Spain is a wonderful country and brimming with quality golf courses. But what are the best golf courses in Spain? This is a question I hear a lot. And having played many, I thought I’d give answer it a stab.
With a diverse geography, warmer climate and stunning coastline, no wonder Spain is so popular as a holiday destination. Tourists flock to places like the Costa del Sol and the Costa Blanca year on year. Hotspots include the likes of Benidorm, Malaga and Marbella.
Away from the southern coast, other hotspots include Barcelona in the northeast, Madrid in the heart of the country and cities on the north Atlantic coastline including Bilbao and San Sebatian.
And not forgetting the Atlantic volcanic islands of Gran Canaria and Tenerife, as well as in the Mediterranean, islands including Ibiza, Menorca and the ever-popular Mallorca.
So it may not come as a major surprise the best golf courses in Spain are all primarily grouped within these areas, with very few golf courses of note anywhere else.
Below I’ve grouped together the best golf courses in Spain from my perspective, with no preferred partnerships to influence me or green fees to sell. This is an authentic and honest assessment of the golf courses on offer and my own experiences playing these courses.
This iconic golf course right in the southern part of the Costa del Sol, is arguably the most renowned and revered on this list. Despite the fact it is a private members club with limited tee times available, it is known the world over for the epic 1997 Ryder Cup battle where Europe prevailed despite a rallying American team.
Often referred to as the European Augusta, the original design of the course was done in 1974 by the legendary golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. There have been further iterations to the design by the likes of Seve Ballesteros and more recently Kyle Phillips, but the essence of the original design has stayed intact.
Some of its notable holes include the par-3 6th, with its green surrounded by beautifully crafted bunkers, as well as the feared long par-5 17th hole, with water protecting the front of the green and anything short pretty much gone.
As I mentioned before the course is strictly private, but there are a handful of green fees available most days to the general public. If you’re in this neck of the woods, cough up the sizable green fee and tick this one off your bucket list.
PGA Catalunya (Stadium Course)
The Stadium course at PGA Catalunya is tournament golf epitomised. A beast of a layout, it measures over 7,200 yards off the back tees with length being just one of a number of challenges you’ll be confronted with. That said, there are a number of different tee options on each hole, so the course is playable for all abilities.
The course opened in 1990, so is a relative newbie on the circuit, but accolades have flooded in since being opened as have the professional tournaments. Built to rival some of the best championship golf courses in the US, and a contender to host the 2022 Ryder Cup, the Stadium course regularly hosts the European Tour Qualifying School as well the Spanish Open no less.
Positioned not far from the imposing Pyrenees mountain range, the terrain is hilly and these undulations come into play on many of the holes. There are many water hazards, countless century old oaks and fantastically well-protected greens, all of which are maintained to the highest standard.
The list of best golf courses in Spain would be complete without PGA Catalunya.
Real Club de Golf El Prat
Another highly exclusive member’s course, El Prat is as impressive as it is renowned, with 45 holes of golf designed by Greg Norman and a stunning modern clubhouse. The club is a mere half hour’s drive from central Barcelona and like PGA Catalunya on this list, flies the flag for courses away from the southern coast of Spain.
El Prat has hosted over 250 golf tournaments over its lifetime with most notably the Spanish Open which it hosted on 10 occasions. There are various different layouts you can play when visiting, although it is the Pink layout which has received most accolades and has been ranked as one of Spain’s best golf courses by Golf Digest and the top100golfcourses website.
In immaculate condition, get used to wide undulating fairways pot-holed by bunkers, multi-tiered greens and strategically placed trees. Although trees come into play on numerous occasions, the course isn’t overly tree-lined, and it is instead large bunkers and sandy run-offs which threaten many a shot.
This outstanding golf course opened in 2007 and has already muscled its way into most top golf courses lists. So much so, many consider it on a par (excuse the pun) with the likes of Valderrama and Sotogrande, its more illustrious neighbours.
With so many courses in the Costa del Sol, it needed something special to be recognised and Finca doesn’t disappoint. Laid out across a substantial valley, Cabell Robinson was brought in to design a course where every single hole is championship standard and an exceptional job he has done too. Immaculate fairways weave through along the valley approaching picture perfect greens and bunker layouts.
The panorama is stunning, particularly so from the clubhouse looking across the valley to some of the holes on the back-nine. The course is long, measuring well-over 7,000 yards from the back tees. This formidable course is special, so much so it was chosen to host the Volvo World Matchplay Championship on three occasions in the late noughties. But despite the above, with the numerous tee options, it is approachable to most standards of golfer.
El Saler Golf
Within less than a year after having been opened to the public back in 1968, El Saler received such acclaim it was immediately ranked as the best golf course in Continental Europe. Not bad for a course designed by a relatively unknown golf course architect in a part of the country not renowned for its golf pedigree.
The relatively unknown architect was Javier Arana, who was the genius behind another of our best golf courses in Spain, El Prat, as well as two others which only just missed being listed here, Neguri and the Negro course at the Club de Campo in Madrid.
Just south of Valencia and skirting the pristine Mediterranean coastline, El Saler is a masterpiece. Part links towards the coast, part pine woodland, part parkland, the course is outstanding and has a rugged authenticity which is hard to find these days.
This is a truly special course in a special location and well worth trudging off the beaten track to tick it off your list.
Real Club de Golf Sotogrande
Back to the Costa del Sol to one of the stalwarts of the area, Sotogrande is one of the oldest courses having been opened in 1964. Designed by the legendary golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr, many consider Sotogrande right up there with the likes of Valderrama.
The location is serene, blissful and quite undisturbed, far from modern day life and its disturbances. The course is not overly long and actually quite a nice change from some of today’s behemoths prioritising length over elegance.
Well Sotogrande does no such thing. Each hole has been crafted through the beautiful landscape, with lush green fairways contrasted by glistening water features and immaculate bunkers.
The club is quite private yet like Valderrama, there are a number of green fees allocated to welcoming members during the week. Aside from a punchy green fee, not being a commercially driven club means a round here is usually quiet and unrushed. Another quality addition to the best golf courses in Spain ranking.
Real Club de Golf Las Brisas
Not long after designing Real Club de Golf Sotogrande, Robert Trent Jones Sr made his way a short distance up the coast and stopped in Malaga where he then started working on the mightily impressive Las Brisas golf course.
Like Sotogrande, Las Brisas blends seamlessly with the natural environment, where fairways glide through the palms and subtle elevation changes are a constant challenge. Greens are well protected by elegant water features or deep bunkers. Whilst length is not a major concern, strategy and placement is essential to score well.
The location is not as secluded as Sotogrande with large residential estates visible from the course, yet fortunately this doesn’t detract from the quality of the layout and to be fair was probably not something Robert Trent Jones needed worry about back in the 60s.
For many years the course remained immensely private, but after a recent project of renovation by the esteemed American architect Kyle Phillips, the course has started to welcome visitors. Regularly considered in Spain’s top 10 golf courses, make the most of this leniency before it reverts back!
La Reserva Club Sotogrande
A course which is probably more well-known for its impregnable clubhouse dominating the landscape, La Reserva is yet another masterpiece rubbing shoulders with Valderrama and Real Club de Golf Sotogrande.
Unlike its esteemed neighbours, the course is a relative youngster only opening at the turn of the century. Designed by Cabell Robinson, of Finca Cortesin fame, it was routed between two valleys and this makes for stunning views both across the valley and to the mountainous backdrop.
The course is long and like Finca, has a selection of tee boxes to accommodate golfers of all levels. This is a genuinely enjoyable course to play, with wide fairways and large greens. Of course, there are hazards, with plenty of water, large bunkers and sandy run-offs, but generally throughout the round you can grab the driver and let rip.
The outstanding course will be hosting tournaments of note very soon and no trip would be complete without enjoying the amazing views from the clubhouse terrace.
Real Puerta de Hierro (Abajo)
One of the few golf courses on this list located in central Spain, just north of the capital city of Madrid, the Abajo course is one of two located at Real Puerta de Hierro, a strictly private golf club only open to members and their guests.
The club’s origins date back to the late nineteenth century and its sister course, the Arriba, was actually the first golf course opened in mainland Spain back in 1904, and was designed by the legendary Harry Colt and Tom Simpson.
The Abajo course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr and opened for play in 1966. Within no time at all, it quickly jumped ahead of its sibling and is now considered one of the finest golf courses in the country. The course is stunningly elegant, with pristine fairways and rapid greens.
This is without a doubt one of the finest 36-hole golf clubs in Europe and if you do get invited to play here, you’re in for a treat.
Son Gual Golf
The last on the list but by no means the least impressive, Son Gual is a divine layout on the island of Majorca. There are many golf courses on the island, but Son Gual is head and shoulders above the rest and has jumped into both the Spanish and European top golf courses lists.
This outstanding course really appeared from nothing. It was the vision of a local UK resident to build a top class course, and on what was a relatively flat and uninspiring plot of land, Son Gual was crafted. With over a million cubic metres of earth moved, the course now has gently undulating fairways, large water features and glass-like greens. Expect nothing less than immaculate conditions.
Do also take plenty of balls. Water comes into play on over half the holes and where water isn’t in abundance, expect huge fairway and green-side bunkers. At over 7,200 yards from the back tees and strong Mediterranean winds coming regularly into play, this course is certainly no pushover.