“If you don’t like El Saler, we aren’t going to agree about makes a good golf course,” Darren Clarke states emphatically to NCG when discussing his favourite courses in Continental Europe. Clarke, behind his bravura and fun-loving reputation, is a student of classic course architecture and more specifically a confirmed fan of the work of Harry Colt. El Saler is not a Colt design, but Javier Arana was a devotee of the Englishman and his masterpiece here bears the hallmarks of the great architect’s work.
Many believe it to be the highly regarded Arana’s finest creation, and if clever green complexes and nuanced strategy are your thing, a trip to the outskirts of Valencia should be high on your agenda.
An exhilarating stretch begins as you play the 5th, which plays over the brow of an hill to reveal a classic seaside landscape.
It is a seaside course and if often described as a links but it is not close to the style of course we would regard as one in Britain and Ireland by virtue of the lush parkland grass, even if it does sit on sand.
There are also fabulous sea views, Mediterranean breezes and an enjoyably wild coastal element to the experience, especially in the second half of the front nine. This exhilarating stretch begins as you play the 5th, which plays over the brow of an hill to reveal a classic seaside landscape.
The 6th then plays away from the beach but you immediately return to the coast with the fabulous 7th and then the 8th runs alongside it via an undulating fairway just yards from the crashing waves of the Med. Its green sits in a little snug that is welcome respite from the coastal breeze.
The short 9th across scrubland towards the hotel ends a brilliant front half but certainly does not end the entertainment. While the back nine only engages with the sea at the very end, it still offers much too.
Instead here you play through mature woodland with hole after classy hole of nuanced inland golf. Some tree management would improve some of these holes further, because at times it is a little tight and too easy to be blocked out after only slightly offline drives.
From the moment you walk off the 2nd green, you are likely have been charmed by El Saler – and that includes Open champions.
The conditioning is also not at the same level as others in the top 20 given it is a hotel group that manages the course as well as the enjoyable on-site accommodation.
But see past those elements and you will enjoy the inland holes as much as the seaside ones, a fact you realise as early as the 2nd green. It is shaped like a skull and its tiers and run-off areas ensure every chip is full of intrigue.
From the moment you walk off after being entertained there, you are likely have been charmed by El Saler – and that includes Open champions.
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