HUELVA, Spain - a Spanish province whose coast opens onto the Atlantic, whose development of tourism has, until recently, lagged behind all other Spanish coasts and whose history is flavoured by anomalies and vivid colours. This lovely, slightly old-fashioned province is historically rich, with evidence of Neolithic settlements and artefacts from the Bronze age. It is from Huelva that Columbus set sail on his first, slightly off-course visit to the new world and it is in Huelva where Spain's first game of golf was played, naturally on Spain's oldest course. Incidentally, this course is located at the site of the oldest mines in the world - the Minas Rio Tinto.
British mining engineers introduced various aspects of their culture to Huelva when they arrived in the 19th century. The company lost no time in creating their version of a Victorian England on Spanish soil. An English Club, an Anglican Chapel, a football pitch and a nine-hole golf course constituted the engineers' 'neighbourhood'. Although the lay of the land was vastly different from England and the weather infinitely more agreeable, the place was soon transformed into a second home. At the same time, the mining company established its presence in the city of Huelva, Rio Tinto's export harbour. The Rio Tinto pier is among the city's greatest architectural monuments.
The Mining Company legacy to its hosts is lodged at the Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes, where findings from the Rio Tinto area distinguish it from any other.
Originally named 'North Lode Golf Club', the miners' golf course was semi-rustic, meaning that only the greens were regularly seeded. With the departure of the engineers at the end of the 1800s, the course was closed. It reopened in 1992 under a new name: Club de Golf Corta Atalaya. Today, it is an agreeably playable 9-hole course, regarded by players with affection, as well as being integral to the preserved Victorian community.
Las Minas Golf Club is only 25 kilometres from the city of Seville. Las Minas ambience, however is more in tune with fraught-free, countrified Huelva, and its setting in the Coto Doñana has helped to create an abiding sense of tranquillity. The club and associated urbanization offer a quality of life seldom encountered now. María José Carpano from Marketing swears that no one needs to lock their doors at night. (May I be forgiven if this statement should attract a gang of thieves.)
The golf course was established first in 1989, a pleasant nine-hole course with Par 3,4, and 5s. Topographically, we are talking 'flat'. Interest and challenge are brought to the game by four lakes and the sinewy shapes of olive and orange trees. Out-of-bounds are set just off the fairways, enforcing discipline upon players who tend towards a devil- may-care approach to boundaries.
That Las Minas (at right) would be a focus for the 190 homes on its borders was planned. All housing construction will be completed by autumn; within a couple of years, a second nine holes will complete the golf facilities. Anyone interested in investment here should waste no time. A short stay at the 'Bungaclub' (studio apartments with kitchens) would be a reasonable way to sample prevailing lifestyle. Approximately 20 plots of land and 32 constructed homes remain on the market. A clubhouse renovated from the old interior patio cortijo makes a charming retreat for owner/members to eat, drink and reflect upon the benefits of relaxation in Europe's deep south.
Home owners and management at Las Minas Golf are pleased to have another golf club only a short distance away. This is Golf Dunas de Doñana, close to Doñana National Park and opened less than two years ago.
Given the protected nature of its location, conservationists kept an eagle eye on construction. To engineer/designer Fernando Menaya's credit, the course has been called, "The most ecological course in Europe." In fact, the result is a rare and notable achievement of co-operation between property developers, ecologists and government officials. A side effect of conservationist concerns is a boon to golfers: real estate on the course is noticeably lacking.
Additional to the 18-hole course, there is a bowling green (a sport constantly increasing in popularity as the English continue to settle in Spain), excellent driving range and practice facilities, restaurant, etc. Matalascañas beach is only a few steps away and is considered one of the best in the province.
Isla Canela Golf is an island course and offers the player a chance to see what salt marshes are like, for that is what the course is set on. Eucalyptus trees are in abundance, there is wild and attractive scenery and hazards by nature and by man. Among these are several natural lakes and well-placed bunkers. This is a beautiful 18-hole course at Ayamonte, where facilities for visitors are developing at a breathtaking rate.
Islantilla Golf, opened to coincide with EXPO '92 in Sevilla, is a 27-hole course that personifies the golf-complex as a self-contained resort with equestrian centre, yacht basin and accommodation for more than 20,000 people. Some of the holes overlook the Atlantic, including its most challenging - the 12th.
Golf Nuevo Portil is described as "very entertaining" by the Andalucian Federation of Golf, a judgement that may not evoke universal agreement, but intriguing in any case. A little more than a year old, the course has slightly rolling terrain, some doglegs and 18 holes of great scenery. It is in Punta Umbria, a short distance from Islantilla and Ayamonte.
Bellavista welcomes guests although it is a private golf club. Close to the city of Huelva, the course is slightly hillier than most in the area. It is bordered by pine and characterised by narrow fairways but the second nine, opened in the mid-90s, is more spacious in aspect.
Las Minas Golf (at right)
Ctra. Isla Mayor, Km.08
41849 Aznalcazar (Sevilla)
Tel: 955 750 678
Fax: 955 750 032
Club de Golf Corta Atalaya
Ctra. Corta Atalaya, s/n
21660 Minas de Riotinto (Huelva)
Tel: 959 590475
Golf Dunas de Doñana (at right)
21760 Matalascañas (Huelva)
Tel: 959 441 810
Fax: 959 441 899
Isla Canela Golf
Golf Norte s/n
21400 Ayamonte (Huelva)
Tel: 959 477 263
Fax: 959 477 271
Islantilla Golf Club (at right)
21410 Isla Cristina (Huelva)
Tel: 959 486 039
Fax: 959 486104
Golf Nuevo Portíl
Urb. Las Lagunas del Portíl
21450 Cartaya (Huelva)
Tel: 959 528 789
Fax: 959 528 808
Club de Golf Bellavista
Apartado Correos 335
Crta. Huelva - Aljaraque, Km. 6
21110 Aljaraque (Huelva)
Tel: 959 319017
Fax: 959 319025
Carla Harvey freelances for various magazines in Spain and abroad. Among them are Mediterranean Life, Essential, The Reporter and Lookout Magazine. She was the editor of Marbella Times for five years and WHERE Costa del Sol for two years.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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