Spain is home to many distinct regions, each with its own style and character. Rob Smith enjoys a tour of Murcia…
Spain’s Southern Treasures – Murcia
Throughout its beautiful countryside, Spain is packed with varied and interesting golf to suit all tastes and budgets.
At a more local level, the same can be said for the south-eastern region of the country, Murcia. The area boasts 300 days of sunshine a year and offers a terrific mixture of golf, from the big guns such as world-famous La Manga to hidden gems such as Altorreal and Lorca.
At its heart is the beautiful and characterful city of Murcia itself, through which runs the Segura River.
Based on its long-standing tradition of producing fruit, vegetables and flowers, it is known as ‘Europe’s Orchard’.
It is also home to a multitude of delicious tapas restaurants and an eclectic mix of architecture, old and new.
The region’s rugged 150-mile coastline is the Costa Calida, the ‘warm coast’, and this is an area of great natural beauty with a climate that is dry and inviting.
The best-known golfing resort in Murcia is the expansive and all-encompassing La Manga Club, which last year was granted royal status and is now officially ‘Real’.
This mecca for the active is home to not one but three fine golf courses, not to mention just about every other sporting and recreational activity anyone could possibly want.
The North and South courses date back to the 1970s, with the latter benefiting from the creative mind of Arnold Palmer.
Both have been remodelled over the years, while the West is a Dave Thomas design which opened just over 20 years ago and has outstanding views, narrow fairways, frequent blind shots and gullies snaking through the course.
Opinion is split as to which is the best, and this makes a personal game of compare and contrast a very tempting idea.
There is plenty of excellent accommodation of varying types on site, with the Principe Felipe Hotel the pick of the bunch.
Strength in Depth
There are more than 20 courses in Murcia.
Over to the west and a few miles inland, Lorca is a very interesting, not to mention challenging, desert-style course.
Again designed by Dave Thomas, it shares some characteristics with La Manga’s West, especially the many chasms that must be carried either off the tee or on approaches.
This is a course packed with risk and reward in a quiet location up in the hills.
It will both excite the first-timer and grow on the golfer with repeated play.
To the south, the coastal town of Aguilas has much to offer, and the very friendly Puerto Juan Montiel Hotel with its own marina is an excellent place to rest your weary head.
This area is something of a Thomas stronghold, and one of his best championship courses is Hacienda del Alamo, which is an excellent test of golf due to the strategic placement of bunkers which demand thought on every tee.
At 800 feet above sea level, there is often a cooling breeze which also adds to the challenge, and the gently undulating par-72 course covers a vast acreage.
Water comes into play on a number of holes, most notably the short 8th and 12th. Although the course is bordered by villas, there is plenty of space so that the golfer should only feel intimidated by the hazards on the course, not off it!
The course at Mar Menor is also part of a substantial development that includes villas and an excellent hotel.
It is somewhat unusual in that while the front nine was created by Thomas, the back nine was completed by Nicklaus Design.
This makes for an interesting hybrid and there are some exciting holes, especially where the water comes into play in the middle of each nine.
The par 4s at 3 and 13 are both crackers where anything right will be lost forever, and there is a real club atmosphere which makes the whole experience here very welcoming.
The Complete Package
A golfing visit to Murcia is not complete without a stay in the lovely capital city, the seventh largest in Spain.
Here, the very smart Siete Coronas makes for an excellent base as everything is within walking distance. A short drive from here is the region’s most northerly course, Altorreal.
After a slightly claustrophobic start through the villas, the course opens out and simply gets better all the way, with far-reaching views, changes in elevation and plenty of attractive and exciting holes that will keep the discerning golfer interested all the way.
Other fine courses in the region include the Nicklaus designs at Alhama, El Valle and La Torre, and it’s never very far from one to the next.
Golf in Murcia has much to recommend it, especially its great variety and even greater value.
Add in the weather, the excellent accommodation and the delicious cuisine and the area adds up to a first-rate golfing destination.
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