Surely the god of fire must have been pleased with himself when he created this cluster of islands. Standing on the edge of a crater one can but imagine that here was a deity that truly understood the game of golf.
It’s hard to believe that it’s June and I have yet to feel the sun on my pale and translucent skin. A severe lack of vitamin D seems to be on the horizon. So when a trip to Gran Canaria presents itself, I quickly decide that this is not one to pass over.
The Canary Islands are located roughly a hundred miles off the coast of North Africa, and barring any strange freak weather I think that I may actually be able to get myself removed from the critical list and at least come back with something resembling a suntan.
I arrive late at night and pick up my rental car. The journey to my first golf resort could not be easier, located a 30 minute drive south on the main motorway and onwards 3 kilometres into the mountains, all adequately signposted to the point that I don’t even bother with my sat nav.
MODERN DESIGN. It’s almost 1am when I get to the hotel, a modern building seemingly set into the very hillside. The Sheraton Salobre Golf Resort & Spa is well suited to its surroundings. It’s deceptive in terms of its actual size due to a staggered construction that creates open spaces on several levels. Natural stone has been used on the facade and roofs along with black basalt from nearby Tenerife for the walkways.
The concierge who has been given the task of awaiting my arrival welcomes me to the hotel and helps me to my room. From my apartment balcony on the 8th floor I have views over the golf courses and on to the coast. The room is comfortable with a modern design that fits into the hotel scheme.
I awake early the next day, have breakfast and then explore the facilities. The first thing that strikes me is the feeling of calm that this resort exudes. Open space is a key feature along with ample nooks and crannies so there is always somewhere private to sit and relax.
THE SOUTH COURSE. There are two excellent golf courses here: the easier South Course and the much more challenging North Course.When I say that the North Course is more challenging, that’s not to say that the South Course is a walk in the park.
Hole number one is a nice way to start, a par-4 and reasonably straightforward and followed by an equally nice par-3, but it’s the thrill of the eighth that particularly attracts me. This is a par-3 from an elevated position across water to the green. What is it about water that makes me see a challenge?
There are par-4s and 5s aplenty but it’s the par-3s that I particularly like. The par-3 eleventh is again from an elevated tee down to the green which is surrounded by rocks on two sides.
THE NORTH COURSE. That afternoon I take on the North Course. Only the front nine are open as the course is undergoing major improvements (this could save me some embarrassment). Whereas the South course, designed by Ronald Favré, is perfectly in keeping with the valleys to be found in its location, the North, designed by Ron Kirby, is also in keeping with its volcanic surroundings. Lots of shots over gullies and canyons mean that I have probably not brought enough golf balls!
The first hole is a par-5 with a dog leg right. As long as you don’t go in for heroics and opt for an iron for your first shot everything is fine. For once I actually listen to my own advice.
By the time I finish the fourth I am feeling supremely confident and with a par to my credit, but all is about to change. The fifth is a par-5 across a canyon gouged out of the earth by molten lava. Oh, how I like a challenge! But why is it that when we golfers are faced with a large hole in the ground we go to pieces? I watch as my ball disappears and resign myself to considering my options. I wonder if there are snakes down there?
It’s not just the odd lava-induced canyon on various holes that helps me on my journey towards a world record in losing the most golf balls in one game. There are rocky outcrops everywhere and a golf ball travelling at speed when hitting one of these formations tends to bounce off at quite a pace.
I reach the ninth hole and the end of my game, disappointed that I cannot play the back nine as well. Ok, I may have to talk to my bank manager about a loan to cover the cost of the lost balls, but I have found this course to be both exhilarating and challenging. I will return if only to be able to say, “I played and overcame the obstacles.” Or at least finished with a few balls left.
MELONERAS. Within 5 minutes drive of the Sheraton is the Meloneras golf course. The greens and fairways here are lovingly cared for, and it shows. A vibrant course, for me it’s the back nine that I find most appealing. With stunning sea views on almost all nine holes, this really is one to savour – particularly the twelfth, a par-3 to a green on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic, which makes a stunning backdrop.
ANFI TAURO GOLF. From the Sheraton it’s a twenty minute drive south to Anfi Tauro Golf. This desert-style course opened in 2006 and a lot of thought has been put into creating something both aesthetically pleasing and challenging. Of particular interest is the eighth hole, a par-4 with the green cut into the mountain. With a cliff face on three sides, it’s pretty spectacular. The thirteenth also caught my attention, a par-3 built into the side of a cliff so it’s a tight shot to the green.
To finish off you have an excellent par-5 from a raised tee and a green that doglegs left and curves around a lake. You can make the green in two shots but you have a fair distance over the water. Not an easy shot, as evidenced by the number of golf balls in the lake.
BY THE BEACH. On to my next hotel. The five star Seaside Palm Beach Maspalomas is, as its name suggests, by the beach and with a garden full of beautiful old palm trees that dates back to when an oasis covered this area. These trees are protected and the hotel gardens, along with the swimming pools, are idyllic. Just a short distance away is the Maspalomas Natural Dune Reserve, an area of undulating dunes that resembles a mini Sahara.
With the Maspalomas golf course only a short distance away from the hotel, many golfers stay here, leaving their golf clubs in storage, which is a very good idea if you are planning to return on a regular basis.
For those who want to take luxury to another level, Seaside Grand Hotel Residencia, the smaller and more intimate sister hotel, is perfect. The attention to detail and quality is everywhere, with 94 colonial-style rooms, all finished to a high standard.
MASPALOMAS. This is an island and so all courses are reachable from most locations, but Maspalomas Golf Club is very close to the Seaside hotel. Bordering onto the sand dunes and close to the sea, this is a very popular course for locals and tourists alike. Flat and with wide fairways, it may not tax you to the extent of Salobre or Anfi, but you can expect a good game in picturesque surroundings.
BOHEMIA SUITES. A short distance away on the northern side of the dunes can be found the Bohemia Suites and Spa. If you are looking for a state of the art, luxury hotel, this is for you. The 360-degree restaurant situated on the eighth floor affords superb views. All rooms are finished to the highest standard and the Thai spa is well worth a visit.
OLDEST IN SPAIN. It’s my last day and I have arranged to visit two more golf clubs, the first having the enviable title of the oldest golf club in Spain. The Real Club de Golf de Las Palmas is located just south of the capital. As with all the courses here on Gran Canaria, it’s easy to find thanks to thoughtful signposting. It’s a drive up into the hills and through quaint villages to reach the club.
Perched next to the crater of an extinct volcano, I can instantly see why in 1891 a group of intrepid British nationals decided this was the place to play golf (the phrase about mad dogs and Englishmen comes to mind). It’s an absolutely stunning location.
I am met by Daniel Neuber who owns the Bandama Golf Hotel located next to the course. I jokingly mention that perhaps they should turn the volcano crater into a hole to give even bad golfers a chance of scoring a hole in one, although I doubt if many people would want to trek down to the bottom to retrieve their balls.
BODEGON VANDAMA. This is a beautiful course with the holes spaced out over the valley and views of the volcano, coast and inland hills making a perfect backdrop. A mature and well kept course, I am disappointed that I do not have another night to stay at the hotel and really experience all that there is here.
I particularly like the second hole, a par-4 with the green perched on the edge of the volcano. For me this is the signature hole: sun, golf and a volcano (inactive), what could be better?
Before I head off to my final golf course, Daniel invites me to visit the Bodegón Vandama, located nearby. This authentic restaurant, which is surrounded by grape vines and accessible via a dirt track, is a real surprise. Situated in an old farmhouse, it serves chargrilled meats cooked over a wooden fire and wine from its own winery. I now know that on my next trip a stay at the Bandama Hotel and a trip to this restaurant are going to be essential.
EL CORTIJO CLUB DE CAMPO. I arrive at El Cortijo Golf Club slightly flustered. I’ve only got a few hours before I have to check in at the airport for my return flight to the UK, but there is still time to play a few holes. This is a very long course and runs along three valleys with a total of six lakes. There are six tees per hole, giving players of all abilities an opportunity to play within their level.
It was here that Sergio Garcia won the Spanish Open in 2002. The first thing that I notice about this course is the way that the fairways seem to emulate sand dunes. They have a rolling feature to them that is very distinct. Many of the fairways have large hillocks on either side; all give me the feeling of being in a green desert. This is a great course for the big hitters but not overly worrying for the mere mortals among us.
UK golfers too readily assume that the only choices for the Canary Islands are Lanzarote or Tenerife. What I can say for anyone looking for a golfing holiday is that Gran Canaria is definitely one to consider. If you want to play on courses that vary from parkland to desert, mountain to sea, there are many opportunities here on this island in the sun.
Good to know
To book your GRAN CANARIA HOLIDAY go to dedicated golf booking portal at;
Great Golf Holidays and search Gran Canaria.
Both Easyjet and Ryanair have regular flights to Gran Canaria
Tel +34 928 362 939
Real Club de Golf de Las Palmas
Tel +34 928 350 104