Hacienda Links sits comfortably alongside such illustrious neighbours as Real Sotogrande, San Roque, Finca Cortesin and Valderrama

Even though the imposing presence of the Rock of Gibraltar suggests you are nowhere near the Kingdom of Fife and the crashing waves rule out Georgia if not California, overtones of St Andrews and Augusta National and undercurrents of Pebble Beach are all detectable at La Hacienda Alcaidesa Links Golf Resort on the Costa del Sol in Spain.

La Hacienda Alcaidesa Links Golf Resort

A once pretty seaside track called Alcadaisa Links that was principally renowned for its glorious views has recently morphed into a truly spectacular course that is surely destined to soar up the European rankings like a perfectly struck lob wedge.

Now named La Hacienda Alcaidesa Links Golf Resort, it sits comfortably alongside such illustrious neighbours as Real Sotogrande, San Roque, Finca Cortesin and Valderrama.

Calling it a links course will doubtless upset a few purists but the term is not as inappropriate as some might imagine. Kurtis Bowman, the American course architect whose unusual CV we’ll check out later, cites St Andrews as one of the principal influences on the design. For example, nearly all the greens allow you to land the ball short and let it run up to the hole. The old pitch-and-run shot, beloved by those of a certain age, will be a handy one to deploy.

La Hacienda Alcaidesa Links Golf Resort

In a further ‘homage’ to the Old Course at St Andrews, there’s a splendid double green at the fifth and 13th. The greens are not ridiculously fast principally because the ever-present wind would cause too many problems if they were.

The wind, famously described by Robert Trent Jones Jnr as the ‘hidden hazard’, plays a critical role at La Hacienda Alcaidesa Links Golf Resort. Like Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” they’ve even named it twice but, unlike the song, it has two different names depending, naturally, on which way it blows.

The Levante whistles in over the sea from the east while the Poniente puffs in over land from the west. Doubtless you’re wondering what those from the north and south are called. Apparently, they don’t blow often enough to merit being christened. Having two diametrically opposite winds does present players with two dramatically different puzzles to solve.

The dominant influence of the winds also manifests itself, somewhat surprisingly, in the shape of the tees. Instead of regular and rectangular, they’re more freeform, ribbon-like and much larger than usual. This enables whoever sets up the course in the early morning to shorten an into-the-wind hole and lengthen one where the wind is helping.

Okay, you get the St Andrews connection but what about Augusta National? Well, there is hardly any rough worthy of the name, which is what you really want on a resort course. Not only does losing balls dent the pleasure but it also slows the round down.

Although it would hardly describe itself as a resort course, Augusta National is famously free of long grass. Course architect Kurtis Bowman would know that better than most because that’s where his career in golf teed off. From a greenkeeper raking the pine straw, he went via one other job as an assistant golf course superintendent to join Jack Nicklaus Design in 1996.

La Hacienda Alcaidesa Links Golf Resort

“My time at Augusta had a big influence on me and how I ultimately design golf courses,” he explained. “The way that golf course plays, with ample room off the tee allowing golfers to find their ball and have a shot into the green, as well as the strength of the greens, are the two elements that feature in all of my projects.”

The Pebble Beach influence is possibly the hardest to detect. When Bowman first set eyes on what was then Alcaidesa Links, he said, “This should be the Pebble Beach of Spain.”

To be honest, it’s very different, especially as the US Open venue has comparatively small greens but what it does have in common with the Californian course is the dramatic frontage onto the water. You can see the sea from every hole and the distinctive shape of the Rock of Gibraltar frequently looms up large. If you’re exceedingly fortunate and all the stars are aligned, you may even be treated to a glimpse of Morocco.

The best hole? As it was for Herr Beethoven so it is for me, the fifth is my favourite. It’s a glorious, sweeping, downhill par five that reaches a rousing crescendo right at the start on the elevated tee and sustains it all the way to the delightful double green perched on the edge of the Med with the Rock of Gibraltar serving as a back-stop. Fabulous and unforgettable, it will doubtless become a popular image that will adorn publicity material designed to entice golfers to this quiet corner of Spain.

As you wend your way around this spectacular course that nestles comfortably on a broad strip of land tilting towards the water, you will be aware of developments literally rising up inland. Perhaps the most exciting of these is the resort’s, new, five-star, 150-room Fairmont Hotel that will be opening in 2024.

A rather impressive halfway house is also rapidly taking shape and will begin refreshing thirsty golfers later this year. It seems likely that all players will be obliged to take a 15-minute, half-time break to re-hydrate and reflect on how fortunate they are to find themselves in such a magnificent spot.

La Hacienda Alcaidesa Links Golf Resort

Already open for business is the restaurant in the shiny brand new clubhouse. Offering fayre that couldn’t be further removed from bacon baps, the Sal Verde quite simply served up the best meal I have ever eaten in a golf club. So good was it that I would recommend a visit even if you’re not playing golf.

But if you have both the stamina and capacity for five courses in a day, I would suggest the Links in the morning, a three-course lunch in the Sal Verde and finish off with 18 holes on the Heathland course.

Just as the Links is not true links, the Heathland isn’t strictly heathland but it’s a perfectly apt description of a lovely course that gently rolls along the top of the gently undulating terrain. Although sightings of the sea are fewer and further between, the views are pretty spectacular and the course is a lot more forgiving than its immediate neighbour. In many ways it is the perfect complement to the Links. Together they make a potent combination that will surely help establish La Hacienda as one of the top golf resorts on the continent of Europe.

Are you planning a trip to La Hacienda Links Golf Resort? Or have you been? Let us know what it was like with a tweet.

Clive Agran

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