Our travel editor concludes his review of the year by mixing some hate-inducing scenes from an idyllic island with a day from hell that might even make you feel sorry for him
Spanning 16 countries and 56 flights, I’ve spent 12 months trying to bring you ideas of where to go for your next golf trip (plus maintaining my year-round tan).
I’ve been to so many places this year that I’ve had to split my reflection of my year in the air and on the road into three parts – and I still can’t even include everywhere I’ve been. These are just the highlights/episodes of misfortune.
Anyway, this is October to December, which saw me walk along idyllic beaches, have my own rankings thrown in his face, and stand by the side of a Portuguese motorway with a puncture I couldn’t fix…
La Cala & Villa Padierna
In six words: Apparent ranking errors in southern Spain
Can I shock you? I’m not a huge fan of Spanish courses and resorts. A silly generalisation, but I find even some of the bigger names a bit tired and even complacent. La Cala was just that before Sean of Porto fame joined from Las Colinas.
Now it is polished, with new greens and bunkers on 18 of its 54 holes and a homely hotel that punches its weight. So, to be candid, it now makes its 2018 Continental European ranking look a little silly. Roll on the 2020 ranking.
Ditto Villa Padierna, which wasn’t even in my 2018 list and which was my worst ranking error in 12 years.
I had never previously been to it and they were poor at telling people they existed, but still. A bit embarrassing they weren’t in. With lots of golf and a majestic hotel, it (and La Cala) is a regretful illustration that mistakes can be made…
In six words: Paradise, turtles and an all-world par-3
Get ready for your intense dislike of me and my gilded life to turn into pure hatred. The Seychelles is as good as the pictures and mystique suggests. In fact, you actually become blasé about seeing a new paradise beach, so standard are they on the island.
We happened to stay at the resort, Lemuria, that has not just the Seychelles’ best beach but one of the world’s best, Anse Georgette. Then when you visit the other islands – which is a must – you find other slightly different corners of paradise: sail to La Dique and cycle round this land that time forgot, snorkel at Coco, and take selfies with the friendly giant turtles on Curieuse (which is a bit like the set of ‘Lost’).
— Chris Bertram (@CJ_Bertram) October 6, 2019
Add in a trip to Vallee de Mais national park to spot the rare birds and wildlife as well as the Seychellois’ obsession, the coco de mer, and there is lots more to do than just laze on a utopian beach. Getting to the harbours from which to get your boats via the tiny buses that circle the tiny island is another unforgettable experience.
There is also golf! And Constance Lemuria has one of the most visually spectacular courses you’ll ever play. The dramatically downhill par 3 overlooking Georgette beach is the highlight of a competitive collection.
Lemuria is on Praslin and we hopped over to there from the main island of Mahe via another Constance hotel, Ephelia. It is a huge resort compared to Lemuria but has its own giant turtles to play with and lots of water sports. They also have a two-course resort on Mauritius, Belle Mare Plage, so I’m hoping to be writing similar sickening words about it in a year’s time…
In six words: Defeated by bread and cheese mountain
Every year there is a travel show called the International Golf Travel Market.
The venue moves every year and in 2019 it was Marrakesh, where I’ve been before but was only too happy to return to.
It’s a beguiling city and the evening events at outstanding venues such as Royal Marrakesh golf club were memorable. So was golf at Marrakesh and Morocco’s No.1 course, Assoufid.
— Chris Bertram (@CJ_Bertram) October 16, 2019
And so was being the first person to eat the entire tray of food my friendly riad host presented me with on the first morning. Mehdi made sure I didn’t go back-to-back though, with a small mountain of additional breads, cheeses, meats and fruit on Morning Two. Officially defeated, and it wasn’t even that close.
In six words: A bit flat (not the golf)
The last trip of the year was both excellent and eventful. I was there for a second look at Continental Top 100 standouts West Cliffs and Troia, as well as a first stay at the brand-new hotel at Aroeira. Even though I have West Cliffs at 16 and Troia at 7 in the Continental list, I don’t think they are flattered by those positions – they are that good.
And so is Aroeira’s hotel; swish but comfortable with a dreamy made-to-order breakfast. That area south of Lisbon which has so many Orizonte courses now has a perfect base from which to play them. I was so glad to arrive there, because that day had been one of the year’s most eventful.
Puncture No. 2 of 2019 was exacerbated by the absence of a spare (January’s 10-minute search for the jack was like a dream in comparison), my bank cards being frozen (I have told them SO many times I am often using them abroad so it’s nothing suspicious if I am buying sardines in Obidos on a Sunday afternoon), and my phone running out of data and not even letting me begrudgingly buy more.
You see, for every picture-perfect Seychelles beach there is a seen like this by the side of the motorway between Lisbon and Cascais. Well, almost; the good still vastly outweighs the bad and that’s why I’ll be doing another one of these this time next year.
The best of Britain
The Roxburghe: Now under new owners, this elegant venue will rise in our Top 100. Included tomahawk throwing as well as golf and superb food.
St Mellion: Surprisingly my first time at this famed Cornish resort – the courses especially didn’t disappoint.
Tewkesbury Park: This was a big surprise. A perfectly adequate course but the hotel…wow. An intimate version of one of an elite venue such as Stoke Park.
Staverton Park: Good hotel at this Northants play and stay is backed up by a course that is way better than you expect.
The Belfry: Hotel is now a fine accompaniment to the courses, having frankly previously been underwhelming.
Where are you planning on playing in 2020? Let us know in the comments below or you can tweet us.