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Alcaidesa Links Golf Course: The First True Links Course in Spain

By Carla Harvey, Contributor

The Rock of Gibraltar lies a few kilometres from Alcaidesa Links Golf Course and the view of it is one of the most stunning visuals of the club. Golfing here, as is true of the majority of Spanish courses previously reviewed in TravelGolf.com, means golfing in a natural, fresh environment. Certainly there are buzzy attractions within reach, sophisticated cities not more than an hour away, but the point of golfing ambience on the western Andalucian coast is that the golf course comes first. Perhaps because these courses are not hidden within the camouflage of property development, they appear particularly enticing.

Alcaidesa is the first true links golf course in Spain. This course slopes down towards the sea; sand dunes and gorse bushes border fairways. Another characteristic of a links course is met here: 18 holes are comprised of uninterrupted holes beginning and ending at the club house. Peter Allis designed the 18-hole course, which like many southern Spanish attractions, opened to be on parade for EXPO '92.

Several holes run parallel and directly along the seafront, providing enviable, exclusive views of both Gibraltar and North Africa. While there are few trees on the course itself, the natural vegetation is plentiful, creating noteworthy roughs ideally to be viewed from the comfortable smoothness of the fairways. The current trend of constructing homes along course perimeters has been eschewed here: like Montenmedio and Valderrama, development is taking place in the surrounding area rather than directly encroaching on the course itself. Contrasting tones of sharp blue sea, golden sand and verdant greens are stunning.

When playing, respect is called for, as most of Alcaidesa's hazards are subtly at hand to thwart overconfidence. Narrow fairways give way to impossible bushy roughs, the predominant slopes of the course calls for considerable discipline in order to avoid overshooting greens. These hazards are consistent. Rather less discreet in threatening completion of an effortless good round are wind conditions, common to Andalucia and nowhere more in evidence than on this seaward facing course.

There are two prevailing winds on the Med/Atlantic coast - to be either blessed or cursed, depending upon where you are at the time of their blowing. At Alcaidesa, a levante makes certain holes a breeze and others a torment; the same holds true for a poniente coming from the opposite direction. Number 8, considered the most difficult, illustrates the ability of poniente power. A Handicap 1 hole, a profusion of bunkers adds to delights.

Number 2, a par 3, is another hole that demands players to compete against the wind. To reach the green in one without the wind requires a 7 iron; if it's blowing, use a 1. Hole 13 is visually striking, its fairway rolling downhill just above the shore for an impressive 460 metres to the impeccable green. Alcaidesa has
several quirky holes where intelligence is as much in demand as physical skill.

With an eye towards making play as interest ing as possible, some holes have been re-sculpted. One of these is No. 15, formerly a par 4 and now a par 5 owing to the introduction of a tricky double water hazard just below the green that increases attraction and challenge.

Of Alcaidesa's 170 members, 90% are from nearby Gibraltar, less than 15 minutes away in actual distance and light years away in terms of stress. While there are no plans to increase the membership, anyone making plans to invest in this area, should keep tabs on progress of the new course. British architect Dave Thomas is designing it. An ex-Ryder Cup player, he has designed 90 courses - in the USA, Japan and Europe. His design of nearby San Roque Club attests to considerable expertise. Construction of the second 18 holes at Alcaidesa will begin at the end of 2001 and is expected to be ready for play in 2003. Greens Fees are reasonable: 42.10 Euros for a visitor Greens Fee, 30.05 Euros for a buggy. Tariffs will go up in September of this year.

A new Clubhouse - spacious and located to cater to players from both courses will be built and will serve both courses. Much grander in scale than the one in use at present, it will ensure that Alcaidesa's facilities are state-of-the-art. Having said that, the present Clubhouse - small but intimate - has a terrific terrace, a good selection of tapas and salads and a friendly atmosphere that one hopes will not be lost in the new venture.

Every golfer knows that the game amounts to a lot more than 'a good walk'. Alcaidesa's Secretary was talking about a neighbouring course that he enjoys when he said, "Este campo dice algo." ("This course says something.") The assessment is equally true of his own club, where, standing on the 13th tee, sea to the left and a seemingly endless expanse of fairway rippling downward towards the green, one feels that life is a pretty fair round.

Off-course attractions are diverse. A visit to Gibraltar is almost mandatory for the newcomer. Explore Irishtown, walk the length of Main Street and make your way to Queensway Quay. Lively bars and restaurants with good food and varying degrees of casual/smart atmosphere make a nice contrast to Alcaidesa tranquility. For a taste of inland Andalucia, travel a few kilometres west on the N-340, take the turning to Jimena de la Frontera and either go the distance to this venerable village or stop off at Castellar de la Frontera, a town of mixed heritage whose castle is being restored.

Magnificent views and some interesting artesania are worthwhile and the international presence can be intriguing. Algeciras has been experiencing a renaissance of culture for several years. A bustling port is its focal centre; the city market and monuments all command attention. Goods from Morocco, India and the Far East are tempting and cheap. Try the numerous tapas bars, where freshly caught crabs go for a song. When you've had your fill, head back to one of the prettiest courses on the Med.

Alcaidesa Links Golf Course
Crta. N-340, Km.124.6
La Linea (Cádiz)
Phone: 03456 791040
Fax: 03456 791041
Web: www.alcaidesa.com

Carla HarveyCarla Harvey, Contributor

Carla Harvey freelances for various magazines in Spain and abroad. Among them are Mediterranean Life, Essential, The Reporter and Lookout Magazine. She was the editor of Marbella Times for five years and WHERE Costa del Sol for two years.

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