Blessed with year-round sunshine and very enjoyable and varied courses, Gran Canaria has much to offer the visiting golfer. Rob Smith returns for a detailed look…
Golf in Gran Canaria
I first visited Gran Canaria in 2007 and was delighted to return ten years on to revisit the courses I had played – some of which had then only just opened – and play one or two that I had missed or which have opened since.
Anfi Tauro is the most westerly course on the island and it opened a decade ago. It is probably also the boldest and most dramatic design, with no expense spared in carving through the volcanic rock to create a genuine rollercoaster of a course.
The front nine is on slightly lower ground that is still elevated enough to offer fine views out to sea, and there are several standout holes including the two par 3s. The 3rd is played at an angle across a gully, and the 6th is a stunner which crosses a plateau to a palm-fringed green with the backdrop of a rocky peak and the ocean.
The back nine is more elevated – I would recommend a buggy – and there is a real heart-stopper at thirteen which is played down to a must-hit green.
I also loved the 17th which is a short par 4 played down to a green overlooked by a massive rock. On reflection, I would say this is the toughest course on the island but it is also beautiful and packed with memorable holes.
I stayed at Salobre in 2007, very shortly after the Old Course had opened, and it has now been complemented by the quite remarkable and dramatic New. The Old is a more conventional and very pleasing resort course with nothing too demanding to get in the way other than a couple of water hazards and some super-sized cacti.
The New could hardly be more different. It was designed by Ron Kirby and significantly upgraded four years later. The sign by the first tee says it all.
Dramatic is an understatement as the course rises and then plummets over the rocks and through ravines to must-hit greens. Not long, it is eccentric, photogenic and a perfect outing for those seeking something new and different.
The course at Meloneras had only been open for a few months when I played it in 2007. It is now mature, lush, and very enjoyable with two distinctly different nines. The opening holes run up and down to the north of the road where the standouts are the par-3 third which is played over a reservoir and the long 8th which works its way up the slope to a well-protected green.
The back nine heads down to the cliff-tops where the stretch from eleven to fifteen are exciting, scenic and great fun. At the lovely par-3 twelfth I was lucky enough to watch a pair of Harris hawks hunting, and there are lovely views back over the town, out to sea, and down to the nearby marina.
The course at Maspalomas Golf Club was designed over 40 years ago by Philip Mackenzie Ross of Turnberry fame. The par-73 layout runs just inside the massive sand dunes after which the resort is named, and is the easiest-walking course on the island with very little elevation change. This is a course of strength in depth rather than signature holes where the most enjoyable stretches are the opening three holes and the loop from twelve to fifteen.
Real Club de Golf de Las Palmas
My final port of call was the oldest club in Spain, the Real Club de Golf de Las Palmas, founded in 1891. It is home to the oldest sporting trophy in Spain, the Palmer Cup, and more recently has been the venue of numerous victories by Rafa Cabrera Bello and his talented siblings, Miguel and Emma. There are some terrific views and the green at the 2nd has a wonderful setting.
This is completely unlike the other courses on the island, and although welcoming of visitors, it really has the feeling of being a members’ club.
As a base for visiting all of these courses, I would recommend the hotel where I was lucky enough to stay – the Palm Beach in Maspalomas. This is just a short drive from the island’s southern golfing heartland and has excellent food, accommodation and service.
Gran Canaria is a striking island, and with its relative proximity to the UK and easy access, it is ideal at any time of the year for either a short break or a full holiday.