Andalucia has always rightly regarded Valderrama Golf Club as its prize golfing venue. The same quality of beautiful and low-density spaciousness that characterises Valderrama can be appreciated at Dehesa Montenmedio, an enormous estate upon which lies a public course.
Despite the 'very private only' impression imposed by the impressive gate next to the main highway, you are within minutes of reaching one of the most pleasing expanses of land in Spain. Once inside the classical Andalucian portals, the sense of shutting down the urban chapter of your life is almost palpable.
Montenmedio is a thriving reserve of wildlife: deer, foxes and eagles are at home and noisy intrusions are virtually non-existent.
Montenmedio's location and size have made it natural for the owner to create a self-sufficient resort, a place that offers more than one activity, more than one style of cuisine, much more in fact, than the superb 18-hole golf club in play at present and the further two 18-hole courses in planning stages - one to be finished within the next two years, the other in four to five years.
Robert Hardwell, newly appointed Golf Director, is finalising the new golf course layouts with the owner at present. He is also improving the golf practice range and putting facilities. Because golf training and improvement programmes are available for every level of player, the excellence of practice facilities is integral to Montenmedio's offering.
Additional to sweepingly generous fairways flanked by a variety of flourishing, indigenous trees - the long, 550m 12th is a model par-5 hole, this very gently undulating terrain presents memorable golf-course scenery. Four par-5 holes are long and complicated by doglegs; most holes are par-4 and a few piquant par-3s complete what is overall a very interesting course.
Interesting to note is the increasing number of golf pros from various countries who bring their group of players to the course.
By far, though, the most distinctive feature of the course, as Robert Hardwell succinctly expressed it is, "The lack of concrete." Apart from an elegant W.C. facility on the 9th hole (which blends perfectly into the environment), there is a breathtaking absence of 'housing'. From one green, the mountaintop village of Vejer can be spotted in the distance. The only other man-made interventions are the necessities of golf paraphernalia: greens, flags, etc. Leaving the land in a state as close to natural as possible is inherent to Montenmedio philosophy; both existing and future golf courses will reflect this attitude. Golfers who have been exposed to over-crowded, over-marshalled courses will be pleased by Montenmedio's policy of a limited saturation point; the owner wants to see just over 100 players on the course at a time.
Three hundred hectares comprise the finca, or farm - more than sufficient for a few golf courses. So what about the rest of Montenmedio? The horse reigns as undisputed king, and the equestrian centre reflects it.
Stables can accommodate well over a thousand horses. Dressage, carriage training, cross country trails and competition tracks cater to international competitors as well as to the keen amateur rider. Horse carriage rides (the carriages hold up to 18 people) offer the visitor an exciting passage through the lush estate covered with pines, cork oak and olive trees. Those whose bent is photography take full advantage of this wildlife paradise.
In keeping with the 'horse as predominant' theme, the only residential plans are inclusive of 20 enormous plots to be sold for construction of a home and stabling.
Although the terrain is not characterised by live-threatening, savage Mother Nature features, the scent of adventurous ambience that accompanies an unspoiled estate is alive and well here.
Obstacle races of diverse levels involve crossing bridges, walls, ditches and tunnels. Abseiling and traversing the 'rock-o-dome' are sources of adventure and there is archery on offer. If you are more interested in testing the limits of your 4 x 4 than your own capacities, the Royal Spanish Automobile Club (RACE) has developed some intriguing four-wheel drive courses with hazards as provocative as those on the golf course.
Several restaurants with differing degrees of formality cater to diverse tastes. Casual and comfortable, the outside terrace and club bar/cafeteria serves simple, well-prepared dishes, while the club restaurant exemplifies quiet elegance and understated haute cuisine. At the far end of the clubhouse, a large, patio-enclosed swimming pool provides cooling exercise.
Being at sea level in these parts signifies pristine Atlantic shores where underwater sports are practised and the sands are wide and unsullied. Closest to Montenmedio are the beaches at Barbate, Zahara de las Atunes and Caños de Mecca (truly spectacular). If you are curious as to what the south-west coast was like 35 years ago, take a look at El Palmar, seemingly suspended in time. Take time to do it, for in a few years, it surely will have gone. The downside to this paradisiacal image is the wind. In full spate it is terrific in the wildest sense. Although beloved by windsurfers, golfers regard it with little affection. Note: Montenmedio's protected location is shown to advantage during windy days.
Within a few kilometres is a notable mountain pueblo. Vejer de la Frontera is a favourite among those who like their villages imbued with the flavours of Spain. Both in architecture and cuisine, Vejer complies nicely.
Proudly majestic, the town looks down from a 200 metre-high hill, clearly as sentinel over all below. Vestiges of Arabic occupation mingle with the Andalucian presence and the result is a strikingly convivial combination. Vejer's attractions have not escaped attention; it is the recipient of many historical and artistic awards.
Having visited Montenmedio several times, its appeal to me as a venue increases with each exposure. Attractions far exceed the admittedly first-class course. A very cosmopolitan, international atmosphere exists, with no particular country dominating the field. The result is mutual respect and tolerance - live and let live, if you will - rather the same principle guiding the owner in his development of the concept that is Montenmedio.
Montenmedio Golf and Country Club
Ctra.N-340 E-5, Km. 42.5
11150 Vejer de la Frontera-Barbate (Cádiz)
Tel: 956 451 216
Fax: 956 451 295
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