Michael Weston visits Gran Canaria and delights in its glorious and remarkably diverse landscape both on and off the course
Golf In Gran Canaria – The Island Of Dreams
With its white sandy beaches, unspoilt valleys and dramatic mountain ranges, it’s no surprise that Gran Canaria, the third largest of the Canary Islands, attracts over three million visitors each year.
While the south is dry and hot, and home to many of the island’s biggest resorts, the whole of this ‘miniature continent’ demands to be explored. The north is more humid, with a rocky coastline similar to the west, all of which creates a diverse and enticing landscape.
For golfers, there’s the added bonus that such terrain has provided the perfect canvas for architects to create some truly beautiful layouts, with enough top tracks here for a very enjoyable golf holiday.
Las Palmas Airport is located on the eastern side of the island, approximately 11 miles from the cosmopolitan capital.
Real Club de Golf de Las Palmas and El Cortijo Club de Campo
Should you have the itch to play as soon as you touch down, Real Club de Golf de Las Palmas and El Cortijo Club de Campo are half an hour away.
The former is Spain’s oldest golf club, founded by the British in 1891. The current course, situated alongside a volcanic crater, was laid out in the mid-1950s.
It’s not just the crater that catches the eye – the course boasts stunning views both of the coastline and inland.
While length doesn’t pose an issue, the narrow tree-lined fairways, ravines and small greens provide enough of a challenge.
Meanwhile, the distant views of the hillside villages are pleasing throughout, even when your game isn’t quite there.
El Cortijo, designed by Blake Stirling and Marco Martin, is a little over 20 minutes away in the district of Telde, and if 36 holes is your thing, you may wish to tick the north’s only other course off on the same day.
That may sound a little demanding, but Gran Canaria enjoys a mild climate throughout the year, averaging 21˚C, perfect weather for taking to the fairways.
Close to 7,000 yards off the tips, you might be feeling the heat towards the end of your round, but that shouldn’t put anyone off teeing it up here as you can select from up to six teeing areas per hole.
Three years after opening, Sergio Garcia won the 2002 Canaria Open de España at El Cortijo.
The Spaniard was the only player to reach double digits under par (-13), so it presents a stern challenge for the best in the business.
The front nine has a links-like feel and sea views, with the back nine more akin to an American-style layout with a number of lakes to negotiate.
Despite the length, the par 3s at the 4th and 6th both measure under 150 yards, although the back-to-back par 5s on the 9th and 10th demand that you open up your shoulders, with the latter the course’s longest hole at close to 600 yards.
Heading down to the south-west coast, Anfi Tauro might just come out on top as the Canary Island’s number one track.
This Arizona-style course’s construction involved moving three million cubic metres of earth and is the work of Robert von Hagge, Michael Smelek and Rick Baril.
Many holes are hewn from the rock, with sensational features not unlike those you’d face in a computer game, except this time the challenges are for real.
One look at the par-3 6th, with the ocean and a rocky outcrop behind the green, should have you scrambling to book a round at this glorious layout.
Up at the 8th, the tiered green is carved out below a rock face, and the long par-3 13th plays into a small green cut into a mountainside.
You’ll need to be at your very best to play to handicap, although the experience will live long in the memory however well you play.
With its golf academy, practice areas and nine-hole par-3 course, it’s also a great place to work on your game and share your love of golf with the family.
Anfi Tauro is located just a few kilometres west of Maspalomas, Gran Canaria’s most famous and biggest purpose-built tourist development, made up of more than 500 chalets, apartment blocks and hotels.
Beach lovers will appreciate the long, golden stretches here, while spots like Puerto Rico, a former fishing port, provide excellent facilities for a number of water sports.
If you plan on staying in the south, you could do far worse than base yourself at the Seaside Grand Hotel Residencia, part of the prestigious Leading Hotels of the World collection.
Styled like a Mediterranean village, with rows of whitewashed, terracotta-roofed buildings, it features tropical grounds and beautiful balconies cloaked in bougainvillea.
From here, you’re just 200 metres from the sand dunes, although with its spa and a restaurant, which made it into the 2016 Michelin Guide, there’s every reason to spend a day or two here in complete seclusion.
Back out on the fairways and heading east, closer to Maspalomas, Salobre Golf and Resort boasts the only 36-hole facility on the island.
The New, or North course, is unlike any other in Gran Canaria, which is certainly no criticism because the constant changes in elevation make for an enthralling few hours in the buggy.
Risk/reward is a constant theme, with deep ravines a danger throughout, although at the short par-5 5th you can only think about a possible reward once you have carried a rocky lava field with your tee shot.
The palm-lined Old (South) is not short on thrills either, although it is more forgiving, despite wending its way through lava outcrops and rocky terraces.
The elevated tees at the par-3 11th and par-4 12th make for two strong holes, the former requiring pinpoint accuracy to find its undulating green on the other side of a ravine.
Lopesan Meloneras Golf
Just a few miles south, Lopesan Meloneras Golf, inaugurated in 2006, has excellent facilities, including its own golf academy, which offers programmes to suit all skill levels.
With its own driving range and numerous practice areas, it’s a great spot to work on your game.
Indeed, Rafa Cabrera- Bello has been known to practise here.
The course offers the chance to put a score together, especially over the more open front nine. Coming home you play towards the sea with a run of holes skirting the cliff edge that overlooks the marina and beach.
Maspalomas is located on the seashore adjacent to the Maspalomas Dunes nature reserve.
Winding its way through tropical vegetation, it’s a fairly flat parkland layout that offers glorious views throughout.
Should you be feeling a little battered and bruised, and maybe short of balls following a round at Anfi Tauro, you should find Maspalomas’ fairways and overall conditions a little friendlier.
If long nights and dance floors are your thing, you don’t have to go far to find the bars and clubs.
In Playa del Ingles, a lively tourist resort, you’ll also find Yumbo, a multi-storey shopping and leisure centre.
Away from the course, Gran Canaria is a melting pot of cultures, evident if you take the time to head off the beaten track a little.
Pass through the picturesque towns and hillside villages and you’ll find traces of heritage passed from one generation to another.
It all makes for a wonderfully varied island adventure, one made all the better with a set of clubs.