The Costa del Sol is one of the most widely visited tourist destinations in Europe, for many reasons: its climate, its beaches, its landscapes, its hotels, its diverse leisure options, its excellent air and land transport communications, its marinas, its history, its cultural and artistic heritage, the cordiality of its people, its rich gastronomy... and, of course, its golf.
Two-thirds of Andalucía’s golf courses are located on the Costa del Sol, an area comprising Málaga province’s coastline and Sotogrande, a luxury residential resort located in San Roque municipality in Cádiz province.
The main attractions of this coastal area, which welcomes more than nine million tourists a year, are – apart from its 70 golf courses – extremely varied: gastronomy, beaches, marine ports, nightlife, shopping, typical villages, historical buildings...
Marbella, Estepona, Mijas and Benahavís are home to most of the courses in the province, although the sport can also be enjoyed in many other Málaga areas. For example, along the coast of the Axarquía, the región to the east of the city of Málaga where the golf courses of Baviera Golf (Vélez Málaga) and Añoreta (Rincón de la Victoria) are situated. In the hinterland of the province golf is also present: close to the city of the same name which is renowned for its rich historical and monumental patrimony, is Antequera Golf.
Located in Sotogrande is Andalucía’s most famous golf club, Valderrama, venue of the 1997 Ryder Cup, an event that highlighted the huge potential of the Costa del Sol as one of Europe’s premier golf holiday destinations throughout the year.
In addition to Valderrama – also venue for the World Golf Championship and Volvo Masters – the list of courses in this area around San Roque near Gibraltar includes Royal Sotogrande Golf Club, San Roque Club Old and New, Alcaidesa Links and Alcaidesa Heathland, La Cañada, Almenara and La Reserva de Sotogrande.
The capital city of Málaga, birthplace of Pablo Picasso and site of the magnificent museum dedicated to Guernica’s creator, offers beaches, a bustling night-time atmosphere, and an outstanding selection of historical buildings and monuments, including the Cathedral and La Alcazaba.
Located in Málaga municipality are the El Candado, Guadalhorce and Real Club de Campo de Málaga (known as the Parador) golf courses. The Costa del Sol’s pioneer course, and one of the oldest in Spain, having been founded in 1925, Real Club de Málaga extends along the beach and is close to Málaga’s airport.
Málaga capital’s tourist attractions are numerous, and are by no means limited to the city’s historical facet – which incidentally features a varied and valuable heritage in this respect, highlighted by the aforementioned buildings. The La Concepción botanical gardens, on the city outskirts, are a delight to the senses and feature a collection of unique species in Europe. Founded by the Phoenicians as “Malaka”, the city retains the vestiges of the different cultures that populated it over the centuries. Also settling in this Mediterranean enclave were Romans and Arabs before the Catholic Monarchs took control.
Marbella is a tourist must, especially for golfers. In fact, it has the most golf courses of any municipality in Spain: fifteen. In bustling Puerto Banús, home to ostentatious yachts worth millions of euros, or in any of the fashionable restaurants or terraces, you could find yourself rubbing shoulders with famous people from the glossy magazines and TV gossip programmes.
The “Golf Valley”, a superb area situated behind Puerto Banús in the Nueva Andalucía macro-urbanisation, includes Las Brisas, Los Naranjos, La Quinta, Aloha and La Dama de Noche, where you can play in the evening thanks to its artificial lighting system. Close by is the Guadalmina club, which has two 18-hole courses. Within one kilometre of the centre of Marbella is Monte Paraíso, and just past the city, in the direction of Málaga, is Río Real, whose picturesque course winds down to the sea. A little further along, near the Costa del Sol Hospital, is Santa Clara Golf and Marbella Golf. Greenlife Golf, Santa María Golf and Capopino Golf are situated at the eastern of the municipality.
Marbella has become renowned throughout the world as a high-class tourist destination. Apart from its hotel infrastructure – an unrivalled concentration of four and five-star establishments – the municipality is also blessed with a privileged natural environment and, above all else, an unsurpassed micro-climate. Thanks to the Sierra Blanca backdrop, the city enjoys incredible sunshine and temperatures throughout most of the year. This microclimate tempers winters and softens summers, thus favouring the development of a rich and attractive vegetation – splendidly on show in thousands of private gardens that add so much colour to the Marbella landscape.
Marbella’s 27 kilometres of coastline are dotted with three marine ports (Cabopino, Marbella and Banús) and a charming fishing port, which is also home to recreational vessels.
After Marbella, Mijas has the second highest number of golf courses in Málaga province, with twelve. Standing out as a popular destination for tourists is Mijas Golf. This expansive complex has two 18-hole golf courses. The same is the case for La Cala, which has 54 holes and a six-hole par-three layout.
Also in MIjas municipality is Santana Golf, a magnificent 18-hole course set in a former avocado farm, as well as El Chaparral, Calanova and Miraflores, and two nine-hole layouts, La Noria and La Siesta.
Mijas is known for its large colony of foreign residents, immaculately maintained town centre, typically Andalucian architecture, spectacular views over the Mediterranean, and a whole variety of other attractions, including the emblematic donkey-taxis – an unusual mode of transport which enables visitors to enjoy a very special ride around the town.
Benahavís is a picturesque mountain municipality much admired, among other reasons, for its gastronomy, which can be savoured at one of the many restaurants. Not surprisingly, the village is popularly known as “The Coast’s Restaurant”. Obviously, it is charming in many ways, from the typical Andalucian “pueblo” houses and streets to the natural landscape stretching out to the municipal limits, which border Marbella and Estepona.
Benahavís’s golfing credentials are outstanding. In spite of being a small village, as far as number of residents is concerned (around 10,000), the municipality spreads out expansively, with a dozen courses distributed among eight clubs: Villa Padierna (54 holes), La Quinta (27), La Zagaleta (36), Atalaya (just its 18-hole New Course, which is partly in Benahavís), Marbella Club (18), Los Arqueros (18) and El Higueral (nine, with plans to expand to 18). There is another 18-hole course, Monte Mayor, but it has been closed for several years. The hilly terrain forms an integral part of most of these courses.
Benahavís has the highest number of golf courses in proportion to its population of any municipality in Spain.
Estepona is another municipality with impressive golf facilities: Atalaya (two 18-hole courses); El Paraíso, designed by Gary Player; Valle Romano; Estepona Golf; Coto de la Serena, La Resina and El Campanario. Tradition and modernity blend together perfectly in this small city, with an “old town” that retains its Andalucian charm - narrow streets, whitewashed houses and flower-bedecked balconies.
One of the main centres of activity in the municipality is the marine port, located at the western end of the town. It comprises 400 mooring berths and a lively day and nightlife thanks to the presence of numerous establishments.
Gastronomy is another of Estepona’s “main dishes”. It would be difficult not to find a restaurant to satisfy your tastes, as there are no less than 200 in the municipality. The bars, cafeterias, pubs and discotheques also offer a wide variety of environments - 400 in total – for everyone.
Continuing west along the coast is La Duquesa, designed by Robert Trent Jones, in Manilva municipality, and Doña Julia and Finca Cortesín in Casares municipality. Finca Cortesín was the venue for three World Match Play Championships in 2009, 2011 and 2012.
COSTA DEL SOL IN CÁDIZ PROVINCE
The Cádiz area of the Costa del Sol includes San Roque municipality, with its Sotogrande macro-urbanisation and the internationally renowned Valderrama course, venue for the historic 1997 Ryder Cup, the first Cup match held outside the British Isles on European continental soil. The urbanisation is also home to other famous golf courses such as Royal Sotogrande, The San Roque Club (two 18-hole courses) and La Reserva. Other courses in the area are Almenara and the Costa del Sol’s first municipal (public) golf course La Cañada, whose first nine holes were designed by Robert Trent Jones and the second by Dave Thomas, a former Ryder Cup player and designer of The Belfry together with Peter Alliss. Elsewhere in the Campo de Gibraltar area is Alcaidesa resort, with its two 18-hole courses.
EASTERN COSTA DEL SOL
There are two golf courses at the eastern end of the Costa del Sol, in the Axarquia area: Añoreta and Baviera, both designed by José María Cañizares, twice winner of the World Cup for Spain. The Axarquía has the highest number of municipalities of any area in Málaga province. It is characterised by expansive natural areas comprising mountain ranges and peaks, hillsides, slopes and wide beaches, as well as superb local cuisine and a magnificent cultural heritage. Its picturesque villages have managed to maintain the classic colour and beauty of their streets, squares, monuments and popular festivals.
Golf can also be played in Málaga province’s inland areas such as Antequera, a city packed with exceptional monuments thanks to a venerable historical past that is reflected in more than 50 buildings featuring both religious and civil architectural styles and dating between the Bronze Age and 18th century. Several centuries of history are highlighted in dolmens, colleges, churches, convents, palaces, arches, doors, fortresses, chapels, hermitages, stately homes and mansions – even in the town’s urban area. Antequera stands out not only for its historical attractions but also for its natural setting, including the fertile Vega meadowlands and El Torcal, an amazing karstic landscape that takes us back millions of years in the planet’s history. The 18-hole Antequera Golf resort course is close to the city centre.