What are the best golf courses in Spain? The Golf World Top 100 panel ranks and rates them.
Continuing our countdown of the best golf courses in Spain, we head into the top 50. Head over to our ‘How we did it‘ for more information on exactly how we went about judging these extraordinary courses, including our marking criteria and judging panel.
And, once you’ve enjoyed this ranking, please do take a look at some of our others – from the best courses in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Europe and the USA, to GB&I’s best links, the most fun courses to play and the finest resorts in Europe and the World has to offer, we’ve got it covered.
Chris Bertram, Golf World Top 100 Editor
50. Rio Real
Design 29.0 Setting 12.0 Memorability 12.2 Playability 7.7 Consistency 7.9 Presentation 7.4 Total 76.2
Designed by Javier Arana in one of the well-heeled areas of Marbella in 1965, Rio Real is a classy course among a myriad variety of trees – from pines to palms and olives to cypress. The course runs alongside the eponymous river and it plays an often key part in the strategy.
Design 29.2 Setting 11.2 Memorability 11.7 Playability 8.2 Consistency 8.4 Presentation 7.7 Total 76.4
Escorpion was founded in 1969 and originally played at Manises in the north-western outskirts of Valencia. Five years later they acquired new land further outside the city and Ron Kirby laid out the new course. It officially opened in May 1976 and hosted the 1980 Spanish Open.
48. El Bosque
Design 29.4 Setting 11.4 Memorability 11.6 Playability 8.0 Consistency 8.4 Presentation 7.6 Total 76.4
Go to Valencia for El Saler, stay an extra night for El Bosque. It is a technical, strategic course – as one would expect of a Robert Trent Jones design – played along interesting terrain lined by mature trees. Typical RTJ raised greens at the end of often fiddly, tight dog-legs is a theme.
47. Infinitum (Hills)
Design 29.2 Setting 11.8 Memorability 11.5 Playability 8.0 Consistency 8.0 Presentation 7.9 Total 76.4
Formerly Lumine before a rebranding project saw the venue’s name changed to Infinitum last year. The Lakes is often regarded as the No.1 here, but we much prefer the Hills, so much so that it is a contender for our Continental Europe Top 100.
Incorporating super views as a result of frequent changes in elevation and no real estate, it also has plenty of cool holes. It is for the most part cut through pine trees, but there is great variety both visually and strategically.
46. Parador Malaga
Design 30.1 Setting 12.2 Memorability 11.9 Playability 7.8 Consistency 7.6 Presentation 6.8 Total 76.4
A Harry Colt design on the Costa del Sol? Yes, really. With input from Tom Simpson? That is the history of Malaga. Many features are long since gone, but there are still little hints of their work here. It isn’t in amazing condition and the airport is a distraction, but its history alone renders it worthy.
Design 29.4 Setting 11.8 Memorability 12.4 Playability 8.0 Consistency 7.0 Presentation 7.8 Total 76.4
The Javier Arana holes among woodland found favour with the panel and would have been higher if the club undertook a tree management programme of his original work. Francisco Segales added a second nine, which is now the front nine. Arana’s holes are characterised by dog-legs.
44. La Moraleja (No.1)
Design 30.2 Setting 11.2 Memorability 11.9 Playability 7.3 Consistency 7.5 Presentation 8.3 Total 76.4
Located apart from the club’s two high-flying layouts, 3 and 4, No.1 is still a fine test. Designed by Jack Nicklaus with his flamboyant architectural sidekick Desmond Muirhead, this former Spanish Open host has a lot of quirk to it – and that’s what gets it in the list ahead of No.2.
Design 29.2 Setting 12.3 Memorability 12.4 Playability 7.3 Consistency 7.5 Presentation 7.8 Total 76.5
Sits close to the Mediterranean in 138 acres of tranquil parkland and enjoys views of the Mijas mountains from its 6,800 yards. Cabell Robinson has made another fine job of setting it down in a former avocado plantation. Expect wide, well-defined, flat fairways and a sprinkling of water features.
Design 27.6 Setting 13.8 Memorability 12.9 Playability 6.6 Consistency 7.4 Presentation 8.2 Total 76.5
A taste of Augusta National, in the sun-kissed Canaries. Sounds fanciful, as comparisons with the Masters’ host always are, but in terms of the greens at Abama it is a fair one. They are not only super slick, but also distinctly undulating. Wonderful presentation and Atlantic views.
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41. La Manga (South)
Design 29.6 Setting 11.4 Memorability 11.8 Playability 7.9 Consistency 8.0 Presentation 7.8 Total 76.5
La Manga’s best-known course begins as it means to go on, with water popping up at moments you would really rather it didn’t, and approaches framed by the Arizona-like mountains. The back nine begins with a tremendous view too, as you negotiate a sharp dog-leg. Superb condition.
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Design 30.4 Setting 11.5 Memorability 12.6 Playability 7.5 Consistency 7.8 Presentation 6.9 Total 76.7
Has fallen from the spotlight since its Tour-hosting days, and some on the panel aren’t huge fans of a Jack Nicklaus design, believing it’s seen better days. Expect bold bunkering, water hazards and a stiff test consistent with Nicklaus’ ethos. Sits on undulating terrain offering elevated tees.
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39. Real Las Palmas
Design 27.4 Setting 13.7 Memorability 12.6 Playability 7.1 Consistency 8.5 Presentation 7.9 Total 77.2
The club was founded in 1891 and is thus the oldest in Spain but now plays on a new location, which affords stirring views from a lofty spot among the mountains and even into a volcano, Bandama. There is an impressive consistency to it, with hole after hole of classy golf among mature trees.
38. Platja de Pals
Design 30.0 Setting 12.2 Memorability 11.4 Playability 8.2 Consistency 8.0 Presentation 7.4 Total 77.2
Platja de Pals is the original course to be built on the Costa Brava. It has celebrated its 50th anniversary and carries its status well, exuding the calibre one would expect of a venue with comparative pedigree. It sits by the coast, but is characterised by flitting in and out of tall woodland. Classy option.
37. San Roque (New)
Design 30.9 Setting 12.2 Memorability 12.4 Playability 7.1 Consistency 7.2 Presentation 7.4 Total 77.2
Following the success of the Old, San Roque added a second 18 a decade later and invited Perry Dye to organise it. It sits on much the same entertaining land and offers much the same tree-top views as its sister, but this 7,000+ yard track is a notch up in difficulty – and is not without its quirk.
36. La Toja
Design 27.5 Setting 14.0 Memorability 13.2 Playability 8.5 Consistency 7.0 Presentation 7.0 Total 77.2
Just nine holes here, and we doubt you will have seen them in any other ranking of Spanish courses. Watch for that to change now we’ve included it. Located between Coruna and Vigo in Galicia in the north-west of Spain, this is a fun and scenic course with a collection of gorgeous seaside holes.
35. El Prat (Yellow)
Design 31.0 Setting 11.3 Memorability 11.5 Playability 7.5 Consistency 7.7 Presentation 8.5 Total 77.5
The second combination of the five loops here to get in the list. We rank the Rosa – the Arriba and Bosque nines – highly and the Yellow routing of the Abajo and Piscina is also top class. The front nine of the Abajo starts with a stiff two-shotter that rather sets the tone for the stringency of the test.
34. Emporda (Forest)
Design 31.4 Setting 11.2 Presentation 7.8 Playability 7.9 Memorability 11.4 Consistency 7.8 Total 77.5
We like Emporda’s courses already – witness their prominent positions in our list – but watch them climb in future rankings. Under new owners and new management, both courses as well as the hotel are benefitting from significant investment. That has already seen the reopening of the hotel after a six-month overhaul – the first part of a multi-million pound programme of improvements.
The Links and Forest, both by architect Robert von Hagge, are both undergoing notable renovations. This includes the reconstruction of all bunkers using the Better Billy Bunker method, a comprehensive tree clearance programme, and new greenkeeping equipment to improve the conditioning.
The Forest is, as its name partly suggests, routed through umbrella pines common to Iberia and Belek, and indeed it has a real feel of the latter’s Gloria or Sueno.
The fairways are not bulldozed into flat corridors between the trees though, varying from the gentle ripples of an unmade bed to more dramatic mounds that skiers would recognise as a pronounced mogul field.
We really like it – and can’t wait to see the new iteration. Look out for its position in next month’s Continental Resorts Top 100 too…
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33. La Herreria
Design 31.1 Setting 11.0 Memorability 11.2 Playability 8.5 Consistency 7.9 Presentation 7.8 Total 77.5
Our ranking busts lots of myths; some are owing to poor assessment of courses, others a result of commercial interests, some down to simply modest research. We like to think our list avoids these flaws, hence this slot for La Herreria, a sumptuous, beautifully-manicured parkland on interesting land.
32. Real Sociedad Hipica Espanola (South)
Design 30.5 Setting 11.2 Memorability 12.0 Playability 7.2 Consistency 8.4 Presentation 8.2 Total 77.5
The ‘other’ course at this celebrated sports club. Laid out by Robert von Hagge on undulating land with mountain backdrops, expect often tightly treelined fairways leading to pure, slick greens. Beautifully manicured and a terrific ‘second’ course.
31. Salobre (New)
Maspalomas, Gran Canaria
Design 29.2 Setting 13.3 Memorability 13.8 Playability 6.7 Consistency 6.9 Presentation 7.7 Total 77.6
This is the testing course of the two at Salobre, a fact noted by the Bethpage
Black-esque sign you pass en route to the 1st tee; ‘Welcome to the tricky New Course and discover the real player you have inside’. Arizona-esque golf, in the Canaries. Some odd holes, but many more absolute crackers.
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30. La Cala (Europa)
La Cala De Mijas, Andalucia
Design 31.0 Setting 12.0 Memorability 11.0 Playability 8.0 Consistency 7.7 Presentation 8.1 Total 77.8
Europa and sister course America could so easily swap places. This is the newest of La Cala’s courses and might well end up being its No.1. For us it has the resort’s best hole – the 4th, where river, bushes and rocks line an awesome test. Super par 3s and it’s consistently strong with a stellar back nine.
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29. PGA Catalunya (Tour)
Design 31.0 Setting 11.5 Memorability 11.0 Playability 7.7 Consistency 8.4 Presentation 8.2 Total 77.8
The Tour suffers in that manner familiar to ‘second’ courses. It is indubitably good and mixes its tough holes with more straightforward ones especially cleverly. The notice next to the 1st tee tells you it isn’t a cuddly No.2, with 6-18 handicappers urged to opt for the yellow tees.
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28. La Zagaleta (Old)
Design 31.4 Setting 12.0 Memorability 11.9 Playability 6.6 Consistency 6.9 Presentation 9.0 Total 77.8
A super-private club whose No.1 course has immaculate fairways and greens dotted with bunkers, water features and changes in gradient. You play along a lush valley within an amphitheatre of wooded hills and rising peaks, with mesmerising views to the sea. Millionaire’s golf in every respect.
Design 32.8 Setting 7.7 Memorability 12.3 Playability 8.0 Consistency 8.6 Presentation 8.5 Total 77.9
Laid out by Robert Trent Jones at the behest of the Santander banking group, it forms part of a huge sporting complex. Expect a bold, modern course with water hazards and bunkers prominent. In exceptional condition, it just lacks a little craft to be higher in our list. A good all-rounder.
Design 33.0 Setting 11.0 Memorability 12.1 Playability 8.6 Consistency 7.4 Presentation 7.7 Total 79.8
Aloha is revered in Spain because of its designer, Javier Arana – regarded as the country’s greatest architect. Surrounded by neat, whitewashed residences, this is a course of great variety laid out on interesting and often acutely undulating terrain. An essential Andalucian round.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Bertram is the Golf World Top 100 Editor.
He was born and brought up in Dumfriesshire and has been a sports journalist since 1996, initially as a junior writer with National Club Golfer magazine.
Chris then spent four years writing about football and rugby union for the Press Association but returned to be Editor and then Publisher of NCG before joining Golf World and Today’s Golfer as Senior Production Editor.
He has been freelance since 2010 and when he is not playing and writing about the world’s finest golf courses, he works for BBC Sport.
A keen all-round sportsman, Chris plays off 11 – which could be a little better if it wasn’t for hilariously poor lag putting which has to be seen to be believed.