I am not a beach person and had not considered visiting the Costa del Sol in Spain until a friend suggested it as a good destination for a golfing holiday. My golfing expeditions had always been of the American variety but I was happy to try somewhere new that was closer to home. I decided to take the trip to Spain and set about researching which courses to play and quickly discovered that arranging a golfing trip to this region was not going to be as straightforward as organising one to America.
Poor Information and Communication
It quickly became apparent that Spanish courses were not great at self-promotion and that there was, therefore, a paucity of information available. Phone calls to the courses to find out more often resulted in having to speak to someone very unhelpful who would claim that they could not speak English when they clearly could. It was hard to understand the attitudes I encountered which left me feeling that the golf clubs wanted to keep the tourists away rather than attract their business. Eventually in exasperation I turned to an agent in Gibraltar who recommended some courses and booked them for me.
A Hidden Gem
Amongst the courses the agent had selected was a place called Monte Mayor situated high in the mountains of Andalusia above the coastal town of Estepona. On visiting Monte Mayor I was encouraged by the rather lovely drive up to the course and couldn’t wait to play my first shot. As I walked to the first tee a young local approached me to ask if I would like to buy some balls and I was astonished to be offered a bag of at least 50. As I had never lost more than two balls in a round I thought this was crazy but bought them anyway as they were good value. I wondered how the kid had managed to collect so many but I was about to find out!
It turns out that Monte Mayor is one of those courses where even a slightly errant shot resulted in you never seeing the ball again as many of the holes were bordered by steep ravines and dense woodland. I proceeded to play one of the funniest rounds of golf imaginable with all the members of my group losing so many balls that the bag of 50 had been exhausted long before the end of the round! We weren’t bothered though as the course was brilliant and was in the most stunning setting.
The highlight of my day came at a dramatic par three which required a tee shot across a ravine to a small green perched on a ledge projecting from the hillside. The difficult nature of the hole had caused a backlog of groups and so I sat on my buggy for some time watching the groups ahead of me attempt the hole. Shot after shot ended up in the ravine as at least a dozen golfers tried fruitlessly to reach the green. I was now seriously worried! When my turn came I looked up to see a long queue of golfers watching on. I summoned all of my energy and concentration and hit a 4 iron with all of my might. The balled soared across the ravine and landed plum in the centre of the green. A round of applause rang out as I picked up my tee. I have never felt so proud of a shot! I wondered if anyone had ever managed a hole in one. I suppose they had but I felt there should have been a prize simply for making the green. It would have been nice to receive something like the Hugo Boss Watch currently being offered by the H1 club for an ace this summer.
Monte Mayor was a really magical place to play. There was something really special about the course, the setting and the atmosphere at this club. The people were friendly too which is more than I could say for some of the other courses I visited. I was, therefore, very sad to hear that the club had to close in 2011 due to lack of custom. I guess that this should not have been much of a surprise in the light of my own difficulties with booking a trip but you would think that such an outstanding place would have generated a least a bit of a reputation. The recession has bitten hard in Spain and it would appear that Monte Mayor was one of the casualties. I understand that the club may now be saved by the addition of a property development which would sadly rather ruin it!