The San Roque Club – back to the elite of golf courses

Exquisite details, fantastic condition and service honed to perfection make a round of golf at San Roque one of the finest golf experiences in Costa del Sol.

The last time I visited the San Roque Golf Club the course was full of earthmoving equipment and it looked like there had been an explosion. At the time, during the Covid pandemic, the golf course was being completely renovated. It was interesting to return after the renovations to see if the club had succeeded in its goal of putting San Roque back in the top golf courses in Europe.

San Roque, located between Marbella and Jerez, is one of the golf courses in the area’s ‏“‏Golden Triangle” of golf courses, alongside the legendary Sotogrande and Valderama. Among golf professionals, San Roque is remembered as the host of the European Tour Qualifying School for many years, during which I also caddied for my partner. As a further testament to the course’s level of excellence, it hosted the 2005 Spanish Open.

The approach to the golf course is an impressive sight. The fabulous Andalusian manor draws you in, while the friendly staff await players under a grand cork oak tree. The atmosphere is luxurious and warm.

The golf balls for the driving range come in cute leather bags, and warming up is easy in a landscape that simulates the fairways. The clubhouse, driving range and first tee are close together, making it easier for players to get ready for their upcoming round of golf. Cheerful people are all about, practicing on the driving range or the putting greens, leaving or returning from a round, or taking in the sun on the golf club’s terrace, which offers unobstructed views of the golf course and the 18th hole. The young players in the club’s golf academy bring a certain energy to the scene, setting an example with their determined practice and training. Despite the lively atmosphere, the mood at the golf club is calm and dignified – in line with the spirit of golf.

Clear, beautiful fairways

The San Roque Club features two 18-hole courses, of which I played the Old Course. The New Course is still awaiting renovations, despite being a fine course in its current state. This time I am using a golf cart, but the course is also nicely suited for walking, which is a big plus. Many golf courses on the Costa del Sol do not lend themselves to walking due to their terrain or long distances.

San Roque’s Old Course is relatively flat and the distances between the fairways are short. The course is quick to play, with a round usually taking even less than four hours. Thanks to its clever layout, the course is suitable for players of different levels. The design of the fairways and the obstacles on the course are situated such that they are part of the round from every tee.

The fairways of the Old Course are clear and lined with centuries old cork oak trees. Spared during the massive renovations, the old trees bring a lovely atmosphere to the game. It is as though the golf course had existed this way for years.

The fairways are largely separate from one another, so other players remain mostly out of view during a round. My round had a calm feel to it, even though the course was full on the day I played. The finishing touches on the course are really striking. The fairways, fringes and greens are mowed to very precise lengths. The border areas outside the fairways are precisely lined with mulch, which makes the fairways look almost like graphic art. The mulch also brings fairness to the game. It makes golf balls easy to find, and the lack of undergrowth means that the game can continue from even challenging places.

Demanding but fair greens 

The skill required for the course becomes apparent upon approaching the greens. While beautifully shaped, they require meticulous planning on approach. The greens are guarded by bunkers and false fronts, so it is essential to pick a club that is sure to get the ball far enough. 

But the biggest challenge around the greens is the Bermuda grass. To the unfamiliar, it takes some getting used to and demands a bold swing, since Bermuda grass tends to grab the club rather easily. Close to the green, it is crucial to control your short game.

The green fronts have been maintained like those of a world-class golf course. The fore green covers a large area in front of the raised greens and is mowed short, almost the same length as the green, making it possible to use a putter even from outside the green. The quality of the course is also otherwise stunning. The site preparation work for the fairways was done carefully in the renovation, and drives from the fairway are pleasant, thanks not only to the short-cut grass but especially to the suitable elasticity and compactness of the ground. Making a clean drive from the fairway feels incredibly satisfying.

The greens are receptive and the balls stop nicely as they land. The slopes are gentle and thus fair, but players must still know how to read the greens. I am particularly taken with the condition and speed of the greens. Putts stay on line, and you quickly get used to the slipperiness of the greens, as the grain of the grass hardly comes into play. But when putting up- or downhill, you need to pay attention.

A well-balanced whole

The course has a nice layout. While there are no “wow” fairways on the course, in my opinion it doesn’t really need it. The fairways are beautiful and clear, and the golf course’s character is preserved throughout the entire round. On the back nine, the landscape offers a glimpse of both the distant mountains and the sea. On the final holes, the fairways are again framed by the course’s characteristic aged trees, which lead to the beautiful clubhouse.

After the round, you are left with a serene feeling. “Simple is beautiful” applies to this course, which does not consume players’ energy by being complicated. Its clear layout, clever placing of obstacles and precisely demarcated fairways make San Roque’s Old Course a balanced whole. The course is very pleasant to play, and I would happily play it again.

The condition of the course and the exquisite service deserve special mention. The course was in excellent shape, from tees to greens, and the customer experience was carefully planned from start to finish. Before my round, I was given a thermos with the San Roque logo on it which I could fill up during my round at the water points located along the course. The recessed trash bins are barely noticeable, and there are no extra structures on the course – or if there are, they blend in seamlessly with the other architecture. After the front nine, the friendly golf-cart boys offered a cooling slushy and asked how the first half of my round went.

The course lived up to its promise at least for me, and without a doubt is one of Costa del Sol’s – and possibly Europe’s – elite courses. I eagerly look forward to Europe’s upcoming course ranking.

The fairways are beautiful and clear, and the golf course’s character is preserved throughout the entire round.

A HIGH-ENERGY ROUND OF GOLF

Eating well and staying hydrated will help you maintain a good level of alertness during your round of golf. Low blood sugar levels can negatively affect cognitive decisions, making it easier to make mistakes when lining up and hitting the ball. Dehydration has been proven to affect driving distances and accuracy, not to mention the ability to judge distances. Be sure to keep up your energy levels during your round and promote recovery afterwards with these tips:

Before the round

Start hydrating/eating roughly four hours before your round. This will ensure that your hydration stays at a steady level while you play. Drink about half a litre of liquids before your round (guideline for a player who weighs 75 kilos).

Eat a high-carb meal roughly two hours before your round, and have a small snack, such as a granola bar or a banana, before starting your round.

During the round

Keep your blood sugar level and hydration stable during the round.

At the end of each fairway, drink a bit of water that contains electrolytes. 

Electrolyte tablets are handy, and you can keep them in your golf bag.

Eat carbohydrates every five holes.

Have a granola bar, for example, on the 5th hole.

On the 10th hole, have a small sandwich that has some protein in it.

On the 15th hole, eat some nuts or a banana.

Ps. Circle fairways 5, 10 and 15 on your scorecard to remind you to eat.

After the round

Promote your recovery by eating a protein-rich meal after your round.

Note!

The need for food and liquids is always individual, and these guidelines should be followed with your own body in mind. Don’t force yourself to drink too much.

Pay attention to the quality of the food you eat. 

Foods with a high glycaemic index keep blood sugar levels stable for longer.

A general guideline for golfers: eat a little and often.

Heini Haapala is a PGA Golf Professional who has left a piece of her heart in Costa del Sol. You can follow Heini’s golf tips at 

heiningolf.com

@heinihaapala 

Heini’s Golf App – Apple Store/Google Play

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