Garcia, Ballesteros, Palmer, Player, Connery and Dalglish have all been - and now La Manga is set for an exciting new future.
What is the common link between Sergio Garcia, Seve Ballesteros, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Sean Connery, Prince Rainier of Monaco and Kenny Dalglish?
It’s an eclectic and star-studded bunch by any standard, so it has to be something fairly special to link those superstars and celebrities.
La Manga Club is just that. The original super–sized golf resort, La Manga has a pedigree no–one else can match in Continental Europe, starting with it being the host of five Spanish Opens from 1973 to 1977.
But it‘s much more than that, from its 54 holes to its Florida feel as a result of the thousands of palm trees on the courses, a character that is felt in its retro–cool iconic emblem of a white palm tree edged by green, aqua and navy.
It‘s true it has had some lowlights in more recent times but La Manga has been steadily getting stronger in the last five years and has just been bought by Spain‘s leading hotelier group – a sure sign things are positive for the Murcia resort.
The 560-hectare award–winning resort – three times the size of Monaco – offers some of the best views of the Mar Menor and Mediterranean seas as well as the Calblanque nature reserve.
La Manga is more of a town than merely a golf resort, with a myriad accommodation and especially lots of eateries and other amenities – so it ticks a lot of boxes.
The South course
This is often regarded as the No.1 course at La Manga and, walking in the footsteps of Arnie and Seve – who have both played and had a hand in the course – it has stood the test of time well.
It opens with a hole typical of the challenge it presents, the 1st looking fairly routine with room for error on the left. But lurking behind reeds on the right is a large lake and it eats into the fairway at just the length most of us will land our tee shots.
This is a common theme – water pops up at just the moments you would really rather it doesn’t. It’s a pretty start though, with the approach framed by the Arizona–like mountain behind.
The South concludes with a splendid par 3 with a lake all the way down the right, then a super par 5 where most will lay up short of the barranca, before firing over a bed of shrubs between an avenue of trees to a tiered green overlooked by palm trees and the hotel.
The North course
This is the course that receives the most traffic at LMC as it is a friendlier 6,328 yards than the muscular South, even if it begins with what feels like an intimidating drive between tall trees from an elevated tee.
In fact, once you walk down onto the fairway you realise there is loads of room and the biggest test on this opener is not three putting over the ‘step‘ in the green.
There is impressive early variety to the North while the last five are probably the pick: the 14th is a fiddly test between lake and barranca; the next a fine, long hole; the 16th a terrific par 3 over a lake to a large green, the 17th a tricky hole around the Academy and then the stellar 18th over a barranca to a tiered green.
The West course
Our favourite here and very much worth the five–minute transfer from the main resort.
It is very different from its sisters, playing between pines rather than palms given it is set in a huge protected forest that’s part of the resort.
It begins as it means to go on, a short 4 where a 336-yard hole is made tricky by a pond in front of a small green whose contours make chipping exacting.
A cute par 3 over a ravine at the 2nd and then another beautiful short hole at the 4th really set up the round – in fact there are no weak par 3s on the West.
The West isn’t always fiddly, but tight holes such as the 12th and 15th sum up its premium on accuracy.
Where to stay
You can choose from the five–star Hotel Principe Felipe or 200 apartments in Las Lomas village (next to the North course).
Hotel Príncipe Felipe has 192 rooms as well as an outdoor pool, restaurants, bars and several meeting, conference and events rooms.
The 200 four-star apartments in Las Lomas are perfect for families, with common areas that include two pools and restaurants.
Non–golf attractions range from the beautiful cove ‘La Cala’ on the Mediterranean side of the resort to the 2,000sqm Wellness Centre with 13 treatment rooms, saunas, steam rooms and Jacuzzis.
There is a high-performance sports centre, gym and a 25-metre indoor pool, plus an outstanding tennis centre with 28 courts including 20 clay courts.
The football centre has eight FIFA–size football pitches and the European Cricket Performance Centre boasts 23 natural grass nets, two natural grass squares, and six artificial grass nets.
There are more than 15 bars and restaurants dotted around the resort.
The new era
Hesperia Investment Group (GIHSA) has acquired a majority stake of La Manga Club and intends to invest in the improvement of the complex in order to create “the best leisure and sports resort in Southern Europe”.
Hesperia already owns, operates and manages more than 5,000 rooms via 29 hotels with six leisure resorts located in the Balearic Islands, Peninsula and Canary Islands, as well as 23 urban hotels situated in Spain’s main cities.
5 things you didn’t know about La Manga Club
- Gary Player was the resort’s first director of golf and was the touring professional between 1973 and 1977.
- In 1972, it hosted the International Maritime Cup, featuring film and sports icons including Sean Connery.
- Victor Garcia, father of Sergio, taught golf at La Manga in the early 1970s. It was here he met his wife and mother of Sergio, Consuelo, who worked in the golf shop.
- Seve Ballesteros was La Manga’s touring professional from 1980 to 1985 and, to open the Bellaluz residential, he struck three balls into the pool. Many smartly dressed people jumped into the water to grab the balls as a souvenir.
- Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish owns a property at LMC.