Murcia is gearing up to challenge Marbella and the Costa del Sol as Spain’s golfing magnet.
There may be only 15 courses in the Murcia region, but 38 more are planned and if the four I visited on a recent trip to the region is anything to go by, the Costa del Sol would do well to treat the Murcia challenge seriously.
With Alicante airport now regularly linked to several UK regional airports and San Javier airport also coming on stream, With Alicante airport now regularly linked to several UK regional airports and San Javier already up and running, there are plans for a new airport at Corvera which should be ready in the middle of 2010 and that is just over 10 minutes from Murcia city.
Murcia is becoming more reachable and with many other attractions and a slightly less frenetic pace than Marbella, it seems certain to prove a viable alternative.
Especially when the courses are of the quality I found at Dave Thomas’s Roda lay-out, Peraleja – a fine Seve Ballesteros creation, a rejuvenated La Manga, and my personal favourite, Hacienda del Alamo, another Thomas masterpiece, now fulfilling the promise it showed when it opened six years ago.
With an average 300 days of sun a year and a temperature of 21ºC, golf can be played all year round in Murcia and it’s hardly surprising the PGAs of Europe have opted to base their winter headquarters at Roda and recently held their annual international teams championship there along with their congress in Murcia plus a revival of the Media Masters Tournament, backed by Roda’s owners Calidona, Glenmuir and Murcia’s Culture and Tourism department.
Roda boasts the first PGA Academy in continental Europe with the latest cutting-edge technology plus, a magnificent clubhouse but it is the par-72, 6,755 yard course which is the centrepiece of the a spectacular development of villas, terraced houses and apartments.
It’s also possible to rent the properties, which will interest golfing groups and facilities include swimming pools, restaurants, sports facilities and also a private beach club.
The golf operation is managed by De Vere Hotels and Resorts through Mike Maloney – who will also be involved with a new hotel on site – and both he and De Vere have many years of expertise handling major European Tour events including the Ryder Cup at The Belfry four times.
A massive plus is that Roda is five minutes from San Javier airport and is located alongside the fantastic Mar Menor and also within easy reach of Murcia, Cartagena, Caravaca de la Cruz and Lorca so there is no shortage of things do outwith the golf.
Dave Thomas is rightly proud of his creation at Roda and has shaped the landscape into an undulating terrain which provides a challenging test and incorporates three lakes.
The par four fourth, with stroke index one is one hole which sticks in the mind, but the spectacular 190 yard par three seventh is the hole that best defines the course with the green is on a peninsula and reminiscent of Sawgrass.
The ninth, surrounded by slopes, bunkers and a lake on the left-hand side is another distinctive hole as is the 16th with its narrow fairway requiring an accurate tee shot.
Hacienda del Alamo Resort is situated near the village of Fuente Alamo, close to the site of the planned international airport of Corvera and 30 minutes from San Javier airport and is also within a 20 minute drive of the Mar Menor to the east and the Mediterranean and the coastal resort of Mazarron to the south.
The first of three courses has been open for a while and a superb clubhouse is also up and running and the golf is the focal point of a Spanish pueblo which will house the majority of the resort’s shops, bars and restaurants, plus a five star Melia hotel.
Like Roda, there’s a wide choice of villas and apartments for sale and to rent but the jewel of the 550 hectare estate is the golf course which stretches to 7,300 yards, a real challenge for most golfers, but it can be played considerable shorter off the yellow, blue and red tees.
Two loops of nine each incorporate two par threes and two par fives and it’s not an easy start with two long par fours while the eighth is great par three with water everywhere and the 18th is as good a finishing hole as I’ve seen.
If you think the start at Hacienda is tough, you ain’t seen nothing yet because Peraleja has a real couple of backside tighteners.
Hardly surprising as it’s been designed by Seve Ballesteros, but once you get past the start it turns out to be a wonderful course, with plenty of opportunities and is a real joy to play.
Peraleja Golf features individually designed houses reflecting the local architecture and they blend quite beautifully into the natural setting of the area as does the ultra-modern clubhouse.
The resort is situated 200 metres above sea level and enjoys impressive views of the surrounding mountains and the Mar Menor. There are plans for hotel, sports areas, shops and restaurants.
Ballesteros can be somewhat eccentric in his designs and with water all the way long the left of the first and out of bounds of the right and then more water all around the short second, many will think “here we go” but there are some wonderful holes, especially the ninth and 11th while 16 is a joy while 17 is just as good. Nice one Seve!
From three resorts on their way to completion to one established as one of Europe’s finest resorts. Visiting La Manga again is like returning to see an old friend.
I first arrived there some 20 years ago to cover the European Tour qualifying school and the 1,400 acre sports and leisure resort with its legendary spa, three golf courses, 28 tennis courts, two cricket grounds, eight soccer pitches, 20 plus restaurants, bars, apartments, villas and five-star Hyatt Regency hotel is simply one of the best.
It’s a top choice for golfers because of its three championship courses and outstanding practice facilities. Each of the three courses offers its own challenge and many favour the South as the best course after an extensive revamp but both the North and West courses are fine courses.
The North has also been remodelled and is an ideal layout which provides a test without being as tough as the South while the West course – designed by Dave Thomas – is the latest addition and accuracy is the premium here.
There is also the La Manga Club Academy, where PGA-qualified pros offer tuition and five-day courses covering all the key aspects of golf, whether you are a complete beginner or simply seeking to improve your game.
At the time of writing, green fees at Roda ranged from 36 euros for a twilight round (after 5 p.m.) to 95 euros for two green fees and buggy after 2 p.m. to 130 euros for two green fees and buggy from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. while there are further reductions for fourballs and groups.
Hacienda’s green fee is pitched at 80 euros, but there are deals for groups and for those staying on the resort while La Manga is very much aimed at package deals of four and seven nights staying at the hotel with a four night stay with room and breakfast, unlimited golf and access to many facilities starting at 630 euros in the low season. Peraleja also does package deals and details are available direct from them.
There are many fine hotels in the Murcia region and I stayed in Thalasia Hotel and Thalasso Centre, which has a reputation for modern Thalassotherapy, using the waters from the Mediterranean for therapeutic effects.
RODA GOLF AND BEACH RESORT.
Address: Carretera F-27 Los Narejo, San Cayetano, s/n. Carretera AP-7, salida 786
30739 RODA (San Javier). E-mail: email@example.com. Website: rodagolfcourse.com
HACIENDA DEL ALAMO
Address: Av. Hacienda del Alamo, s/n 30320 Fuente Alamo. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: clubdegolfhda.com
Address: Peraleja Golf Ctra, Sucina Avileses No 190 30.590 Sucina, Murcia; Email: email@example.com; Website: peralejagolf.com
LA MANGA CLUB
Address: La Manga Club. Los Belones -30385, Cartagena, Murcia. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: lamangaclub.com
THALASIA HOTEL and THALASSO CENTER
Address: Avenida del Puerto, 327 -329 30740 San Pedro del Pinatar, Murcia; Tel: +34 968 18 2007; Email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org