|The new Gran Flamingo course is set through rugged, mountain terrain just off the Mediterranean Sea. (Brandon Tucker/TravelGolf)|
MARBELLA, Spain - Some golf courses out there, more than others, can take a golfer without a confident tee ball and make it worse - and quick. At the new Gran Flamingo course at the Gran Flamingos Golf Club in Marbella, it's best to show up with a mid-season swing - or plenty of golf balls pulled out of the used bin.
There are a collection of holes on the new Gran Flamingo, the second regulation-size course to come to the Golf Club Flamingos, that will seriously test your mettle. If you've previously teed it up on the original Golf Club Flamingos Course - a bit shorter at just 5,700 meters but still host to some of the area's top professional senior tournaments - be prepared for similarly rugged terrain and a lot more meters to conquer.
"Flamingo's Old Course is a bit short compared to the Gran Flamingo, but it's a good holiday course," said Jonathan Snell, who operates SimplyGolfHolidays.com, specializing in Costa Del Sol golf packages. "But it's also more scenic than the newer Gran Flamingos, being closer to the sea."
Many of the fairways, on both courses, are cut tightly through steep, rocky mountainside and demand both a straight tee shot and precise aiming.
And on the Gran Flamingos, it starts right out of the gate. The first hole is a tight one, requiring a mid-iron layup before you hit a short iron to a green guarded front, left and back by water. There's a little more space on the dogleg par-4 second hole, but the approach shot heads straight uphill, requiring you to club down at least two clubs or so to make it all the way up there. Miss short, your ball might just roll down the hill 20 yards.
There will be a few holes that give you a little room to swing freely. No. 5 and No. 6 play up and down a hillside parallel to each other (a rare occurrence here), so you finally see plenty of green from the tee.
But Gran Flamingo finishes sternly, first with a par-5 16th hole that, from an elevated tee, will have you scratching your head as to just where to land your tee shot, as a sliver of fairway is set along the hillside. But if you're going to miss, it might be best to err on the side of the high ground, because this mountainside is so steep that if your ball strikes it, there's a decent chance it can kick back into the fairway - much to your match-play opponent's dismay.
After another long par 3 over a ravine, the 18th - while a long, tough par 4 with a small fairway of its own - will at least offer you the day's best views. From this elevated tee, you can see the Mediterranean Sea, the Rock of Gibraltar and even Morocco on a clear day (and there's plenty of those around here). Pretty enough that a photo or two here should make up for a few of your card's ugly numbers or lost golf balls on the 17 previous holes.
Gran Flamingo can be a very tricky golf course, but if you're looking for some severe mountain golf with some fun (and penal) holes, you'll be in for a good day. The par 3s, like a lot of Spanish golf courses, are long and tough. Even the par-3 14th, with a green set right on the water and a hazard left, plays a mean 174 meters from the championship tees.
This is a par-73 layout with three sets of tees here stretching to 6,641 meters from the white (championship) tees. Green fees are €130 but currently the club is offering two green fees for the price of one, so inquire with your golf packager about getting this special rate.
The club is host to full practice facilities here and a golf academy. The putting and pitching greens are next to the clubhouse and hotel, but you'll have to drive around the bend to use the club's driving range, so if you plan on hitting balls before your round plan on a little extra time. You can have lunch in the beautiful Villa Padierna Hotel on site, which features a patio overlooking the golf course and the Mediterranean Sea.
The five-star Villa Padierna on site is a beautiful hotel that offers stay-and-play packages, but if you're looking for something a little less formal (and affordable), stay just down the road at the Hotel Andalucia Plaza, which is a very popular place for golf groups that want the convenience of being able to walk to Puerto Banus' wealth of nightlife. Marbella's Old Town is just minutes away as well.
The Hotel Andalucia Plaza is a four-star hotel that has undergone a series of renovations to many of its public areas including the main lobby and bar. There are two buildings here, and one of them was redecorated and refurbished into a more modern decor, while the western building is set in a more traditional, Andaluican Terra Cotta theme.
The hotel is adjoined to the Casino Marbella (guests of the hotel are offered free admission, for others it's a 5€ entrance charge), though there's tons to do at the hotel itself, from the large pool to a spa, restaurant and bar.
March 27, 2009
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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