Spain has over 250 courses with many more planned. Most courses are concentrated in the main tourist areas and islands, and include Europe’s biggest concentration of golf courses – along the western Costa del Sol from Malaga to Cadiz, dubbed the ‘Costa del Golf’, where there are over 45 courses.
With the exception of a few months in the summer when it’s too hot, southern Spain has the perfect climate for golf, particularly during the winter, although Spain’s water shortage is affecting existing and planned courses, which are supposed to be watered with desalinated or recycled water. There’s even a floodlit golf course for insomniacs on the Costa del Sol (the Dama de Noche) open 24-hours a day (a minimum of ten golfers are needed to book the course at night).
Spanish golf courses
Spanish golf courses are invariably excellent and beautifully maintained. Most courses are located in picturesque settings (sea, mountain and forest), many designed by famous designers such as Robert Trent Jones, Jack Nicolas and Severiano Ballesteros and linked with real estate development. Properties on or near golf clubs (often including ‘free’ life membership) are popular with foreigners seeking a permanent or second home in Spain, and are among the cheapest golf properties in Europe. Some golf clubs offer golf shares, usually providing members with a number of free rounds or even free golf for life. Many golf clubs are combined with country or sports clubs and offer a wide range of sports and social facilities, including swimming pools, tennis, squash, gymnasium, snooker/pool, and a bar and restaurant.
Spain has courses to suit all standards, although there are few inexpensive public courses and it’s an expensive sport. Golf used to be relatively inexpensive, but has become much dearer in recent years, although fees remain lower than in many other European countries. Most courses are owned by syndicates and have annual membership fees. Most clubs don’t have a waiting list for new members or strict handicap requirements for non-members, although they usually insist on golfers wearing suitable attire.
Green fees in Spain
Green fees vary depending on the club and the season and in the north of Spain, fees may be cheaper in winter than in the summer or remain the same all year round. Fees at an exclusive club such as Valderrama (Cadiz) are as high as €300 a round and you may be restricted to teeing off only at certain times, e.g. between noon and 2pm. Green fees are often reduced early in the morning, e.g. for rounds starting within one hour of opening or anytime before noon, and late in the afternoon, e.g. between 3 and 5pm.
Many clubs offer reductions to couples, senior citizens and groups and have weekly rates. Note, however, that many clubs restrict non-members to off-peak times and it’s often difficult for non-members to get a game at weekends and during school holidays. Playing with a member usually entitles guests to a reduction on green fees.
You can rent golf clubs, golf trolleys/carts and electric golf buggies at all clubs. The golf cart has virtually made the caddie extinct and some courses are built in difficult terrain where it’s almost mandatory to use a buggy. Some clubs include the price of a buggy in the green fees. Most clubs have a pro shop with a club professional, driving ranges, practice putting and pitching greens, and offer individual and group instruction and a full programme of competitions. Clubs and a growing number of golf schools hold regular courses for all standards from beginner to expert.
Golf clubs in Spain
Clubs are usually members of the Royal Spanish Golf Federation (Real Federación Española de Golf), C/Provisional Arroyo del Fresno Dos, 5, 28035 Madrid ( 915-552 682, http://www.golfspainfederacion.com), who produce a detailed map of Spanish golf courses listing their vital statistics and an annual competition calendar ( Calendario Oficial de Competiciones).
Spain hosts more regular PGA European Tour events than any other country, mostly at the beginning and end of the season when the weather in northern Europe is unreliable. Valderrama hosts the Volvo Masters Tournament in autumn, the richest event in Europe, and El Saler (south of Valencia) hosts the Spanish Open. Spain is the second strongest European golfing country after the UK, although it has had to beat off a strong challenge from Sweden. In the last few decades, it has produced many top male professional golfers, including Severiano Ballesteros, José María Olazábel, Miguel Angel Jiménez, Manuel Piñero, José María Cañizares, Miguel Angel Martín, Ignacio Garrido, Diego Borrego, José Rivero and Sergio García, plus a number of top female golfers.
Golf holidays in Spain
Golf holidays are popular in Spain and a major source of revenue for clubs, most of which welcome visitors and often offer special rates. Some hotels cater almost exclusively for golfers and offer golf holiday packages inclusive of green fees (or reduced green fees). Many regions and provinces publish golf guides ( Golf Guía Práctica) with maps.
A number of free and subscription golf magazines are published in Spain, most with articles printed in Spanish and English, including Andalucía Golf, Costa del Sol Golf News and Sun Golf. There are numerous websites dedicated to golf in Spain, including Golf in Spain (in English, German and Spanish) which specialises in golf holidays and where you can reserve golf rounds online ( http://www.golfinspain.com). TurEspaña publishes a brochure including all golf course details and their location on a map of Spain (downloadable in pdf from http://www.spain.info).
This article is an extract from Living and Working in Spain.
Click here to get a copy now.