September 2nd, 2012
Men who are into golf will be watching the Ryder Cup with the passion they reserve for this annual event. In 1997 Spain became the first country in continental Europe to stage the event.
Year after year men who love to play golf board aircraft to show off their green skills at golf courses all over Spain.
With the sheer quantity of golf facilities on offer in the country, you could be forgiven for thinking Spain invented the game.
Winston Churchill once said that to play golf was the best way to ruin a good walk. I am far from benig anti golf. I have covered big tournaments for newspapers and television in the past. These days I might get to view the last day of big events, should time permit.
But I was never a big enough hitter to keep up with the serious players. Pitch and putt was my limit.
I found myself on a plane to Spain with a party of twenty four friends with one thing in mind. They love the game of golf. I could tell they were golfers in the departure lounge. The tell tales signs were there for all to see. Pringle jumpers, brightly coloured sponsored shirts, crisply ironed trousers and that perma-tanned appearance that can only be acquired on a beach or a golf course.
I ordered some pringles (it somehow seemed only right) and a cup of tea (not tee!) and began quizzing the budding Nick Faldo’s on what makes up a golfing holiday.
So why do so many men come to play golf in Spain?
Eric has been doing so for more years than he could recall.
He told me “I know that when i first played golf in Marbella, George Best was living it up in the bar. I never saw him on the tee, but he clearly liked the 19th hole and had he tried to play i doubt he could have seen the ball, let alone hit it.
“They were great days for the game of golf and far fewer amateur British golfers went abroad to play.
“There weren’t as many courses on the Costa del Sol in those days, but somehow they were quieter. These days this group of players all go golfing in Spain, but never in summer. The courses are not as busy and, of course, the flights are cheaper.”
What changes has Eric noticed?
“Well there are lots of younger golfers who think they are the next Rory McIlroy. They buy the flash outfits first and then worry about their game afterwards.
“Golf should be a gentle game played by gentleman. But these days we see it played with angry faces by boys who only want to win and can’t take losing. We were on one course when a fight broke out among friends over whether one of them had moved their ball closer to the hole.
“We could not believe what we were seeing, they were supposed to be on holiday.
“It is only a game after all. We enjoy the hole experience. As for the courses in Spain, we are now spoiled for choice. We vary location each year and do try somewhere new every alternate year. This week we are going to the Playa Granada course at Motril. Friends have been and say it is a good course in a lovely setting.
“Apparently there is more than one 19th hole to choose from on the beach and we can go into the city in the evening if we want to. We always try and see more of Spain than the golf course.”
How do golfing holidaymakers choose which area of Spain to visit for their golf?
Brian, sporting a fetching pink shirt, told me: “Well we all have our favourites. Most of these boys on this plane will tell you that their first choice would be to play golf at La Manga. I have been going there for many years and, in Spain at least, it can’t be beaten.
“But we play at other courses along the Mar Menor and then go for a long lunch at one of the fish restaurants on the seafront.
“They have been catering for golfers in that part of Spain for forty or fifty years, so they know what we want.”
And what is that, I asked one of the party known to his mates as super Sam.
He said: “We want sunshine, little if any wind, no rain, a course where the greens have been adequately watered and where we will get a true run of the ball.
“The course must not been one where we have to stand around waiting for ages for the people in front to finish on the hole. If things are organised well, we can enjoy a smooth round of golf.
“The quality of the golf course is very important. We have been to one or two outside of Spain that were not fit to be called a golf course. That is why we come back to Spain year after year. We love the golf, the bars, the restaurants, the people and nightlife.”
Eric chipped in. Not into the bunker, you understand. But into the conversation.
“Next year we will go back to Murcia. We like it there. We loved the courses we played on, the local wine was superb and we really enjoyed it when we got into the city.
“And the courses at Jerez were excellent, though I have never tasted sherry that lethal before.
“We didn’t know the area before but we really enjoyed it there and it was so much cheaper in every way than where we go to on the Costa del Sol.
“Wherever we go we work up an appetite and a thirst on the golf course so we know how to let our hair down. Well, those of us who have any hair left that is!
I told the boys where to go in Motril. The best tapas bars and restaurants near the beach and they got very excited when I told them they could sail from there to Morocco. Maybe they could play in Spain and Africa in the same fortnight.
They got very excited at that prospect.
They told me they enjoyed playing the courses dotted along the Costa Blanca.
Brian said: “We used to go to Calpe, Denia and Javea all the time. There are some great courses there and we will go back, if only for a night out in Benidorm. It’s great fun there in winter. It is the only place we can go and still feel young.”
Why, I wondered, don’t they go for a jog or a swim?
Sam said: “We are on the golf course at first light. We pass the young ones coming back from the bars.
“We see Spain at the best time of day. Dawn is wonderful and it is not too hot. We get on the course nice and early so that we can enjoy an undisturbed round and then be ready for a nice lunch with lots of brandy.
“Then we do what the Spanish do, we go for a sleep. Playing golf anywhere is great exercise, so much better for you than jogging.
“Playing golf in Spain is a perfect way to spend a holiday. We simply love it.”
- The 19th hole bar at Motril