The nice folk at Condé Nast Traveller know more about this kind of thing than I do, so I found the fact that they’d named Finca Cortesin “the best non-urban hotel in Spain” to be most encouraging, even if not the niftiest compliment. And that was before I went.
I won’t say the accommodation is spacious but I’ve known smaller locker rooms than the balcony we had adjoining our room overlooking the Mediterranean; seen smaller water hazards than its marble-built bath. The place isn’t just a byword for luxury, it’s as if hedonism is a by-law around the premises.
Set in a 530-acre estate, the hotel development opened in March 2009. The complex is a mile inland, just above the coastal resort of Casares, close to Sotogrande. The Casares Mountains perennially loom over the resort; in parts, the golf course looks over the sea. Airport-wise, Malaga is 50 miles away, Gibraltar 25.
And, of course, there’s the golf course, which I played on a couple of occasions, having managed to drag myself away from my all-too-short sybaritic existence in order to do so. ‘Luxury’ isn’t the likely go-to word here. ‘Long’ would more readily spring to mind. At 6,800 metres (7,500 yards) off the back tees, you may not want to go there, in which case there are three other sets for you to choose from before you get to the ladies’. Either which way, you’ll be in for some test of your game.
Pronounced ‘Finca Corte-seen’, the course was designed by Cabell Robinson. Since 2009, it has been the host venue to the European Tour’s Volvo World Match Play Championship, the most recent version of which was won last May by Nicolas Colsaerts, who beat Graeme McDowell in the final. Given the terrain he had to work with (think mountainous), Robinson has done a wonderful job. The hilly nature of the landscape means there are several lengthy walks between green and tee, or at least there would be were you ill-advised enough to try it without using a golf cart.
There are one or two stern carries across scrub-filled barrancas that cannot be avoided – if you’ve played the extraordinary Monte Mayor, also on the Costa del Sol, you’ll know the sort of thing I mean – but the golfing experience is a rich one, not least because of the several stunning panoramas that you will get to enjoy during your round. Although this was by no means the most propitious piece of property anyone was ever handed on to which to construct a golf course, Robinson has not succumbed to the temptation that so often blights layouts built in such an environment. He gives you room to play; you don’t stand on a tee and think there’s nowhere to hit the ball from there. There are some intimidating shots – perhaps notably the drives at the 5th, 11th and 15th – but then there are some exhilarating challenges, such as the prospect of trying to drive the green from the elevated tee of the short par-four 4th. If you thought that was a high point, wait until you see the drop from tee to green on the par-three 10th.
The course is designed in two loops of nine, emanating from the clubhouse, and has five par-threes and five par-fives. And the golf amenities don’t stop at the golf course. Ideally you may want to begin your day by visiting the driving range, the chipping area and/or the putting green. For a full work-out on your game, there’s the Jack Nicklaus Golf Academy. And from the terrace restaurant after your round, you can enjoy an almost aerial view of parts of the course and perhaps reflect on where some of it all went right or all went wrong.
Away from the golf but still on the exercise front, the hotel offers tennis and two gloriously located outdoor swimming pools, one of them of Olympic length. There is a magnificent spa, with a heated indoor seawater pool. The spa has seven treatment rooms, Turkish baths, plunge pools, saunas and, wait for it, a snow cave – you know, in case the heat’s getting to you and you want to go all Arctic for a while. There are also a fitness centre and facilities for weight training, yoga and pilates. You needn’t run out of things to do at Finca Cortesin.
Built around two main courtyards of impressive proportions, the hotel has 67 spectacular suites. The hotel’s design is inspired by Andalucian architecture – white walls, shady arcades and courtyards. Internal features include antique terracotta floors and old wooden doors, which have been rescued from European castles and restored.
Finca Cortesin has two terrific restaurants. Schilo has a formal dining room that combines contemporary and traditional design features and in which the open-plan kitchen serves contemporary Arabic and Asian cuisine. El Jardin offers a more relaxed yet similarly stylish atmosphere and its menu is more traditional Spanish. The dining room of the latter opens out on to a terrace with views to the Med and picturesque gardens occupied by 100-year old olive trees.
Guests can also order food from the traditional hotel lobby bar. You needn’t go hungry here, either. If the unspoken policy is to feast you so lavishly that if you don’t play golf or use their fitness facilities, you’ll leave a stone heavier, then the strategy is surely spot-on. With breakfast, for example, you get what you ask for plus a host of other stuff, gratis, that you didn’t order. And the food you didn’t request is invariably more delicious and intriguing than that which you did.
Finally, there’s the Finca Cortesin Beach Club, down on the Bahia de Casares, a onekilometre shuttle-bus ride from the hotel. If the beach isn’t particularly your scene, the 35-metre infinity pool might do the trick. Water skiing, sailing and diving can also be arranged.
In fact, overall there isn’t much that can’t be fixed here. Well, except for my hook…