Azata Golf, the magnificent course in Estepona designed by Sterling & Martin, opened to the public on 25 June. It has, therefore, now been a little over half a year since its birth. Here, with director Agustín Alonso, we analyse developments during those first six months at the only golf course built on the Costa del Sol in a decade.
"I am," says Agustín, "very satisfied with how everything has progressed since we opened the course to the public, despite the difficult, unprecedented and uncertain times that we are living through. The first two months after opening, July and August, were really good. Without any other golf course “history” to use as a reference point, we can’t know for sure, but I think that period was, quite frankly, positive and perhaps even better than our most optimistic expectations, given the circumstances.
“Then, in September and October, with the worsening of the pandemic, the hotels that closed, the flights that didn’t arrive.... we noticed a sudden halt, a slump. However, we have focused on local players and residential tourism, those who have a second residence here, both Spanish and foreign, and we have actually achieved a very good response. We maintain medium levels of activity, especially from Thursday to Sunday, which other more established courses would be happy with, and that with hardly any members.”
What do you recommend to residents and local players? Monthly subscriptions? Annual?
We have a wide variety of options – monthly, quarterly, half-yearly and annual season tickets, with or without buggies – which cater for all needs. The course can be played on foot, but I recommend using a buggy. The price of green fees is very, very competitive compared with other courses in the area.
"We have", says Alonso, "a fairly comfortable and suitable course for players of all levels. The front nine can be a little scary, perhaps, as it is slightly more technical, but the back nine is a lot of fun, with many birdie options and the opportunity of achieving a good score.
People, in general, like the course. The feedback I have received is that the first time they come here it takes them a while to get used to it all, because they’re not familiar with the layout, but after that initial experience everything changes. "Hey,” they tell me, “this course is very good"... as if they have made a major and unexpected discovery. After the third visit they have no no doubts: "This is an exceptional course, and I want to buy a season ticket."
How has the course itself evolved over those first six months?
Little by little it is maturing. We have also learned a lot, because the first year of a golf course always requires some adaptations, to see how the greens respond with players, which is the most sensitive area of the course. Also, how the fairways respond, although the bermuda is much-appreciated.
You also have to take into account players’ opinions. The eighth hole, for example, which is handicap one, requires ongoing playing experience for us to assess its degree of difficulty: should we move the tee further forward, further back; should we plant a tree here or leave the rough higher to hold the ball...
You always have to be very attentive, to make small corrections or adaptations that the course requires because, as they say, it’s a living organism. In general, the course has matured very well in just the six months since it opened. In particular, we have some spectacular greens that everyone compares with the best ones on the Costa del Sol.
In recent months you have also continued with the pending works: clubhouse, driving range, etc…
Yes, although we have focused a lot on the layout, we already have the clubhouse practically completed, and it is looking spectacular, very modern. The driving range is also well-advanced, and we will be opening it in spring.
"I am,” stresses the Azata Golf director, "very satisfied with the results achieved in these few months that we have been open. We are keeping pace with what we had planned, and are adapting to whatever the pandemic allows us to do – and very well. We are aware that we opened at the most difficult time possible, in the low season and between pandemic ‘waves’. We have been very bold but the result is really pleasing. The best thing is that most people really like the course.”