In this blog post we explore golf in the Costa del Sol. Working our way down from Malaga, through Marbella and Estepona, down to the border with Gilbraltar.
An introduction to the Costa del Sol
The sun-soaked Costa del Sol in southern Spain is an immensely popular holiday destination, with over 100 kilometres of beautiful golden beaches. There are charming old villages characterised by white-washed buildings nestled up in the hills, overlooking the glitzy and glamorous coastline.
Malaga is the largest city in the region and the gateway to the rest of the Costa del Sol with its large airport. Moving south down the coast we pass popular hotspots Torremolinos and Fuengirola arriving at the second city in the Costa del Sol, Marbella.
See also: What are the best golf courses in Spain?
Like much of the region, Marbella is renowned for its golden beaches as well as the up-market and exclusive marina of Puerto Banus. Framed by the Sierra Blanca mountains, the landscape is stunning and it is no wonder there are so many golf courses tucked away here.
Continuing down the coast, we arrive at beautiful Estepona, a town which has retained far more of its charm and culture than many others in the region. It has colourful streets, palm-lined beaches and quaint but charming bars and restaurants.
As the coastline veers down towards the headland of Gibraltar, it passes the golden stretch of golf courses, many of which we’ll explore in the article below. In fact, there are over 70 golf courses in the Costa del Sol, so we won’t be able to cover them all. But we’ll certainly cover off some of the more popular ones.
Let’s get into the golf in the Costa del Sol.
Best golf courses in Malaga
The large coastal city of Malaga, not just the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, but also where most golfers visiting the region will fly into. If you’re looking to get a round of golf in as soon as you leave the airport, there are a few choices but you can’t go far wrong with Lauro Golf Resort.
This mature 27-hole golf course blends seamlessly with the environment and despite the 17 lakes, is quite approachable by all levels of golfers.
Golf Torrequebrada is your other choice for proximity to the airport, but this beast of a course is quite spectacular. Skirting the coastline but with a very parkland feel, the course is more often than not in fantastic condition. There are doglegs, elevated greens, water hazards and without accuracy off the tee, forget scoring well.
Slightly further down the coast are three superb courses; Santana Golf, Chaparral Golf and Mijas Golf. All three are a mere stone’s throw from the popular coastal resort of Fuengirola and epitomise golf in Spain. There are wide elegant fairways flanked by palm trees and other indiginous specimens, coastal views, large rapid green and plenty of water. If push came to shove, I’d personally place Mijas just above the other two, with the Robert Trent Jones Sr layout making the difference.
The last golf courses of note before we reach Marbella, is the superb golfer’s paradise of La Cala Golf Resort. There are three golf courses onsite, the Asia, Europe and Americas and quite frankly all three are top notch. None of these three really compete with the best of the best in Spain, but all three are phenomenally fun to play and welcome returning golfers year-on-year.
Best golf courses in Marbella
This might be slightly disingenuous to say, but Marbella is principally known for three things. Miles upon miles of beautiful beaches, the luxury although slightly pretentious Puerto Banus harbour to the south west of the city and lastly its litany of golf courses.
There is such a choice of fantastic golf courses to the west of the city, it is playfully known as the ‘Valley of Golf’, a circa ten kilometre stretch within which there are numerous golf courses, most of a very high level. Some of the highlights include one of Spain’s top 10 golf courses Real Club de Golf Las Brisas, as well as the superb La Quinta course at the onsite Westin resort, highlighted in my Golf Resorts in Spain article.
Other notable mentions include the Robert Trent Jones Sr designed Los Naranjos, a scenic course which in part plays through the ancient orange groves, and the Seve Ballesteros designed Los Arqueros which is located further up in the hills with some fantastic Mediterranean views off-setting some challenging tee shots.
Lastly, the two courses at the 4-star Guadalmina golf resort, the North and the South, are good fun and well worth the detour. Quite contrasting in styles, the newer North course is tighter and more tree-lined whilst the South, one of the oldest courses on the Costa del Sol, is more open and windswept as it skirts the coastline on many occasions.
Just to the east of Marbella are a handful more golf courses, but special mention goes to Santa Clara, a really impressive golf course which is designed in a stunning natural landscape. Also the superb Rio Real, another Javier Arana course (he who designed El Saler) which is also one of the oldest courses in the region but also one of its finest, with elegant palm trees lining fairways and gorgeous sea-views.
Best golf courses in Estepona
The quaint coastal town of Estepona has retained much of its original charm over the years, and for those visiting the area, there are some great options for golf albeit limited in choice. To be fair, if you are looking for quantity of choice, Marbella and Malaga are without doubt the places to visit. Or alternatively, drive 30 minutes south along the coastline and it is here you will find some of Spain’s finest golf courses all cosied up to one another.
However, before we explore those courses, around Estepona the obvious choice is sensational Finca Cortesin, previous host to the Volvo World Matchplay and for a relatively new golf course (opened in 2007) already considered one of the best in Europe, let alone Spain.
The same designer of Finca Cortesin, Cabell Robinson, was also the creative designer behind the beautiful Valle Romano golf course, a short drive from central Estepona and again a new course but with high credentials. Estepona golf course and Dona Julia golf course are two other options when in Estepona.
Best golf courses near Gibraltar
So for the next collection of golf courses, they’re effectively on a large stretch of land near no major city, positioned about 25 minutes drive from either Estepona in the north or Gibraltar in the south. Yet what a collection of golf courses they are, with at least three of them in Spain’s best golf courses list.
So why start anywhere else except for with the iconic Valderrama golf club, host venue of the 1997 Ryder Cup and one of the greatest golf courses in Spain. If you take the wrong turn, you could instead end up at Real Club de Golf Sotogrande, one of the oldest courses in the region designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr, and also regularly ranked in Spain’s top 10 golf courses.
Another Sotogrande golf course is La Reserva Club Sotogrande, a masterpiece of golf course architecture designed with hosting major golf tournaments in mind and right up there with the aforementioned two.
San Roque Club has two outstanding courses with the Old Course designed by Dave Thomas the better of the two. It hosted the Spanish Open in 2005 and is a terrific challenge with narrow sloping fairways. Alcaidesa Links golf is another proposition with two championship courses. As the name suggests, part of the Links course plays along the coastline and offers quite a different challenge to many of the other parkland style courses in Sotogrande.
Both the courses at San Roque and Alcaidesa are superb and rightly considered some of the finest courses in the region. Unfortunately they just happen to rub shoulders with a handful of golf courses a step above.
For those looking to include a slightly more affordable course as part of the golf trip, consider La Canada Golf Club. Massively underrated, the course had nine holes designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr and the second nine designed by Dave Thomas (Celtic Manor, Terre Blanche etc). There are sensational coastal views and it is a thoroughly enjoyable round of golf.
The golf courses in the Costa del Sol are right up there in competing with many of the highest rated golf regions in the world. There is both a fantastic quantity and quality of golf courses on offer.
The climate is also perfect for golf with over 300 days of sunshine throughout the year. However it doesn’t get too hot as no course is too far away from the coast and the gentle sea breeze ensures a freshness you wouldn’t find in other locations.
Clearly the best golf courses are found around Sotogrande, just north of Gibraltar. But this will also bite the wallet so thinking about how to include one of two of these courses into your package, whilst considering other more affordable options will be key.