines the course with the green is on a peninsula and reminiscent of Sawgrass. The 9th, surrounded by slopes, bunkers and a lake on the left-hand side is another distinctive hole as is the 16th with its narrow fairway requiring an accurate tee shot.

The great attraction of Murcia's courses is that the green fees are considerably less than you will find in Marbella and the Algarve and the region is now linked to several UK regional airports with regular flights to Alicante and San Javier plus a new airport is planned at Corvera.


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