Most people looking to play golf in Spain will flock to its treasure chest of well-known courses along or close to its lovely and lively 3,000-mile coastline.
And while the various costas are home to some brilliant designs, heading inland can be rewarding in different ways.
Madrid is pretty much right in the centre of the country, and offers more than enough culture, history and tourist attractions to appeal to the most discerning traveller.
The city has a number of pedigree courses that make it a very appealing base for your next golfing trip.
Designed by Rees Jones and Seve Ballesteros in 2005, Santander is laid out on what was previously uninspiring land.
This is hard to imagine now as the result is an extremely attractive course kept in fine condition with bold bunkering and plenty of water.
This becomes particularly intrusive at three of the short holes: the 7th, which is played from an elevated tee over the lake; the 11th, where it lines the green to the left and behind; and the penultimate hole where it borders the front half of a circular green.
Subtle elevation changes add to the challenge and visual appeal, and the holes are attractively separated by olive trees.
Designed by Jose Maria Olazabal and surrounded by farmland, there are fabulous far-reaching views to the mountains further north.
Unusually, the course opens with the stroke-index-one, a tough par 4 up the hill to a well-protected green.
Happily, this is balanced by the shortest hole on the course at the 2nd, with a chance to make up for any early lost ground.
There are semi-blind drives at the 5th and again at the 6th where a snaking stream awaits the unsuspecting.
There is plenty of wow factor on the second half, especially at the watery 10th and then even more so for the elevated drive at the gorgeous par-4 15th. Retamares is a family-friendly, informal club where the golf is fun and the views are more than impressive.
Real Sociedad Hipica Espanola
There are two very strong courses at this private members’ club on the northern outskirts of Madrid.
Both were designed by the brilliant and prolific Robert von Hagge, with the North edging it in terms of both design and setting.
The nines were swapped over a couple of years ago and so the course now opens with an absolute cracker of a par 5 with a blind drive to the brow before you head left and downwards to a fabulous green with a lake short right and a wall of bunkers protecting the safe line to the left.
There is plenty of drama all the way, with further highlights including the short 5th where water will swallow up anything right, the split fairway at 13, and the imperious par-5 finishing hole.
Luke Donald won the Madrid Masters here in 2010 as he approached his peak en route to becoming World No.1.
One downside of golf in this region is that it is not so geared towards visitors. A few clubs are ‘member and guests’ only, but some will respond favourably to a diplomatic and flexible approach.
Two of the more private are La Moraleja, which has four fine courses, and Real Puerta de Hierro, with two.
Club de Campo Villa de Madrid has a more welcoming policy, while the tree-lined course at La Herreria is overlooked by the magnificent San Lorenzo monastery.
The resort course at Encin Golf Hotel is great fun, and Lomas-Bosque has a lovely setting with the back nine bordering the lake.
Where to play
Par 71, 6,456 yards
Par 72, 6,518 yards
Real Sociedad Hipica Espanola
Par 72, 6,157 yards
Rob Smith has been playing golf for more than 40 years and been a contributing editor for Golf Monthly for over ten years, specialising in course reviews and travel. He has now played more than 1,170 different courses in almost 50 countries. Despite lockdowns and travel restrictions in 2021, he still managed to play 80 different courses during the year, 43 of them for the first time. This included 21 in 13 days on a trip to East Lothian in October. One of Rob's primary roles is helping to prepare the Top 100 and Next 100 Courses of the UK&I, of which he has played all but nine. During the 2021-22 review period, Rob has played 34 of the Golf Monthly Top 200. He is a member of Tandridge Golf Club in Surrey where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at email@example.com.
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