Most people associate golf on the Costa del Sol with the courses that lie west of Malaga all the way to Gibraltar. For a change of scene, east of Malaga has some superb golf courses and lots more to offer besides. It really is worth the while to take a few days out and enjoy this area and its golf. With the new motorway stretching right along the coast, it puts all the destinations within a manageable drive. As one drives out of Malaga and reaches Nerja, the lower hills of the Sierra Nevada meet the sea. From here there is a choice of either remaining on the motorway or heading down and taking the coast road that in a lot of ways, shows this beautiful landscape to its maximum.
The first golf course lies on the outskirts of Málaga at Rincón de la Victoria. Añoreta Golf was the first 18-hole golf course to be built east of the city. It was designed by one of the most prominent Spanish golf professionals Jose María Cañizares. He has exacted a beautiful golf course that proves itself to be an excellent challenge for golfers at all levels. The golf club was first opened in 1990 and since then, has become well established in the area. José María laid out the course to be varied with its many undulating greens set off by beautiful surrounding trees. The views to the sea below are truly spectacular with the seventh hole being the most dramatic. Water comes into play particularly on the 17th par three, where it is bordered by a huge lake setting off the beautiful green to perfection. Rincón de la Victoria is surrounded by typical smaller pueblos and nearby is the natural park of Parque Natural de las Sierras de Tejeda set in the magnificent mountain range of Maroma that has the highest peak overlooking Málaga.

Malaga golf

Travelling on further east, the next golf club is at Baviera Golf, lying a few kilometres east of Torre del Mar situated right on the Costa. Again, designed by twice World Champion Jose Maria Cañizares, it was opened in 2000. It presents a flowing 18-hole, par 72 good test of golf for all levels of golfer, men and women. Being set on mainly level ground it presents wide fairways without climbs or drops to navigate. The greens are large with again, prominent undulating features. There are a good many water influences, in particular on the fourth hole, where two lakes come into play. One covering an area of some 15,000 m² with the other protecting the entry onto the green. The ninth hole, a par-3 is set with a stream between tee and green with a lake to be negotiated as well. The 11th is a beautifully designed par five that slopes down with the sea in the distance. Most people think it’s a course to have fun on it with greens and fairways like carpets and bunkers that are exceptional. There is a super hotel on the golf course that provides the perfect base for exploring the area.

The third course to be reached is located on the Granada Costa at Montril. With an old name like Los Moriscos, the modern new design contradicts as it has been completely redesigned to take maximum advantage of its situation next to the beach. As it has naturally flat fairways it makes an ideal venue for an easy day of golf again for both men and women. There are wide fairways and tropical palm trees all set off by the incredible backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountain range where it comes tumbling down to the coast.

The final golf course is further afield and the first one in Europe to be set in a desert environment. Located in Almería, Desert Springs was designed by Peter McEvoy to take full advantage of its natural features including cactus, springs, rocks, water hazards and dry riverbeds. It is not an unusually difficult course to play but it is different to any other golf course on the Costa or indeed Europe. There are three lakes and water hazards that come in to play on the closing holes.

All golf courses come highly recommended for a healthy change of scene. If one requires a car for the trip away then CarGest, the leading car hire in Malaga not only offers cars but also golf club hire as well. Full details can be found on their website.

 

The art of entertaining has always been prevalent in the south of Spain and the Teatro Miguel de Cervantes is a beautiful edifice that exemplifies this. The theatre, set in the heart of Malaga, continually presents shows representing some of the best acts and theatre to be seen in Spain. The theatre itself acts as a beautiful backdrop to all proceedings. From its foundation in the 19th century it has continually performed for the citizens of the city and surrounding areas. Apart from one period, when in the latter part of that century, a fierce fire destroyed practically all of the theatre which was then called Teatro de la Libertad. In fact, previously it had been called Principe Alfonso and had been originally opened to celebrate the world visit by Queen Isabella 11 to Malaga. Fortunately, a prominent group of citizens with strong ties to the city’s cultural heritage decided to get together with the sole purpose of giving the city a new home for its performing arts and also to act as a symbol for the city’s economic and cultural growth. Apart from its foremost purpose of laying on excellent entertainment. This included then as it does now a mix of opera, music, theatre and dance that in turn are broken down into a multitude of other scenarios.

This restoration group appointed the city architect, Jeronimo Cuervo to draw up the plans for a Grand Theatre. He was chosen as he had all ready created many architectural and urban constructions. His assistant was the Valencia painter living in Malaga at that time, Bernardo Ferrandiz. Between the two of them, they designed and created the building’s design and decoration. However, because of the urgency that the group imposed on them they brought in help from local bred painter Muñoz Degrain. This band of three talented artisans put together the essence of what can be seen today. The ceiling was painted in a wonderful show representing all that made up Malaga’s cultural being.

Teatro Cervantes

This included representation of the city’s fine arts in the centre surrounded by all the various aspects of the city’s standing and wealth which at that time was in full bloom. This included agriculture, pottery, industry, transport, fishing and the city’s strategic location as an important trading port. The quality of decoration in the theatre is testament to the new social class that sought to promote all that is good about the city by building this temple to it.

This work was undertaken in very quick time from April to November 1870. December 17th saw the grand opening that featured an interpretation of the William Tell overture. The theatre was capable of seating 2400 people and the stage big enough to rival most other theatres in the civilised world. It had exceptional dimensions and decoration which always created a wonderful atmosphere within the theatre itself. This is reflected in the feeling of space that was achieved and is testament to the architects prowess. The quality and finish of the theatre was recognised by the Spanish Ministry of Culture that declared the Teatro Miguel de Cervantes a Historical and Artistic Monument.

Unfortunately, over the years due to the indifference of the city, the theatre suffered neglect that almost reduced it to ruins. During the ‘50s, as it was in a serious state, it was used for showing films. However in 1984, the City Hall of Malaga acquired the theatre and financed the works to reconstruct the building as we see it today. The new theatre now has a capacity of almost 1200 seats divided up into stalls, circles and boxes. It was opened by Queen Sofia in 1987 since when the theatre has gone on from strength to strength. Its audience has expanded from local clientele in Malaga to a truly cosmopolitan audience and this is reflected in the calibre of shows and theatre that is now presented.

 

MotoGPThis weekend sees another festival of sport at the dramatic motor racing circuit at Jerez. It’s the perfect excuse to get in the car or on the bike and travel to one of the most iconic areas of southern Spain. Starting with the racing, this features the MotoGP motorbike World Championship Spanish Grand Prix. It covers the whole weekend with practice taking place on Friday, 3rd May with qualifying on Saturday, cumulating with the Grand Prix on Sunday. The supporting racing sees the Moto2 and Moto3 categories playing out their championships.

Spanish riders have been dominating the sport for the past years with three of them currently residing in the first three positions in the points table. Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa have shown their class already. However, that Italian veteran and mastermind Valentino Rossi is just behind them. Now he is back with the Yamaha factory racing stable, he is also back on his favourite racing machine. His team mate this season is Jorge Lorenzo, lying first in the rankings with his two fellow countryman racing on the Repsol Honda team bikes just behind.

The whole weekend promises to be its usual exciting self and upwards of 150,000 spectators are expected to attend. The Spanish are fanatical about their motor cycle racing and their home-grown stars. This feeling is reflected by the people of Jerez where tens of thousands of its inhabitants spill out of the city and make their way for one of the most vibrant occasions of the year.

Set in a shallow valley, the area is consistently blessed with good weather beaming on beautiful scenery. The circuit itself was constructed in 1986 before being modified in 2002. It’s almost 4500 metres in length with a total of thirteen bends incorporated in its design, the last of which has been named after Lorenzo. It has grandstands that are capable of holding up to a quarter of a million spectators and provide perfect viewing facilities, that has made the circuit one of the favourites in the Grand Prix racing calendar. Not only for motorbikes but for a myriad of car racing championships including Formula One. The whole circuit was resurfaced in 2005 and is used by many racing teams for testing their machinery throughout the year. It also contains some of the most modern media and corporate facilities for hands-on reporting and entertaining.

Apart from its Grand Prix circuit, Jerez has much more to offer. It is one of the most beautiful cities to be found in Spain. Located just 20 km from the Costa at Sanlúcar, Jerez is acclaimed worldwide for its sherry and brandy bodegas. The English were mainly responsible for discovering sherry and its English name is derived from the Arabic language name of Jerez. This fortified wine is available in a multitude of different flavours and sweetness with its most driest called manzanilla to be found at Sanlúcar. However, the main sherry bodegas are still situated in the centre of the city where they continue to actively produce and cement their reputation.

Jerez is also famous for its beautiful horses, normally white stallions that are trained and ridden by some of the most talented riders. Their exhibitions and shows can be found locally and are well worth the visit. Flamenco is also synonymous with the city and the top dancers in southern Spain can be found in bars and clubs down the twists and turns of the calles in the old town, Casco Antiguo. Other Flamenco dancing is centred around the Barrio de Santiago which faces the cathedral. Beautiful palm lined squares together with magnificent rows of Jacaranda trees located on the wide thoroughfares found in the rest of the city give it a sophisticated aristocratic air. With or without the racing, Jerez is a beautiful destination to discover.

 

The latest research figures from KPMG show that the number one destination for golfers from Europe and the rest of the world is still the Costa del Sol. This is backed up by the leading tourist operators in those countries where golf is a prime sport. These include of course England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland followed by Germany, Sweden, Denmark and then France.

Golf is very much a personalised business and although the main tour operators such as Thomas Cook, Thompson, Cosmos and First Choice appear to be the main carriers, this is no longer the case. More and more, people are turning to the smaller independent specialised golf concerns that know the Costa del Sol and can answer any queries that clients may have. They also have a real passion for the destination and this is transmitted to their clientele. There are now over 200 smaller specialist operators that offer the perfect golf package.

The marked change within the market in the last 10 years, has seen a decline in mass tourism and an increase in people travelling with these smaller operators. From accounting for well over 60% of the market a decade ago, the share of the large tour operators has now dropped to around 40% or less. The positive news surrounding these facts is that the Spanish golf market is growing with a year on percentage increase of around nine percent keeping it at the forefront of desirable destinations.

Costa del Sol Golf

Coupled with this is the new way of booking golf vacations. Most are now undertaken through the Internet, websites or by telephone, reflecting the fact that the average golfer expects that personal touch. Improved online booking systems as well as the myriad of smart phone and iPad tablets being used, all point to the fact that most bookings in the future will be undertaken digitally.

One thing is for sure is that if the golfing fraternity are continuously looked after in a professional and courteous manner, then there is no reason why southern Spain will continue to be the prime destination for them. Ranking second to the Costa del Sol is the Algarve in Portugal. However, new developing countries who recognise the importance of golf to their tourist portfolio, are rapidly developing resorts designed to compete with the best to be found in Spain. However, golf course design and hotels are only half the answer. The appeal of the golfing scene on the Costa del Sol is the result of years of, not just developing the right mix of accommodation and golf courses. But also the ambience of great food locations, the blend of many cosmopolitan influences, the backdrop of some of the most beautiful landscapes to be found globally and the friendliness of the local people, all contributing to the relaxed feeling of just being in the right place.

Further contributing factors is the value for money feeling from the excellent prices to be found right along the coast. Couple that with the sixty six superb golf courses waiting to be discovered and there really is no competition to the sheer variety of positive reasons why southern Spain is aptly named the Costa del Golf and remains the favourite destination for golfers.

Another survey which reflects these new waves of thinking was commissioned by Reed Travel, owned by IGTM, the world’s largest provider of exhibitions. From this it was deduced that for golfers residing in the United Kingdom and Ireland, Germany, Scandinavia and France, it found that the three most influential reasons for golfers choosing the Costa del Sol were friends recommendations, the small specialist golf operator and thirdly, golf magazines. All showing an extremely positive signs for a particularly healthy future for golf in Spain and in particular, the Costa del Sol.

 

Malaga HolidaysStatistics that have just been released for the past year show the incredible number of visitors who travel to the Costa del Sol via Málaga airport. Even in these difficult times, they do make heart warming reading for this is the mainstay of income for this beautiful area. The United Kingdom takes the first two positions in the ranking with almost 790,000 passengers arriving from London Gatwick and Manchester providing another 400,000 travellers. Next is Dublin in Ireland with an impressive 360,000 visitors and interestingly in fourth place, are the French with 350,000 coming to Málaga from Paris Charles de Gaulle.

Next in line is London Stansted with 280,000 visitors, then 268,000 from Amsterdam, 256,000 from Birmingham UK and 253,000 from Brussels in Belgium. The final two in the top 10 ratings are both from the United Kingdom with Bristol providing 220,000 and East Midlands with 249,000 holidaymakers.

This confirms that the busiest routes are those within the EU with particular emphasis on those passengers from the United Kingdom and Ireland. It is gratifying to note that the French contingency has strengthened significantly along with the Belgians. The Netherlands has always been good for the Costa del Sol with the Dutch travelling consistently over the years.

The ranking of the busiest airlines arriving in to Málaga airport operating the most flights sees Ryanair at the top with 21% followed by EasyJet with 15% both out of the United Kingdom and Ireland. The remaining seven of the top eleven are Vueling, Iberia, Air Berlin, Aer Lingus, Monarch, Air Europa, Transavia, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Thomson Airways.

Other statistics that have emerged from the survey indicates the incredible and growing diversity in countries and cities visiting the shores of Andalucia. These include Aeroflot from Moscow, Air Bucharest and Blue Air from Hungary, AirExplore from Milan, Air France from Toulouse and Bordeaux, Air Mediterranee from Lyon, Alitalia from Rome, AlbaStar from Catania and Milan, Arkefly from Amsterdam Avion Express from Bologna, Bulgaria Air from Sofia, Condor from Frankfurt and Munich, Enter Air and LOT from Warsaw, Estonian Air from Tallin, Europe Airpost from Brest, Caen, Lille, Marseille, Metz and Nancy, Finnair from Helsinki, Icelandair from Reykjavik, Freebird Airlines from Istanbul, Luxair from Luxembourg, Mistral Air from Bergamo in Italy, Niki from Vienna, Norwegian Air from Gothenburg, Oslo and Stockholm, Royal Air Maroc from Casablanca, Smart Wings from Prague, Sun d’Or from Tel Aviv, Swissair from Zurich and Geneva, TAP from Lisbon, Tunisair from Tunis and many more chartered airlines. All working hard to increase the number of visitors to Malaga and the Costa del Sol.

Further research shows that travellers are increasing in numbers from China, Japan and the Americas. The important thing now is to present the merits of Spain and particularly Andalucia, to the world wide audience. Judging from the number of flights in and out of Málaga airport and the huge diversity of destinations, it is vital that we have a presence in these places. Turespaña have continued to undertake this for the current year by taking a substantial stand at the 20th International fair of Moscow “tourism and travel” (MITT 2013) recently held in the Russian capital. Plans are also in place to participate in all the top venues during this year and into the next.