Big names in golf design have been queueing up to add their signature to Murcia’s growing reputation as the new Spanish destination for golfers.
Dave Thomas was one of the first to recognise the region’s potential with its rugged landscape, arid climate, airport accessibility and top quality road network. The renowned architect and former Ryder Cup player designed and build the Hacienda del Alamo complex, Altorreal and Roda, now the winter headquarters of the PGAs of Europe.
Managed by Troon Golf, Las Colinas is due to open to the public soon but as I found on a recent visit is already eminently playable now. Designed by Cabell B Robinson, it has wide fairways and undulating greens and with players of all abilities in mind, has numerous tees on each hole.
The par 71 course has a full range of amenities including clubhouse with its own restaurant, pro shop and golf academy, chipping area, putting green and driving range.
“It's an exceptional project,” said Robinson told me. “The holes run across the valley and a unique aspect is that the valley and consequently, the course, runs between hills which are high enough to give it privacy and isolate it from its surroundings, which is not always possible at other courses in the area.
Corvera, a sister course to Roda, is set to be another gem, albeit flanked by an extensive residential complex. The centrepiece of the Olazabal design is a huge lake bordering several holes, some of which are exceptional. It can be walked relatively easily but a buggy may be needed if you play off the back tees (6,652 metres). There six tees (yes six!) on each hole and enabling it to be played as short as 4,452 metres.
Close to the town of Los Alcazares and with hotel amenities attached is La Serena. It's a relatively flat course, so easily walked, but has water on 16 of its 18 holes and at 6,168 metres. Manuel Pinero’s lay-out is no pushover and is popular with all abilities with an excellent clubhouse and 14-bay driving range.
To my experienced eye, the eighth and the 12th are the pick of the holes while 17 and 18 provide an excellent finishing combination finish.
Hacienda del Alamo, another Thomas masterpiece, is situated near the village of Fuente Alamo, close to the site of the planned international airport of Corvera but still only 30 minutes from San Javier airport. HDA, as it's affectionately known, is also only 20 minutes from Mar Menor in the east and the coastal resort of Mazarron to the south.
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. 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 its winter headquarters at Roda which hosted its annual international teams championship and congress.
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 rentable villas, terraced houses and apartments.-
Facilities for golf groups also include swimming pools, restaurants, sports facilities and a private beach club.
The spectacular 190-yard par-3 seventh hole defines the course with the green on a peninsula and reminiscent of the island green at 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 demanding accuracy off the tee.
The great attraction of Murcia’s courses is that the green fees are considerably less than you will find in Marbella and the Algarve and the region is now linked to several UK regional airports with regular flights to Alicante and San Javier with the new airport at Corvera also scheduled to host UK airlines.
Golf travel: Why Murcia's magnificent