Before heading to Spain, I was vaguely familiar with Sotogrande and its delights before arriving earlier this month.
It soon became clear it was a region of golfing greatness and a holiday destination that must be seen to be believed.
Sotogrande: The holiday and residency destination
Sotogrande is one of the premier sports destinations in Europe with water sports, tennis, and polo on offer in abundance, as well as four championship golf courses.
Sotogrande is located on the Costa de la Luz and it celebrates its 60th anniversary this year as one of the continent’s most revered residential spots.
The area was founded by Joseph McMicking who saw the potential in a resort to offer scenic views of the Andalusian coastline, exceptional facilities, and an exclusive lifestyle.
Sotogrande is regarded as an area where residents can relax with their families and partners, while also enjoying the many amenities on offer.
Now, Sotogrande is home to over 7000 private properties covering more than 2000 hectares of land, and this year, the area will see many different activities held to celebrate its diamond anniversary.
An outdoor cinema festival paying homage to six decades of film, a candlelit dinner concert, an exhibition polo match, and a 60s-inspired golf tournament across all four championships golf courses will all take place in 2023.
The Sotogrande Regatta will also return in August as sailing enthusiasts take part in the Sotogrande Cup.
The SO/ Sotogrande Spa and Golf Resort, where I was lucky enough to stay, is a 5-star property that opened in August 2021, located just over an hour’s drive from Malaga airport.
The resort features 32 suites (and counting) and a wellness club that includes multiple different treatments, a pool, a gym, and cryotherapy and physiotherapy facilities.
The quality of the resort was vindicated last year by winning the World Luxury Spa and World Luxury Hotel awards, while it has also been nominated for Spain’s Best Golf Hotel in 2023.
Sotogrande: The golf destination
There really is no understating the quality of golf on offer in Sotogrande.
Valderrama is ranked first in the NCG Top 100s pile in Spain, famous for hosting the 1997 Ryder Cup and numerous events on the DP World Tour. It is also set to host the LIV Golf League during the summer.
Between the four courses in Sotogrande, they have hosted World Golf Championships, DP World Tour, and Ladies European Tour events.
Almenara was recently redeveloped by Manuel Pinero and is a course containing 27 holes, based on the site of the hotel SO/ Sotogrande.
I played a very tight and challenging track made up of the Alcornoques and the Lagos nines, with the Lagos half being particularly pretty and well-designed.
There are hints of Valderrama all around this course. Holes 6, 7, and 8 of the Alcornoques weave around a lake, while accuracy was crucial on holes 8 and 9.
The Alcornoques runs through a series of cork oaks with wide, undulating fairways.
The 4th hole on the Lagos course, my 13th of the day, is a par 5 that curls superbly around the water, while the par 3 7th hole made clear echoes of Valderrama with its green tucked away under tall pine trees.
I had the privilege of playing at La Reserva, a course with immaculate greens and superb bunker shaping. It’s hard to exaggerate how well-manicured each element of the golf course was.
Designed by Cabell B. Robinson in 2003, it is clear to see why it’s become a must-play course in Spain.
There are numerous elevation changes with wide fairways, combining enough forgiveness and bite to catch you off guard.
The 1st hole eases you in with a wide fairway and a picturesque approach to the putting surface over a rocky creek.
The next two also feature generous drives, but the 4th hole becomes a little trickier with punishment left and right of a narrow corridor that opens up to create a superb scene.
The 8th hole was one to remember. This par 4 stretches around a large lake to the right, one of those that lets you know you’re playing a tour-approved golf course.
Even finding the semi-rough at La Reserva was very grabby, as I found out on the pretty par 4 14th hole that features a two-tiered green.
The 18th hole takes you back to the large, palace-like clubhouse at the top of the hill and epitomises the course’s dramatic elevation changes.
Real Club Sotogrande
Real Club Sotogrande was simply a showstopper and would be the top dog in the Sotogrande area if it wasn’t for Valderrama lurking down the road.
This, the oldest club in Spain, has fairways like carpets but they still gave you tight lies comparable to a links course. The tall, crooked trees painted an amazing picture as they lined the fairways.
Although the 1st hole is wide, there is trouble to the left with out-of-bounds posts and a large lake to the right. I luckily managed to avoid both with a low, scuttled 4-iron off the tee.
The short par 4 3rd hole requires you to drive through a gap in the trees, while later you come to the 7th which is completely downhill. Your walk down the fairway reveals a stunning approach shot with bunkers short and long and water to the right.
Holes 12, 13, and 14 were pure class and a stretch of holes that will forever stick in the memory. This sequence of par 5, par 3, and par 5 circled around the edge of the lake in a Floridian-like manner.
Then 16, 17, and 18 virtually loop in the same way, which I believe to be one of the most genuine and clever pieces of course design I’ve come across.
Robert Trent Jones considers this course as one of the top five of the 500-plus tracks he’s designed. It opened in 1964 and it was the first Trent Jones design in Europe.
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