Spain, with well over 300 golf courses to its name, is certainly well-off for golf, but more than the quantity of courses this intriguing country boasts, it's the consistent quality of these layouts that has earned Spain its reputation as a haven for golfers. Travel around the country and you are all but assured that wherever you go, very good golf courses will never be far away. Visit Andalucia in Southern Spain and you will quite literally, be surrounded by top quality courses at practically every turn. This is Spain's sunny epicenter of golf and home to fully one third of the country's entire golf course inventory, including many of the very best.
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Fabled courses such as Valderrama, Sotogrande, San Roque, Royal Seville, Montecastillo and La Cala are firmly established as being among Europe's top ranked layouts. These prestigious tracks have been joined during the past few years by a number of newer layouts, all determined to prove they are every bit as good and willing to play second fiddle to none. La Reserva, Santana and Finca Cortesin are just a few names among the many that have recently thrown their hats into the ring as contenders for top ranking -- and there are more coming along. Not only is golf in Andalucia alive - it's thriving and some exceptional new courses are leading the way.
One of the more recent arrivals on Andalucia's golfing scene is Arcos Gardens. This is not only one of the most impressive of the new-boys from a technical standpoint, it also boasts what must certainly be the most stunning location of them all, slap dab in the very heart of Pueblos Blancos country, Andalucia's famous White Villages.
Arcos Gardens Golf Club enjoys a spectacular mountain top site, overlooking the most alluring of all the Pueblos Blancos, Arcos de la Frontera, sitting just a 5-minute drive away - the setting is magical. This is the true Andalucian countryside, every bit as beautiful as France's Provence or Italy's Tuscany, but with twice the combined fascination of the two.
The sparkling new Arcos Gardens Golf & Country Club is a brilliant example of what can be accomplished when the three essential elements of building an excellent course dovetail together perfectly. The combination of an ideal site, a masterful design and a developer with the vision, determination and pocket book to create an extraordinary golf facility is often elusive, but all are clearly in evidence at Arcos Gardens. The result is a masterpiece, undoubtedly destined for stardom.
The layout is uncommonly handsome, almost to the extent of being stately and despite the tough examination it provides from the back tees, it's a course that never forgets that golf is a game. The less accomplished players will feel as comfortable playing here as will the low handicappers..
Scratch golfers and Tour Pros may salivate at thoughts of playing Arcos Gardens' full 7,382 yards from the back tees, but for we mere mortals such a monstrous length is to say the least, intimidating, if not downright scary. Thankfully, five different tee positions conveniently shrink the length to more human proportions. Stepping down in units of 550 yards or so, the layout can be reduced to as little as 5,200 yards from the very front. This really is a course for everyone.
Setting out over a rolling landscape with wide, forgiving fairways, Arcos offers a gentlemanly introduction, slowly easing players into the demands that lie ahead. By the third hole the indoctrination is over, the challenge ratchets up and things become serious.
The fourth is a testing par-5 and a true three-shot hole with hungry fairway bunkers along the way, eager to snap up any wayward shots. wiind becomes a factor on the fifth and then its onto the glorious 6th, a beauty of a par 3 that will take your breath away. Making par here will be an accomplishment. Closing out the front in style, the par 5 ninth is a true risk/reward hole. A meandering stream wanders back and forth across the fairway and a lake to the right rear and a bunker to the left, protect the green -- center green is where you need to be.
And so the test continues as Arcos Gardens flows, seamlessly and so naturally, yet this is a course filled with variety and constantly changing challenges. No need here for deep vicious rough instead, the shrewd bunkering and carefully positioned trees present the test of accuracy and club selection. The demands of the back 9 continue to build, coming to a crescendo on the closing sequence, one of the most dramatic to be found in all of Spain.
The signature hole, the sixteenth, marks the beginning of this grand finale. Magnificent views attempt to distract the concentration, but this is the time to re-focus and make the most of this fabulous downhill par 5. With a protective lake jealously guarding the green, do you really want to try to make it in two? The seventeenth is a terrific short hole, demanding every last ounce of skill you can muster and the green, filled with subtle slopes and contours, is tricky to read.
Finally the closing hole, pretty to look at but oh so testing -- this one is likely to live in your memory for years to come. It's another risk/reward test and for any fearful of water, the large lake, literally wrapping itself around the green and stretching well into the fairway, will make life no simpler. It's a brilliant ending to an exceptional round of golf.
Arcos Gardens is a very worthy addition to Andalucian golf and stands at the front of the line, vying for the top-gun position. Add this one to your Spanish golf trip and I can promise, there will be no regrets.
For more ideas on how to include Andalucia's many attractions, both on and off the courses, contact Golf International, the Spain experts at 1-800-8331389, or click here.
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