The Almenara Resort - A Golfing Haven
I have always wanted to visit Sotogrande to play golf so I leapt at the chance. We were visiting the Almenara Golf Hotel and Spa, on the coast of southern Spain. In the heart of the Mediterranean, there is probably no better place to escape for some winter sun and golf.
Each of the hotel’s 148 rooms offer breath taking views of the green gardens and azure blue waters of the Mediterranean sea. Choose from Standard, Superior or Deluxe rooms for the ultimate in comfort with tasteful furnishings and great facilities, including marble bathrooms complete with Jacuzzi, wireless internet connection, and satellite television. The rooms at the hotel were fantastic which ever you choose.
Creature comforts aside, It’s all about the golf, and I had the chance to play some beautiful courses and get my game back into shape after the winter. The Almenara Hotel boasts a 27 hole course designed by Welsh professional and world-renowned golf course architect Dave Thomas. You can choose any two of the three nines to play, and really does not matter which you pick, they are all as stunning as each other.
For our first round we played the Las Lagos ( The Lakes ) nine and Los Alcornoques ( The Cork Oaks ), “Take a few extra balls” was the comment from the Pro-shop before we set off which really filled me with confidence! But I soon forgot about this as I walked around and admired the stunning scenery. Water comes into play on five of the nine holes on the Las Lagos nine, so you have to be brave and accurate off the tee, but you are rewarded if you can do this as the greens are fairly inviting. Overall it is a tough but fair examination of golf.
Los Alcornoques is the nine holes with the greatest changes of elevation, and therefore you get some amazing views of the Sotogrande area. This makes for a slightly quirky group of golf holes, but this does not mean they aren’t enjoyable. The 3rd is a short par five with a high elevated tee and a stream about 260 years out running across the fairway. As you can imagine, having a go at hitting across it is lots of fun, and I’m pleased to say I managed it!
For our next round we travelled a short 10 minute drive from the hotel to play at a golf course called La Reserva. I thought it was fantastic. From the moment we arrived till the moment we left we were treated like VIPs, the staff were great, and it is clear this is how they treat everyone who comes to play at La Reserva. They really have got it right.
At the range, triangles of new Callaway balls were waiting for us to be hit off perfect grass. Once I had warmed up my swing I walked the short distance to the putting green to experience the lightning quick greens, 11 on the stimp meter I was told, but I’m sure at some points they were quicker than this! They were wonderful to putt on, you could hit a 40 foot putt that would hold its line perfectly all the way to the hole and gently drop in. Not that this happened a lot!
I have not played a better golf course in Spain nor enjoyed myself more. It is set in 180 acres and is 6,700 metres in length, built on a large hill so the views are out of this world, looking out towards Gibraltar and the Mediterranean. There are no weak holes and it makes a very worthy neighbour to next door Valderrama, it is that good. I managed to shoot an eight over par 80, going out in +1 but coming back in +7, as the greens got the better of me. All I want now is to have another go!
In all there are seven courses in the Sotogrande area, all of a very high standard, so you could be there for a week and not have to play the same course twice! You have the course at the Almenara Hotel, the beautiful La Reserva, but also Valderrama, the Alcaidesa links, the R.C.G Sotogrande, and the Old and New courses at San Roque.
Although I was very much focussed on the golf there are plenty of other activities available if you decide to have a holiday at the Almenara Hotel. There is a wealth of leisure and spa facilities that will leave you relaxed and reinvigorated. I recommend the Spa after a round. The water treatment pool was fantastic for my sore back and I love the steam room and sauna. About a 5 minute drive from the hotel is the Almenara Equestrian Centre and stables, a vast and very impressive setup with around 30 horses and numerous paddocks for riding lessons. This is perfect if you have a family and young kids and want them to have something to do while you are out on the course.
For fantastic shopping you could visit the Cadiz markets selling local food, wine, and flamenco crafts, or for the true cultural experience take a tour of the Grand Cadiz Cathedral housing religious treasures, including paintings and sculptures, whilst the Museo de Cadiz offers an awe-inspiring collection of 17th to 19th century art.
Gibraltar is also very close. From the town centre to the Upper Rock and beyond there is plenty to keep you entertained. St Michael’s Cave and the City Under Siege exhibition offer an informative insight into key events in Gibraltar’s history, including the opportunity to visit one of the first buildings ever constructed by the British in Gibraltar, whilst the Cathedral of St.Mary the Crowned and Gibraltar Museum transport you back to days gone by.
You could also visit the local town of San Roque. Here we were taken on a tapas tour which I highly recommend it was great to try some real local food and wine and was a perfect end to the day. You could also have a look round the bull ring or at the right time of year even catch a fight.
If you are looking for an incredible winter golf trip (or any time of the year for that matter!) I highly recommend the Almenara Hotel and the Sotogrande area. You could not find a collection of better golf courses in such close proximity and there are plenty of other great places to visit when you are taking a break from the golf. I want to get back there very soon to try and better my 80 at La Reserva and take on the great Valderrama!