Take a break to Tenerife
If you think you know Tenerife, then think again. It might attract 10 million fellow Brits each year to its beaches and display a fair share of saucy revelry with interest- ing tan lines, but it also has something of a personality disorder.
The late Seve Ballesteros saw this too, and it was enough for him to create a golf course that breathes his unique golfing personality all the way through it.
Tenerife has a split personality, a bit like the north/south thing we have in England played out behind twitchy curtains in Abingdon or propped against bar stools in Pocklington, and soon to be manifested in the HS2 rail link.
Luckily, Tenerife has the decency to conduct its schizophrenia in far more conducive temperatures than we face in the UK at this, or indeed any other, time of
the year. I was lucky enough to see it for myself recently when I ventured away from the resorts to the mysterious north side of the island. I say mysterious, because it was cloaked in a thick fog when we arrived.
It’s not often that Mrs Clive would rather spend a weekend at home than join me on a warming trip to Tenerife, but there’s worrying news circulating of an imminent volcanic eruption.
If she is to see reworks then it’ll likely be from the annual Royal Cotswold display team – like the Red Arrows but with less noise and more gin punch to ward off frostbite.
Golfing in Tenerife
However, the promise of unpacking my shorts is more than enough encouragement to have my clubs stowed in a Boeing 737.
Don’t let it be said that Clive can be put off by a smoking Spanish giant – did I mention I once outdrove Miguel Angel Jimenez?
If I’ve ever learned anything from reading the glossy section of the Sunday papers in the spike bar or the travel books en-route to far-flung golfing destinations, it’s that to find El Dorado you must head west.
Which is exactly what Seve Ballesteros thought when he happened upon a small plot of sloping basalt seafront on the Isla Baja on the north-west coast of Tenerife.
Buenavista has six par 3s, six par 4s and six par 5s and is as thrilling and enjoyable as any resort course can be.
At just over 6,600 yards it isn’t the longest course but it plays among some of the island’s most recent lava flows.
The greens follow suit and are both contoured and fun, without being too quick, and with equal opportunity of finding a slope delivering your ball hole-side or catching one that goes the other way into deep bunkers.
If you were ever lucky enough to have watched Seve in his prime then you’ll probably still be savouring your own tale of seeing a shot hit from the cup holder of Peter Alliss’s camping chair to six feet and making a birdie.
Not that it means he lined the fairways of Buenavista with deck chairs, or car parks, but you are almost guaranteed to share the thrill of making birdie.
That’s because four of the par 5s are both downhill and less than 500 yards long and the driving isn’t exactly as testing as the views.
Until you reach the Seve Mile, the final four holes that take in the full sweep of the coastline, where driving over cliffs and on to infinity greens takes you out of your comfort zone.
Seve said: “I have designed a unique golf course.” He was right!
Away from the course
Overlooking Buenavista is the Meliá Hacienda del Conde, an adults-only boutique spa hotel where mixing your afternoon aperitif is still a serious business.
The best place to reminisce about your golf is from the cocktail deck which takes in the cliffs, the old shing village, the sea and the golf course.
Behind you is the towering Pico del Teide which dominates every aspect of the island and is just one small eruption from ending everything, which gives one an opportunity to consider the meaning of all this golf.
To get a sense of these philosophical thoughts, yours truly first tackled some of the big issues which, according to the menu, are grilled tuna or beef sirloin.
Thankfully there were no volcanic explosions, but lunch was disturbed by one or two moments of exertion when reaching across the table to pour more of the Tenerife wine.
When you’ve had enough cocktails, dips in quiet pools and with your scorecards stuffed with more birdies than a ghillie on the opening day of the pheasant season in Glen Orchy, then you are ready to tackle perhaps the best course on the island. Or at least the most expensive.
There are few courses as strong as Abama and its views over the dramatic pink Moorish palace of the Ritz-Carlton Abama hotel – worth every one of its five stars. I must confess, I’ve played Abama before and it ate me alive.
It has significant elevation changes, more so even than my scorecard, but is usually in pristine condition, which I suppose it should be with 300 more grass-growing days than the UK.
It also has as many lakes as holes, boulders, waterfalls and a thousand palm trees making it very much a thinking course rather than a scoring one. The best of its holes is probably the downhill par-5 9th which has almost everything that is great about the course all in one hole.
I couldn’t muster enough game to avoid a painful 3&2 defeat to my partner Andrew whose commitment to the discipline of bogey golf was as impeccable as his 18 handicap.