Although there are still large sections of the Spanish population who consider golf to be an elitist sport, available only to those with healthy personal budgets, the reality is that for many years now this distorted and stigmatised image has been fading as the sport has grown in popularity in all social strata. In fact, golf has the fourth highest number of federation-registered members of all sports in Spain, far exceeding the figure of 300,000 players during its more buoyant periods. The creation of publicly owned golf courses and academies has greatly contributed to the popularisation of golf, by making access eminently affordable. There are even municipalities, such as Benahavís on the Costa del Sol, where local residents do not have to pay anything to receive golf lessons at the public driving range located near the town.
With one-quarter of Spain’s golf courses, Andalucía is an excellent example of how public authorities have made a significant commitment to golf, which brings so many benefits to the region from a tourist perspective, as a magnet that every year attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors who travel to Andalucía, especially to the Costa del Sol, to play their favourite sport.
As part of its efforts to popularise golf, the regional government, through its public-owned company Empresa Pública Andaluz S.A., has spent years managing three public golf academies, located in the provinces of Sevilla, Jaén and Almería. The first two have their own golf course, nine holes in both cases.
The ministry for tourism and sport’s objective is for the three public golf academies in Andalucía to "promote physical exercise and grassroots sport, and to expand access to golf to most of the population". The facilities are open both to people who play golf on a regular basis, and want to maintain their playing levels through practice, and to others who are introduced to golf for the first time.
Located in the Isla de la Cartuja area, five minutes from Sevilla’s city centre, the La Cartuja sports facilities include a nine-hole, par-29 course, 2,614 metres long, with seven par-3s and two par-4s (277 and 253 metres), a driving range with 84 tee areas, and three practice greens (approach, chipping and putting).
The prices for both green fees and lessons are extremely affordable. The green fee for nine holes is €9.50 from Monday to Friday and €13 on weekends, while for 18 holes it is €16 and €21, respectively. It is also possible to play for only €3, taking advantage of hours at the end of the day with the “Sunset Green Fee”.
In addition, La Cartuja has a golf academy with very reasonable rates for players of all levels, and a wide and diverse range of lessons available.
Golf academy students (for the entire duration of their course) and students taking individual lessons (for one month) have access to a special green fee price of €6 and €11 for nine and 18 holes, respectively.
In addition to golf, the La Cartuja sports complex has 10 pádel tennis courts, a gym, and facilities for football, rugby and athletics. There is also a restaurant-cafeteríaa and ample parking.
The public golf academy at Parque Deportivo La Garza, seven kilometres from Linares, is the only facility for playing golf in Jaén province. The current nine-hole course – par-35, 2,753 metres, designed by Pepe Gancedo and a replacement for the old rustic fairways – was inaugurated in 2000 by Miguel Ángel Jiménez. Comprising three par-3s, four par-4s and two par-5s, the layout is characterised by abundant trees and is set in a natural setting of exceptional beauty, surrounded by holm oak groves, meadows and vestiges of the area's mining past.
The sports complex also includes a driving range, putting green, approach area, and clubhouse with cafetería service, shop and changing rooms. The academy offers private or group lessons, as well as beginner and advanced courses, all at very reasonable prices. For example, a 15-hour introductory course for adults (groups of four to six people), with equipment, costs €119 per person, and a six-hour advanced course is €50 per player.
To play golf especially cheaply, there are two types of subscriptions: “work” (Monday to Friday) or “holiday” (Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays). In the first case, the price is €88.50 for a month or €354 for six months, and the holiday subscription costs €66 for a month or €264 for a semester.
Holders of “work” season tickets pay €4 if they want to play on weekends, and “holiday” season ticket holders pay the same price if they want to use the golf course on a holiday (“día festivo”), with a maximum of 18 holes per day in both cases.
Members of the La Garza sports park have added benefits, including a buggy price of €6 for nine holes, discounts for tournaments organised by the club, free use of the swimming pool, free access to the practice range, and exclusive use of the "Golf Invitation” promotion (maximum of eight people).
The green fee for visiting golfers is €14 for nine holes, and if they want to rent a buggy for that same number of holes they pay €10. Young people between 18 and 25 years of age pay a green fee of only €5, and under-18 players just €2.50.
In addition to golf facilities, La Garza sports park has pádel and tennis courts, football pitches, swimming pools and a covered multi-sports pavilion, as well as accommodation in cabins, bungalows and hostels, a bar-restaurant, and a wide range of active-sport activities such as paintball, climbing, mountain biking, archery and hiking.
The El Toyo public golf academy is located in the urbanisation of the same name, 13 kilometres from Almería capital city, on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea and at the entrance to Cabo de Gata-Níjar Nature Park.
Inaugurated in 2017, it was the third public golf academy managed by the Junta de Andalucía to open in the region, after La Garza and La Cartuja.
The sports complex has a driving range 250 metres long and 100 metres wide, with 30 tee areas, and there is also a short game area with a putting green and a chipping green with three bunkers.
The clubhouse facilities include male and female changing rooms and toilets, a medical service, administration annexes, a classroom for 81 people, a cafetería with a terrace, and a storage room for golf clubs. The complex also has four pádel tennis courts, as an additional sport complementing golf. The car park comprises 115 spaces, with direct access from Avenida de los Juegos del Mediterráneo. The complex also has four pádel tennis courts, as an additional sport complementing golf.
The public golf academy offers courses for both children and adults, as well as private lessons.
Access to the sports facilities for individual visitors is €3.5 per day (€2 for those under 16 years of age and €5 for a family unit). Access to the practice area plus two buckets of balls costs €5, or €7 for four buckets and €10 for an unlimited number of balls. Renting a club for the day costs €2.
For members, the annual subscription for access to El Toyo’s sports facilities is €20, a rate that is reduced by half for those under 16 years of age. There is also a family subscription of €40 per year.
The prices for balls are cheaper than those for visitors (€3, €5 and €7 for two, four or unlimited buckets, respectively). There are also quarterly and six-monthly flat rates of between €60 and €140, depending on the number of buckets used.