Tenerife: A golf Island for all seasons
The call came from some of the regular Saturday afternoon crowd expressing the need for some club championship training. I half expected a trip down the range followed by log lifting and perhaps a super-set of squat thrusts thrown in. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Turns out they were looking for some holiday golf and guaranteed sun, perhaps a flight and a few thousand miles from the uncertainty of the English summer.
The last place I expected to find myself in was Tenerife in July. ‘Tenerife in July?’ I hear you say. Well, it’s not as mad you’d think. Tenerife lies slightly above the tropics, boasting a consistent temperature of 25˚C all year round. July isn’t the main tourist season either, meaning empty golf courses and more importantly, the chance to experience sub-four hour rounds.
There are eight courses in Tenerife and our four-day trip was enough to sample five. Entering the Ritz-Carlton is a bit like being swallowed by a citadel dedicated to the goddess of excess. It has 14 restaurants (including one that is Michelin-starred) and buying the wife a gift from one of its boutique stores might well have blown the week’s budget.
Thankfully not blowing the next morning was the wind. Ritz-Carlton Abama Golf sits on an enormous piece of land above the hotel, looking out towards the island of La Gomera and the Atlantic Ocean. It has thousands of palm trees and an abundance of strategically placed lakes.
The course varies in height over 230m and hugs the hillside like a velcro snake, going uphill, around the hill and then, frighteningly, downhill, making club selection a constant puzzle. If I’d hit driver all day I imagine the value of Titleist shares would have risen sharply.
The best hole on the course is the downhill, dog-legging left, par-5 10th. The tee shot is straight down, with three lakes dominating the entire left-hand side, trees and bunkers on the right and the hotel offering a stunning backdrop behind the green. Abama is a quality facility that has already hosted many professional events.
Later that day our group thought it beneficial to experience some altitude training, so we took a trip up Mount Teide,
Europe’s highest volcano. Sky Pro Cycling also train here though I’m pretty sure Chris Froome didn’t consume as much Estrella as we did during his Tour de France preparation.
Back at sea-level our next challenge was Golf Costa Adeje, a regular stop on the LET. Its most interesting feature is the terraced walls in the middle of fairways, a remnant of the banana plantation the course was built on. The best example is the 4th, played downhill, where the fairway is a series of terraced plateaux.
Adeje has a bit of everything, it sweeps its way towards the ocean on the front nine, before heading back up through a housing development. Through holes nine to 13 it has a feel of a Spanish parkland course before setting up a particularly tough finish in front of the clubhouse comprising a par 3, 4 and 5. Its best holes are its par 3s, notably the 5th and 7th that play across cactus-filled barrancas.
Comparing Abama to Adeje might well be like comparing Waitrose to Aldi. With a green fee of 190 euros at Abama and just 59 for Adeje you might find yourself shopping at the latter more often. Our next stop was the Sandos San Blas Nature Resort, a large, all-inclusive hotel complete with eight swimming pools and Tatooine-style underground corridors.
Tecina Golf on the island of La Gomera required an early start, negotiating the maze of passages through the hotel to find reception was only the first leg of the journey. It also requires a one-hour ferry (don’t forget your passport) and another 40-minute bus ride over the mountains that pass through tunnels, ravines, old banana plantations, the odd stray goat and the even strayer La Gomera giant lizard!
There is something slightly underwhelming about Tecina’s clubhouse and practice facilities, it has a shabby colonial feel Cecil Rhodes might have been familiar with. All doubt about its character is removed on the 1st tee, which presents diamond views across to Tenerife, Mount Teide, Gran Canaria and the rest of the course stretching out
The first tee is a 700m buggy ride straight up the mountain, it then zig-zags its way down the hill. Rumour has it designer Donald Steel asked a local five-year-old to draw lightning on a map of the hillside and – voila – he had his course routing!
There is just one uphill hole, the rest head down, among them two of the most breathtaking holes you are ever likely to play: the par-3 4th is played to a green 50m below with an endless ravine swallowing anything left; and the 10th is a par 4 played downhill (they are all downhill!) to a strategic plateau in the middle of a cactus fi eld. From there
another carry is required to a green seemingly nestled in the Atlantic.
For all its scenery and impressive views, Tecina still has teeth. It can be both firm and windy and at one point our fourball hit eight tee shots at the driveable par-4 13th. We found just three! One of the fi rst courses on the island was
Golf del Sur. As newer courses arrive, it’s hard to imagine Jose Maria Olazábal winning here on the European Tour. back in 1989. Perhaps it’s still living on past glories, but it was looking a little unloved when we played it.
It has three nine-hole loops, the North, South and Links, and one of the group had he bright idea of playing a Texas scramble. The South course is the best with great volcanic black sand bunkering and a variety of interesting and demanding holes. The sight of one drive down the 18th that brought a car to a screeching halt as it bounced on the road in front of it will forever be ingrained in my memory.
Finally there is Golf Las Americas, a great resort track to finish on. Set in the middle of the tourist centre of Los Cristianos and surrounded on all sides by residential blocks and hotels, it has a good selection of holes, not the hardest on the island but enough to maintain interest and enjoyment throughout.
So there it is, Tenerife, in July, not as hot as we expected, but plenty of top-class golf on offer. All varied enough to test anything my home course can offer, except perhaps the thick, wet grass and abundance of mole hills.