Review: La Manga Club

Golfmagic heads to Spain to sample La Manga South, La Manga North and La Manga West

Andy Roberts's picture
Mon, 6 Oct 2014

IF Vernon Kay ever asked 100 people to name a popular European golf resort, I’m fairly certain there’d be a ping for La Manga Club

Even the non-avid golfer has heard of this place.

Three times a top answer as Europe’s leading golf resort at the World Travel Awards this century, on top of numerous other awards and accolades since its inauguration in 1972, La Manga Club - featuring a 5-star Hotel La Manga Club Principe Felipe and 4-star Las Lomas Village - offers something for everyone.

Okay, it does sort of help being a sports fan though.

Treble the size of the Principality of Monaco, La Manga Club features 18 kilometres and 54 holes of championship golf, a pitch & putt course, a brand new David Leadbetter Academy, 28 multi-surface tennis courts, eight full-size football pitches (the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich train here during the off-season) , rugby, gaelic football and netball facilities, two cricket grounds, 2,000m2 of deluxe spa and fitness facilities, as well as a pleasant 22°c average daytime high with 2,500 hours of sunshine a year.

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There are also more than 20 bars and restaurants featuring a tantalising array of cuisine from Spain and around the globe, of which my personal favourite was the Asia Restaurant. On top of all that, there’s an extensive range of shops and services, as well as a vibrant choice of nightlife should you wish to take the party into the morning.

La Manga Club is also easily accessible once landing on Spanish soil given it’s 20 minutes from Murcia - San Javier Airport (MJV) and just under an hour from Alicante Airport (ALC).

Given this is a golf website, it's only right we concentrate on the golf…

The award-winning five-star complex was one of the first places to become a regular tournament venue during the European Tour’s early years and very much helped promote the Tour on a global stage. 

La Manga Club hosted the Spanish Open for five years in a row between 1973 and 1977, while South African legend Gary Player was the resort’s first director of golf and Spanish superstar Seve Ballesteros was its touring pro between 1980 and 1985. Even former World No.1 Luke Donald used to hone his game at La Manga Club as a kid.

The role of honour doesn't stop there as legendary seven-time major champion Arnold Palmer had much to do with the work of my first stop, La Manga South. 

Designed by Californian professional Robert Putman back in 1971, La Manga South was upgraded by Palmer in 1993 and then refurbished in-house some ten years ago.

The South is the Championship course offering at La Manga and therefore, as I expected, it played very long off the back tees at 6,500m and par-73. Long for a resort course, at least. There are plenty of water hazards on hand to gobble up errant drives, too. This layout will test all facets of your game. 

It’s certainly best to stick to the one pint before your round given it’s a drive and 5-iron into the first followed by a well-struck long iron or hybrid to reach the par-3 second. It doesn’t get much easier from there with a long par-5 played over a nice water feature that will receive any balls played short of the green, and then a big 4-iron to hit the dancefloor at the next par-3, image above.

With the wind picking up all the time during the round, La Manga South proved one of the toughest courses of the three, on par with the West. 

My favourite holes on the course came on the front nine at the par-5 sixth (it was once the ninth) with bunkers and water hazards dotted all down the right flank and several bunkers guarding the left green, as well as the par-4 seventh - a neat, scenic par-4 with water all down the left that offers a real risk-reward opportunity. Take out the driver and reach the front of the green, or lay up with a long iron and attack with the wedge. The backdrop to this hole, pictured above, in front of several of the 3,000 palm trees planted at La Manga Club, was quite sublime. 

The par-5 ninth offers one of the best scoring opportunities if you can get the drive away on this dogleg left hole. Despite playing little more than 550 yards off the back tees, I made my first and only birdie of the day here after playing a dead-armed 9-iron into six-feet. 

The back nine, although shorter, has a number of intriguing dog-leg holes. Special attention should be given to both the 11th and 12th holes, which demand precise club selection to greens across water. 

Standout holes coming home were the par-4 14th, featuring one of largest sand traps in Spain, spanning the entire right side of the hole, and the signature 18th, pictured below. The closing hole is a real beaut with a pin-point accurate tee shot required to miss the water and bunkers, situated pretty much everywhere, with yet more beach  to avoid on the approach. 

In all honesty, the South was my least favourite of the three but that’s testament to how much I enjoyed both North and West courses more than anything. It's not quite as charming as the other two, but it is an honest test of golf with water and sand aplenty. 

The greens on the South didn’t look anything special on first look, but they ran true enough. Despite being a little churned up at times, particularly around the turn, with some others looking in need of a little renovation, very few putts bobbled or veered off my intended target line.

Next up, the North and West

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