Real Club de Valderrama, located a few miles north of Gibralter in southern Spain, was initially designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones Sr in 1974.
However, it wasn’t until a decade later, once the club fell into new ownership, that there was a desire to take it to new level of quality and turn it into one of the best golf courses in Spain. That led the British-American architect to revisit his original design and and improve it.
There’s no doubt he succeeded. Shortly after the redesign, the course began to achieve the recognition its owner craved, first hosting the Volvo Masters from 1988, then the Ryder Cup nine years later – the first time it had ever been held outside the UK on European soil. The course has also hosted the World Golf Championships twice and, more recently, the Andalucia Masters.
But what is it about the course that makes it so special? One of the clues is in its nickname – the Augusta of Europe – which hints at the immaculate fairways akin to those of the world-renowned home of The Masters. As well as its exquisite condition, the narrow fairways are lined by cork trees while the greens are unusually small as well as being well protected and undulating. There are also doglegs left and right, meaning the course offers a significant challenge for any player – even those comfortable on parkland courses.
There are deep bunkers dotted throughout the course, while the signature par-5 fourth hole - La Cascada - is particularly memorable for its elevated, two-tiered green with a waterfall and a pond to the right. Further on, the 17th is the most infamous on the course thanks to its green with a sloped front that invites shots coming up short to roll back into the water.
Tiger Woods famously came a cropper there playing it in the 1999 WGC-American Express Championship where, with a four-shot lead over Miguel Ángel Jiménez in the final round, he contrived to triple bogey the hole before eventually winning the title in a playoff.
Given its superb condition and stellar reputation, it’s unlikely to come as a surprise that the club is private, although it still offers limited public play. Green fees are €450, while visitors can play no more than twice in a month and seven times in a calendar year. The daily window for public groups is between noon and 2pm. However, for anyone wishing to become a member, initiation fees are reportedly over €100,000.
Is Valderrama A Public Course?
Real Club de Valderrama is a private course. However, it does offer limited public play. Visitors can play up to two times in a month and no more than seven times in a calendar year. Green fees are €450.
What Kind Of Trees Are On Valderrama Golf Course?
The course was built through a cork tree forest, and it's well-known for the many cork trees that line the narrow fairways. The trees also guard the rough areas, and ensure the landing areas for drives are narrow.
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Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories.
He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game.
Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course.
Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.
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