Travel abroad: Why not slip off to Spain?
If you’re considering a short break for some winter sunshine then look no further than Spain for sheer convenience. I should know, I flew out on a 7am flight from Gatwick to Malaga and was swinging a golf club by early afternoon. Thankfully, a full English breakfast on the flight set me up nicely for 18 holes on the championship course.
There are over 50 courses along the Costa del Sol and I was fortunate enough to play on two courses from my wish list, Finca Cortesin and La Reserva de Sotogrande. Neither was a disappointment.
Finca Cortesin is a golfer’s dream with an open, meandering course set against a mountain backdrop. It’s been host to the Volvo World Match Play Competition for three years and is a great test of golf with many water features and bunkers. Thankfully, its wide fairways still make it very playable, even for me.
La Reserva is longer at 5,104m from the red tees but the fairways are generous. This prestigious course is nestled between two spectacular valleys and reveals teasing glimpses of the sea. The greens are well-guarded but large enough areas to land a ball, although be warned, it’s easy to three putt!
I stayed at the luxurious five-star Kempinski Hotel Bahia in Marbella, a blend of Andalusian and Moorish architecture with its own frontage to the Mediterranean Sea and a stunning view over Marbella Bay to the African Coast, which is spectacular at sunset.
The suites and penthouse at the Kempinski are truly luxurious and frequented by royalty and film stars and the like, but even the standard rooms are lavish, stylish and spacious, with opulent marble bathrooms, private balconies and views of the garden or sea.
I deliberately decided not to indulge in the afternoon “Andalusian High Tea” of local tapas, pastries and chilled Cava as I’d already spotted the restaurant menus and had decided to save a few calories for a gourmet treat of local dishes and regional wines.
La Cabana del Mar is a beachside seafood restaurant serving local fresh fish, paella and grilled meat dishes like chestnut-fed ham, scallops and sea bass.
As a golfer I HAD to try the Kempinski signature ‘Golfer’ cocktail The Alminar Wine & Steak House is the main restaurant and specialises in the finest cuts of Spanish meats, red wine and fresh produce from the Kempinski’s own organic garden.
La Trattoria has a view over the pool and gardens and serves fresh and succulent flavours of Italy using the highest-quality ingredients like Gragnano pasta and carnaroli rice.
Ana, the Kempinski Chief Sommelier, has developed a Grand Master Wine Menu of over 300 labels and goes out of her way to choose signature wines from Spain.
Whisky connoisseurs will be in heaven at the bar as they have an incredible selection of over 100 different single malts from around the world.
But as a golfer I HAD to try the Kempinski signature ‘Golfer’ cocktail. This drink is made from a fusion of vodka, green melon, midori, spearmint and lemon sorbet – like a delicious, refreshing adult slush.
If you’re just looking to unwind and restore your spirit, then the newly refurbished spa is just the place to pamper yourself.
Therapists offer massage techniques from around the world and cutting-edge anti-ageing beauty treatments from the exclusive Swiss Niance range. Restorative treatments using Ligne St Barth products infused with blossom and fruits from the Caribbean and the anti-oxidant and healing properties of Themae Tea are also available. There’s a treatment for everyone.
Alternatively, just chill in the Relax area, have a Finnish Sauna, drink from the Ice Fountain or, for the really energetic, do a few lengths in the pool or try out the fitness centre.
Marbella boasts over 300 sunny days a year, so it’s well worth considering for a break in the autumn or spring to top up your golfer’s tan, enjoy some great cuisine or just relax with friends.