An introduction to Murcia
One of Spain’s smallest regions, Murcia is tucked away on Spain’s southern coastline. But don’t think that negatively impacts the quality of the golf courses in Murcia.
It is squeezed between two mammoth regions Andalucia to the west and Castilla La Mancha to the north, whilst to the east is the region of Valencia.
With over 3,000 hours of sunshine all year round, the climate is terrific for holidays and of course golf but Murcia continues to be overlooked by many outside Spain. The region is far less popular than the likes of Andalucia and its Costa del Sol or the Costa Blanca next door in Valencia. But Murcia has a lot to be desired.
See also: What are the best golf courses in Spain?
Along the coastline it is far less busy but the beaches are just as glorious. Many of the towns have retained much of their original charm and character without becoming too modernised for tourism. There is a beautifully ornate cathedral in central Murcia which is part baroque and part Gothic in style. Whilst down the coast towards Cartagena, there is a wonderful Roman theatre worth exploring.
Due to being that bit smaller, everything is quite close together, be it the golf courses, coastline or even the airport. There are flights into Murcia but there are far more flights going into the neighbouring city of Alicante in the Costa Blanca up the coast.
So to golf. The two golf resorts of La Manga and Roda have been there for many years and remain very popular. However, in the early noughties there was a huge investment drive by a group called Polaris World to construct multiple golf resorts comprising numerous holiday villas surrounding Jack Nicklaus designed golf courses. Many of the courses were built but unfortunately as the 2008 financial crisis unfolded, numerous resorts were left unfinished.
So it is quite surreal at times, playing these tremendous Jack Nicklaus designed golf courses whilst surrounded by hundreds of tomb-like holiday villas. But don’t let that put you off. Some of these golf courses are superb and over time will grow in stature and popularity.
The best golf courses in Murcia
La Torre Golf
As with so many of the courses we’ll be discussing below, La Torre was designed by one of golf’s most celebrated players, Jack Nicklaus, or more specifically the Nicklaus Design Group. Like many of the courses, La Torre is built on a purpose built golf complex, with over 2,600 properties onsite including a range of villas, apartments and a large 5* hotel.
At just under 6,000 yards and a par 68, La Torre is the shortest course on this list, but don’t be fooled as what it lacks in length it makes up for in hazards. There is an abundance of colossal bunkers, often stretching across multiple holes and protecting many greens on the course. Water comes into play on 7 of the 18 holes, with at times water running the whole length of a hole playing havoc with your shot choice and the mind.
There is a distinct impression you’re playing a well-established Florida course with the sun-baked fairways flanked by palm trees. A pleasure to play, La Torre resort is one of the few resorts which managed to escape in better condition than most other casualties of the property crisis in 2008,meaning there is still a lot of life and vibrance around the golf.
Saurines de la Torre
Straight onto one of the other Jack Nicklaus courses and the links-style Saurines de la Torre which is just a couple of kilometres away from the La Torre golf resort. Unlike La Torre, the resort at Saurines was hit hard after the financial crisis and a significant proportion of the apartments surrounding the golf course are empty. This makes for quite a surreal playing experience.
Like a number of the Polaris World built courses, Saurines is another built in a desert style but possibly the most extreme of the lot. The fairways weave through undulating dunes which run-off into vast areas of open sandy ground essentially replacing bunkers of which there is a distinct lack of here.
There are two lakes which come into play on a number of the holes and this adds an element of intrigue to the course with some holes, particularly the 9th and the 14th hole, a fantastic par 3 over water.
La Manga Golf
There are three golf courses onsite at La Manga, the South, West and North, and they provide a completely different experience to most of the courses on this list except maybe Roda golf.
The three are far more parkland in style with lush green vegetation dotted with lakes and a myriad of palm trees. The South Course is the one rightly considered the finest course onsite, and over the years it has hosted the Spanish Open as well as a number of PGA championships. Improvements were made to the course in the 90s by the legendary Arnold Palmer, and this is a stern test of championship golf.
The West course is a stunner, with large fairways flanked by palm trees, greens protected by wide bunkers and water features aplenty. It is a gorgeous course and arguably the most popular onsite as it accommodates golfers of all levels quite comfortably. Many of the photos which showcase La Manga in the marketing collateral tend to be of the picturesque West course.
Oddly enough, the North course which is more focused towards the higher handicappers has possibly the tightest and most narrow fairways of the three. But the course isn’t long and there are few other challenges to really ruin the scorecard. It is however a beautiful course which can get hilly at times.
Another Nicklaus Design Group golf course, one of six in the region, Hacienda Riquelme is an incredibly fun course to play albeit tough at times. Although it is reminiscent in style to a number of the other courses in the area with elements of desert-style golf, it has a bit more vegetation and feels a lot greener than some of the others.
The five lakes come into play on numerous holes and at just shy of 7,000 yards, it is one of the longer courses on the Nicklaus circuit. Hitting the fairway here is essential to avoid either a wet ball or a second shot being hit from one of the many sandy run-off areas.
The site is pretty spectacular with its wild grass and olive groves, and the subtle undulations also come into play throughout. If you’re feeling strong, play off the backs and experience Hacienda Riquelme at its most penal.
Unlike many of the courses on the Nicklaus trail and just a couple of minutes’ drive away from the coastline, Roda Golf makes a nice contrast to play when in Murcia. The course was designed by Dave Thomas who also designed Hacienda del Alamo on this list, and the contrasting style is plain to see.
Roda Golf is far more green and lush with vegetation which breathes a bit more life into the course. At just short of 6,700 yards, it is not overly taxing and the gently rolling fairways are relatively flat.
Some of the holes on the front nine are far more tree-lined than many of the other courses already mentioned and this makes a nice visual change in playing conditions. As you begin the back nine, the holes start to open up with lines of trees replaced by large sprawling bunkers and water features.
Of the six Jack Nicklaus designed golf courses in Murcia, all part of the same ‘trail’, Alhama was the one designed as the signature course and on the whole you can see why. It is quite a bit further away than some of the other courses being 45 minutes drive west of La Torre, yet despite being let down by some of the more functional facilities onsite, the course is well worth the drive.
It is one of the longest of the lot with from the back tees the course measuring over 7,500 yards. There are blind tee shots and quite unforgiving undulating fairways with even decent shots sometimes catching the wrong slope and being penalised. This is something I find personally a little disappointing but many will argue this is part and parcel of the game and is a clear message to play conservatively.
Like so many others on this list, Alhama is primarily a desert style layout and therefore don’t expect to find tree-lined fairways and dense green vegetation. Instead the stark, open course can at times be severely wind-swept which makes approach shots to the well defended greens all the more difficult. Even once you manage to plot your way safely to the greens, they’re renowned for being lightning fast.
El Valle Golf
This is Nicklaus design at its best, a golf course which perfectly blends the natural environment with some superbly designed holes. Of all the Nicklaus designed courses in Murcia, El Valle is the one which most feels like you’re playing in Las Vegas or Arizona.
I’ve used this term to describe many of the courses on this list, but El Valle really is the epitomisation of desert-style golf. Rocky outlets, cactus, palms, sandy run-offs and waste-ground contrasted with large water hazards, immense multi-tiered greens and strategically positioned bunkers, this really is golf at its best.
I still don’t feel like El Valle has received the recognition it deserves and this could be due to the fact it comes in at just 6,500 yards, but what fun it is to play. The setting is pretty impressive too, with El Valle one of the courses furthest from the coastline but what it lacks in coastal views it makes up with a backdrop of the Murcian mountain range, otherwise known as the Sierra Espuna.
Hacienda del Alamo
Hacienda del Alamo is a superb golf course, considered one of Murcia’s best, and was designed by the renowned golf course architect Dave Thomas of Celtic Manor fame. The Hacienda del Alamo resort is further west than many of the Polaris World Nickalus designed courses, but can still be played as part of a tour to the area.
The championship course itself is great fun and does a fantastic job of using natural and man-made hazards to great effect. The land upon which the course is built is relatively flat, therefore crafty golf course design was essential and Thomas has done a great job.
Water comes into play on seven holes, there are large white-washed bunkers and strategically positioned palm and grove trees blocking approach shots. The greens are large and more often than not in fantastic condition. The resort has lofty aspirations to become one of Spain’s best, and with a cracking course like this, they’re half way there already.
As you can see, Murcia really is a superb place to go for a golf tour with some pretty special courses dotted around the region. Part of its lack of popularity means the golf courses are far less busy, which is often a curse of many of the courses located in some of the neighbouring regions.
The property crash and financial crisis of 2008 really impacted Murcia, but what remains are a collection of top-class golf courses, designed by some of the best golf course architects worldwide at relatively affordable prices.