Mediterranean Mecca

Costa del Sol, Spain

By: Robin Smithinbank

Your memory of the 1997 Ryder Cup is probably colored by which side of the Pond you call home. But putting aside Europe’s 141/2 to 131/2 victory for a moment, let’s focus on Valderrama, the little-known (at that time) venue that hosted the event. Located on Spain’s Costa del Sol, Valderrama ( has since earned a reputation as arguably the finest course in all of Europe. Its challenging Robert Trent Jones Sr. design and immaculate condition make it worth crossing the Atlantic for—and there’s even more to the scene that you may not be aware of.

The Costa del Golf, as it’s often referred to, has experienced massive development for four decades running, making it a veritable mecca for club-toting travelers. A good place to begin is with the secluded sanctum of La Cala. It boasts a five-star hotel that blends Spanish Don with 21st-century convenience and overlooks three courses, the Campo America, Campo Asia and Campo Europa. (

Next, book a tee time at Marbella’s Rio Real ( Not because it’s a classic, but because it’s a player-friendly track that should bolster your confidence before you head for one of the unsung beauties of Costa del Sol golf, the mighty Monte Mayor. Set high in the mountains, where it slices through wild, yawning gorges surrounded by dense flora, Monte Mayor ( is not only breathtakingly scenic, it’s also an outstanding test of nerve. Losing golf balls has never been so pleasurable.

If you still need convincing, consider that the Costa del Sol enjoys some 300 days of sunshine a year—the name itself means “Sun Coast”—with a golf season that stretches from September all the way through May. Any golfer should find those conditions agreeable, no matter which Ryder Cup team he roots for.


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