Finca Cortesin was placed at No. 11 in the Top 100 Resorts in Continental Europe we published at the end of last year. It was a nice position that so many others would be envious of, but it may have surprised some who have been there, and possibly even disappointed the resort itself.

That it wasn’t in the top 10 was down to one reason and one reason alone; it has only one course. One fine course – one that is regularly ranked among the Top 100 in Europe – but nevertheless ‘only’ 18 holes.

Every course above it in the ranking had at least 18 more and some 36 more. Finca was the top-ranked single-course venue and placed above some very big names and several  truly outstanding resorts. So it is in this salient context that its position must be viewed.

‘Only’ 18 holes or not, the Andalusian retreat is indubitably one of the elite golf resorts in the continent: the course is, as aforementioned, of a high calibre in continental terms; the amenities are first class; the setting tranquil and unspoilt; and the hotel accommodation close to peerless.

These dazzling walls characterise all of Finca’s buildings  and contrast with the vibrant pink, reds and purples of the flowers and heathers that burst from lovingly-tended gardens and around grand lawns.

In fact it feels almost misleading to describe Finca Cortesin a golf resort. It is a majestic hotel with an excellent course that would be successful independent of each other. They just happen to co-exist perfectly cheek to jowl.

Finca Cortesin

When you are in the hotel, if you didn’t already know there was a course 400 yards away, you might be surprised this is a golf resort. Indeed plenty of guests come to Finca and never entertain the idea of playing golf, because it is one of the leading hotels in Europe, not just one of the leading golf hotels in Europe.

Its location close to Malaga and Marbella also couldn’t be more misleading. The flesh pots of Andalucia could not be further removed from the classy idyll of Finca.

Moorish arches and jazzy wallpaper

The drive into this independent hotel, which sits with the Mediterranean on one side and the Casares hills on the other, is suitably dramatic.

It sweeps you past the end to both nines of the golf course towards a grand entry courtyard whose ice-white exterior walls bounce the Andalusian sunshine around the square courtyard.

These dazzling walls characterise all of Finca’s buildings  and contrast with the vibrant pink, reds and purples of the flowers and heathers that burst from lovingly-tended gardens and around grand lawns.

‘Finca’ means ‘rural estate’ and the 67-suite hotel was designed with that traditional look in mind.

Inside, it feels as if you are visiting a boutique monastery, as moorish arches compete for your attention with lavishly upholstered sofas, stately curtains and jazzy wallpaper.

It conveys the feeling of being somewhere special like few hotels in Europe and certainly like nothing experienced in the glitzy but soulless Middle East or the sparkling but staggering value of Belek.

Even breakfast is a grand and unique affair, with little dishes of goodness delivered to your table like 8am tapas.

The bedrooms continue the theme of sturdy luxury, all comfortable gingham chairs and stout upcycled furniture.

Finca Cortesín doesn’t try to dazzle you with shiny and showy. It impresses in the same way as being in the house of a rich relative’s house for a party used to you as a child, as you explored all of their mysterious rooms.

Where Finca comes alive

But Finca does dazzle in other ways. In its amenities, such as three swimming pools with a fourth at its nearby 6,000m2 beach club. Or a spa that features Spain’s only snow cave with bespoke treatments by French beauty brand Biologique Recherche as well as a very well-equipped gym.

Or in its food. If Asian food is your thing you will adore Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant Kabuki Raw, the premier restaurant that mixes sensationally good food with a bit of drama, with some dishes arriving on your table via little grills that have delicacies such as huge prawns crackling and spitting away.

Finca Cortesin

El Jardin de Lutz serves authentic Spanish cuisine while the Italian restaurant Don Giovanni might well match even Kabuki Raw. There are special pasta dishes such as tagliatelle with black truffle and ravioli giganti stuffed with bufala mozzarella and spinach. There is a predictably varied pizza selection and there are tantalising meat dishes such as sirloin steak with pink pepper.

Even breakfast is a grand and unique affair, with little dishes of goodness delivered to your table like 8am tapas. You also order cereals, delicious hot courses and fruit from a menu –but never do you leave your seat from the moment you arrive til the moment you waddle to the pool or the 1st tee.

And while all of this makes Finca one of Europe’s finest hotels full stop, you will also be impressed by the golf course, host on three occasions to the Volvo World Match Play Championship in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

Before you even set for on the course itself, Finca offers an uncommon quality in its sumptuous clubhouse, fully-equipped buggies with the latest GPS, exclusive bag-drop service, complimentary practice balls to use on the spectacular downhill range, a state-of-the-art Jack Nicklaus academy, fruit and cold-water service on the course and chilled towels during the summer.

These greens have to be experienced to be believed; they are the real-life ‘billiard table’ surfaces we all often speak off.

There are Honma clubs to hire that in all likelihood will be vastly superior to your own set at home.

The service is also exceptional, as it is in every aspect of the resort. This is a well-trained, well-drilled staffing operation, but not so stuffy as to make you feel as if you in turn have to be similarly aware. Guests have no trouble relaxing here.

So how does the golf course shape up? Find out on the next page…