Sand Valley: Play In A Polish Sandbox

Once again I was on the road, or rather the air, traveling to Poland to play golf. It will be my first time in Poland and I was looking forward to see what kind of golf Sand Valley Golf Resort had to offer.

I was landing in Gdansk, where in the 1980s it became the birthplace of the Solidarity movement. Gdansk played a major role in bringing an end to Communist rule in Poland and the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union followed. If that is the only thing they remember Gdansk  for then that is something, indeed.

The reason for my Gdansk landing is the Sand Valley Golf Resort. Golf World ranks Sand Valley as a Top 100 Course in Europe. I guess that makes it the #1 course in Poland.

Sand Valley is  90 minutes from the Gdansk airport. As the nearest town’s population.  I recommend you book at one of the spaces in the Sand Valley villas located just a few steps from the clubhouse. Sand Valley offers a variety of packages including rooms and golf for a twosome or groups of twosomes. The villas are a Scandinavian design appointed with saunas, designer kitchens and free WIFI.

If home cooking is not your thing, then do yourself a favor and enjoy the Finka Restaurant in the clubhouse. An international menu changes daily using high quality  ingredients and local produce. Here’s a tip from me. If they say they have soup…get some. I tried three different soups and they all were extraordinary.

All the same, the main attraction is the golf course. 

The course was first laid out by Finnish designer, Lassi Pekka Tilander.  Tillander is the designer of the wonderful Estonian golf course, Parnu Bay. But after the construction began it became clear that the construction crew were inferior. The sacking of that crew was the result . The German designer, Tony Ristola, stepped in to oversee the project. Ristola expected to see a mess but the terrible condition of the project was shocking.

Scrapping the original work, Ristola started anew, keeping to the original layout of Tilander. He built the course on the fly, creating greens, fairways and tees as he went along. Working with a local construction crew, he was able to open the course on time in 2009.

True to its name, Sand Valley sits in…well…a lot  of natural sand. The fairways and greens run through and around huge waste areas. Sand bunkers, some of pot design, dot the fairways. 

The elevated greens have runoffs into collection areas or said bunkering. The greens are full of undulations with a capital “U”.  Approach shots must land on the greens like butterflies with sore feet. Hard landings will just roll off into said collection areas. 

They members and staff told us that the course needs a few plays to understand. My first time through proved them correct. It was quite an adventure as I learned where all the places were NOT to hit the ball. To me, it seemed there was no rhyme or reason to what was in front of me.

Take the ninth hole. The club deems #9 as the signature hole. But not because of its picturesque quality. A good drive puts you in a risk or reward position. The green sits on a plateau on the far side of a canyon. Yes, I said a canyon. Your approach is all carry and landing short is not an option. My foursome put three of our four balls in the abyss. Use plenty of club as there is plenty of room behind the green.

But my second round went better. As I addressed each shot, the memory of playing the hole during the last round came to mind. Like I said I learned all the places not to hit the ball. So I didn’t hit them there and enjoyed a better round.

The course was dry despite only being late May. In its usual condition, the contrast between the green and the sandy waste areas is stunning (see photo). Sand Valley earns its ranking. The challenge of the golf course combined with  its facilities and service  is . top notch

Sand Valley is  about an hour by plane from Stockholm or Copenhagen.  Sand Valley is  far enough away to be an adventure but close enough for a weekend trip. You’ll have a great time no matter your score.

A Danish Treat – The Scandinavian

The Scandinavian is judged by many to be the #1 golf club in Denmark.

The airport in Copenhagen was bustling with summer break travelers, tourists and youth teams. With a little effort I was able to break away and connect with my host, David Shepherd. David is the CEO of the The Scandinavian golf club. Many believe that the The Scandinavian is  the #1 golf club in Denmark and I came to see what made that so.

On the way there David informed me that summer had arrived with a vengeance in Denmark. Locals and travelers welcomed the sunny skies  it had not rained in ten weeks. He alerted me to the fact that the course was desperate for any moisture. Both courses were in great shape…just not the green one expects when you hear the words golf course.

Arriving at the clubhouse, I noticed that the roof line was a replica of the course logo. Or is it the other way around? The clubhouse is large, airy and a wonderful combination of wood, stone and glass. In so many words, it is a striking building. Within holds a professional shop, restaurant & bar, lounge, offices and a conference room. Downstairs is the men’s and women’s locker rooms. There are also 400 individual  lockers for clubs and buggies. The wood and stone theme runs throughout the building. The glass is ceiling to floor and covers one side of the building overlooking the spacious 1,100 sq. m stone patio and the golf course vista

Unlike most golf course clubhouses, the clubhouse at The Scandinavian is far from customary. They took great care to make the building a statement rather than just a gathering area. The architecture  design makes the building a work of art. With that thought, scattered throughout the building and grounds are pieces of art. Believe me, this is a clubhouse that will stop you in your tracks as you walk through the front doors.

Martin, the golf manager, took me out to the guest house where I would sleep. The house only has three rooms but the are spacious and comfortable. Each room has an on suite.  There is a good size open area that doubles as a kitchen, eating area and living room. It converts for meetings away from the clubhouse bustle.

At dinner that night, David gave us the history of The Scandinavian. I’ll be talking about the dinner and restaurant down the page.

Three avid golfers decided that Copenhagen needed a world class golf course for members. Their collective experiences went into the creation of what they wanted in a golf club. They hired the firm of R.T. Jones II for the courses. Chief Design Officer, Bruce Charlton, designed two excellent 18 hole golf course. Each is different but the designers signature is clear in each one.

Hey, Gene…what about the golf?  Okay, let’s discuss the golf experience that awaits you at The Scandinavian. First is the practice facilities. The Scandinavian has an expansive driving range with many tee locations available. One of the positive aspects is the course offers free range balls. As David explained, “The Scandinavian believes that the golf experience should be all inclusive. Your fee will cover all the ancillary costs. We feel it deters from the experience to charge a green fee than add plus, plus to complete your round. The practice facility also includes chipping and putting greens as well as practice bunkers.

After eight years of development and construction, The Scandinavian opened in 2010. The names of two golf courses are Old Course and New Course. The name New Course is a misnomer as it opened only six months after the Old Course. Each course has five tees to be friendly to players of all ability. Imagination helps as well as ability. On the two days I played each course, the fairways took on a sepia tone making the course look like an old photo. The courses were dry, but in excellent playing shape. The greens were green and rolled true. Despite the diabolical little curves and turns that seemed to always be in front of the hole, that is.

The Old Course has a phrase on the website. It  says, “Old Course is designed with the fundamental element that accuracy from the tee counts more than length.” One nice feature is one does get the feeling that your group is all alone on the course. If you keep your pace of play.

There are five par threes and water protects all. I would think that it would take a few more rounds before finding your way to beat these holes.

A favorite hole on Old Course for me is the second. Dissected by the creek, the second hole sets up two possible ways to the green. A drive down the left hand side will leave you with an option to go for the left side or hit over the creek onto the peninsula. I said two ways but the creek that snugs right up to the green narrows the left side. From the peninsula you have to hit back over the creek  making  even a short third shot interesting.

Both courses are two loops. Each finishing hole on each side comes back to the clubhouse. I am particularly smitten with the 18th on Old Course. Challenging finish with a vista to stand on the fairway and admire.

The word is that New Course was tighter. I didn’t get a feeling of narrow when I played. The designer recommends precise iron play and consistent course management. It’s true that setting up your next shot is paramount. The memorable hole on New Course is the eleventh. They built the golf courses on land once owned by the Danish Army. Hole #11 is the site of the rifle range.  It’s a drive straight out to almost a 90º dog leg left. You then are looking right down the range itself. The fairway narrows down to the green sunk into a hollow flanked on three sides by trees and earthen walls. Take care, indeed.

After your round you must enjoy the restaurant, The Waters. The service is impeccable and the chef has worked at Michelin starred restaurants. May I recommend you have the specialty, Tournedos Rossini. Beef tenderloin with fried foie gras, truffle, glazed green, new potatoes and Madeira sauce. The beef melts in your mouth and comes from cows fed dark chocolate. Whatever it does, the dish is delectable.

Unlike most clubs, The Scandinavian business model is to build up membership.  Once reaching an ideal number, the club closes to green fee guests. Most clubs are doing just the opposite. The Scandinavian believes that the club is the sum total of the people who frequent it. The staff bends over backward to ensure that your experience is the best. From the wait staff to the greens keepers you will only find friendly professionalism.

If you’re looking for a singular golf experience, experience The Scandinavian. But make it soon, because one day you might not be able to. And that would be a shame.

Updated from a previous post)                                            Photos courtesy of The Scandinavian

In The Early Morning Light

It’s early morning at the Las Ramblas golf club. The early birds, the ones with the early tee times, are beginning to arrive. At first, the arriving cars trickle in but their pace increases as the clock nears 8 am. At this time of day, right before the sun rises over the hills, the light has a silver glow. It mutes the colors like a color photo on matte paper.

misty morning

Early Morning Las Ramblas

There is a chill in the air. It’s November and the early morning temperatures can dip into single digits. You can tell the vacationers from the people who live here in Alicante. The vacationers are in shorts, short sleeve shirts and no jackets. They are on holiday from the Northern climes and a slight chill won’t stop them from getting their holiday sunburns. The locals are wearing jackets, hats and long pants. They know its better to take clothes off when it warms than not having anything to wear when the sea breezes come cold.

Standing on the first tee you see strands of sunlight begin to light the fairway. Walking to your tee shot, the Spanish sun makes its climb over the barrancas and ramblas of this part of Costa Blanca beginning its job of providing warmth and light to the people underneath it.

Today’s special treat is the way the rising ground fog turns the sunlight into streaks of silvery rays. Adding to the mystical ambiance the trees give off an additional vapor from the warming bark. The illusion is that the tree bark is smoking from an internal fire in the trees themselves.

November also brings humidity to the coast and a heavy dew covers the golf course. The greens at Las Ramblas this day are dew covered but in sterling condition. Unless you’re the first group, an advantage to early morning golf are the trails in the dew left by previous putts. They will give you an excellent read of the break in the green. Remember, your stroke must be firm as dew slows the ball down. There will also be less break than the dry greens later in the day.

Early morning golf gives a sense of serenity at Las Ramblas. There’s a special light and long shadows from the rising sun. It is also so quiet. A silence only disturbed by the birds waking in the trees and the hum of distant grass cutters. You move through the golf course in a different frame of mind. At this time of day you get the feeling that Los Ramblas is your own private golf course. Only seeing the groups on the holes you’ve already played lets you know you’re not alone. The loss of privacy is replaced with knowing that your round is coming to an end. Perhaps there will be a twinge of regret soon replaced with the realization that it is still morning and you have most of the day to enjoy the other delights that Costa Blanca has to offer.

While you can play early morning golf anywhere, playing at Las Ramblas is an indulgence every golfer deserves.

Valleromanes Is One Sweet Barcelona Treat

One of the vibrant cities in Europe is Barcelona. While the city offers many reasons to visit, one reason to enjoy the Barcelona area is a day playing  Club de Golf Valleromanes.

Vallromanes is a municipality of the region of Vallés Oriental located 25 km north of the municipality of Barcelona , in Catalonia. It contains several upscale neighborhoods located around the Golf Club of Vallromanes and nearby areas. Vallromanes (the town), with green areas, shady oaks and lovely houses, is a peaceful spot. The area is so quiet and tranquil that it attracts campers and visitors to a growing spa industry. A square is the center of the village offering what retail there is, a couple of small grocery shops and restaurants. The dominant feature is the parish church dedicated to St. Vincent.

We stayed at one of the spas, the Hotel Can Galvany. The hotel name comes from the old Can Galvany Country House. The modern addition houses the hotel and restaurant. In there you find stately suites, bedrooms, restauarant and lounge and the communal services. The original rustic Country House now contains an intimate Spa & Wellness Center.

Hotel Can Galvany 4star (2)

Club De Golf Vallromanes is about five minutes away from the hotel. A large sign announces your arrival as you drive up the driveway that separates the golf course. From the driveway you see an impressive stone manor overlooking the golf course. But it will not prepare you for the site that greets you after rounding the corner to the reception desk. An old tower, the remains of the original castle, introduces you to Tavernera. The ancestral castle, is first mentioned in 1108. The first owners were the Montornès. From the 17th Century, the Counts of Darnius occupied the house named Tavenera. The tower was rebuilt in 1718 as the center of the manor. Ceramic pictures of the Counts of Darnius decorate the face of this remarkable fortified farmhouse. Inside this proud edifice contains everything a modern golf club should offer.

Club De Golf Vallromanes is, for most local players, one of the best golf clubs in the area. After originating for members only, the club, while still private, now welcomes visitors. This 18-hole par 72 hosted, among other tournaments, the Spanish Open in 1985. That tournament was won by the Spanish golf titan, Seve Ballesteros.

Designed by the prestigious British architect, Mr. F.W Hawtree, Valleromanes opened in 1972. The course is a wonderful example of a Hawtree parkland design. At around 6200 meters, the course is perfect for all kinds of players, ages and handicaps. It can be from comfortable to demanding depending on the flag positions. Wide fairways and demanding greens force players to use their imagination and skill. Still, to paraphrase an old adage, it never will spoil your walk.

I have some favorite holes that I’d like to mention. The two finishing holes on each nine are savory. The ninth hole is a downhill par 5 is that has OB on the right and a grove of trees that are no fun on the left. Your approach shot will present a green guarded by two forward bunkers, left and right. The hole demands a strategy depending on your ability. Do you go for a low score or not? Is the risk worth the reward? The green is welcoming but tiered. It will accept a fairway shot, but being above or below the flag can turn an eagle or birdie into bigger numbers. There is a lake on the right, but only THE most wayward of shots will find it. A fun hole as well as scenic.

18th finishing holeThe 18th hole is a wonderful par 4 to finish your round. Big hitters will play a fairway wood to not drive the ball through the fairway on the right. Trees and, closer to the green, water protect the left side. The fairway slopes left to right. Pulled left tee shots into the open woods could end up in the fairway…maybe. The green, as we said has water on the left front and large bunkers to the rear. Approach shots call for some strategy, but once on the surface, this green rewards good putts to score well.

Another favorite is the 15th. Here you can grip it and rip it. From an elevated tee the fairway takes a massive dive deep and to the left. Yes, there is OB on the left and a deep forest on the right. Yes, there are a couple of stray trees that stick out to guard the left side at the dogleg. And, yes, the small, remodeled green is well protected with bunkering. It’s can be tough to score on, but seeing your tee shot clear the hill and ramble on to the bottom of the fairway is a thrill for golfers of all shapes. Want the feeling of being John Daly? This is the hole. Remember: No guts-no glory!

Remember, Club De Golf Vallromanes is a private club offering first class facilities. Proper dress and decorum need to be observed. The staff is professional and courteous. you won’t get the feeling you’re an “outsider.” The lounge is a great place to start and finish your round. Enjoy its delicious “menu de dia” along with a refreshing drink. In season, you can relax on the summer garden terrace.

Barcelona has many private and resort courses to choose from. Club De Golf Vallromanes is a private club with class, grace and a classic golf course design. After spending a weekend there, you’re so relaxed, you’ll feel like one of the members.

Club De Golf Vallromanes is another reason to visit Barcelona.


Swedish Royalty – Royal Drottningholm Golf Club

Royal Drottningholm Golf Club is just a few kilometers from the home of the Swedish Royal Family. Royal Drottningholms Golf Club’s 18 holes situate on Crown property. Drottningholm is a well known and highly respected golf course in Sweden.

Royal Drottningholm LogoThe noted Swedish golf course architect, Rafael Sundblom, designed Drottningholm. There were many drafts developed before the plan was finally decided. There were lots of suggestions, not the least from contradictory leaseholders.  Unfortunately, Sundblom never saw the finished product. He died in 1958 and, Nils Sköld, a protégé of Sundblom, continued the project.

The new club had great support from King Gustaf VI Adolf.  He opened the course at a banquet on September 26, 1959. There’s a story that the King became psyched for a game at the opening ceremony. So much so that he held up a waiting dinner and disappeared on the golf course with friends.

In October 2010, a major renovation of the course began. The architect, Johan Benestam, captured the essence of Drottningholm. While insuring the course will meet future demands. Players enjoy a golf course with great variety and unique character.

The course has park like character, where the first nine holes play in open landscape. The back nine weaves through a woodland setting. Benestam’s upgrade includes a total redesign of fairways, greens and bunkering. He kept Sundblom’s original layout. Fairways undulate and are well defined. All hazards are visible from the tees, as the classic designs from Mackenzie and Ross. Water is hardly in play save the wonderful finishing hole, #18. Greens are all about the same size and just wavy enough to demand putting control.

Drottningholm hosted The Scandinavian Masters in 1991 and 1994. This tournament continues to be a European Tour stop. To Scandinavians, Drottningholm will always have a place in golf’s history. Jack Nicklaus participated in the first Volvo Open competition here in 1970.  The Volvo Open is the first big international golf competition in Sweden.

Royal Drottningholm has many qualities, including a good spirit and atmosphere. It is a club where golf always takes first place and titles and status have always been of little importance. Royal Drottningholm remains a family club with an excellent golf course and a clubhouse.

The club offers one of the best practice facilities in the country. It is not a rarity to see local professionals using this practice center. Royal Drottningholm offers a full service restaurant with seating that overlooks the 18th green.  Royal Drottningholm Golf Club is a private club. But green fee play and corporate events are welcome.

There are 64 “Royal” golf courses throughout the former British Commonwealth. There is only one in Sweden. The British Royalty designated all the Royal Commonwealth courses with pomp and ceremony. I asked how Drottningholm GK received its Royal designation? “We asked them,” was the response. How quintessential Swedish for this anything but typical golf course.


From Iceland to Bedminster

We are quickly moving through the summer season. In a few weeks, the third Major (The Open) will happen. Later in July, I’ll be heading to the Jersey Shore to play a few rounds there. Why does summer seem to pass so quickly?

In the meantime, a few items have come across the screen. They caught me eye and I thought they might interest you. From our cousins in Iceland comes an interesting idea.

In a pioneering move to inspire responsible resource use and in a response to changing lifestyles, The Golf Union of Iceland discontinued all reference to hole counts from its championship criteria. Now, 18 holes are no longer a requirement for a golf championships in Iceland. Iceland is a country where around 10% of the population of 330,000 play golf on almost seventy courses, most of which have nine holes.

The original plan was to hold  next year’s event on an existing 12-hole course. But the Golf Union decided to implement the idea this year. A few greens on the Westman Islands GC lagged behind in quality due to a seemingly excessive combination of winter salt spray and wind chill. These “bad” holes were simply omitted from the routing. The remaining holes were re-numbered to form a loop of 13 holes starting and finishing at the clubhouse.

The Iceland National Match Play Championships, the KPMG Cup, took place in the Westman Islands 23-25 June. There Gudrún Brá Björgvinsdóttir celebrated victory in the women’s class, defeating Helgi Kristín Einarsdóttir 3/2. Egill Ragnar Gunnarsson defeated Alfreð Brynjari Kristinsson in the final, 5-3. “There were more holes than usual in the final, 26 holes in total. Certainly, this was more stressful, but I found this tournament to be fun,” said Egill Ragnar after the win. “This tournament was different from other tournaments, strange in many ways, but it was a fun tournament,” said Guðrún Brá.

It could be the first time that an established golf nation staged a national championship on a course with fewer than 18 holes in the modern era.

Explaining this novel move, GUI president Haukur Birgisson said, “People’s needs have changed and will continue to do so. This includes people who already play golf and those interested in taking up a healthy form of outdoor life.”

Recent media coverage and industry discussion have revealed growing concerns that an 18-hole rounds of golf are at risk of becoming irrelevant to growing numbers of existing and potential golfers.

“People need more options. We should not stand in the way of innovation among our member golf clubs. Therefore we are introducing more flexibility. For us, this is appropriate on many levels, because the focused concept of golf’s return to flexible hole counts comes from Iceland,” Haukur added, referring to the Why-18-holes concept developed and advocated by Edwin Roald, an Icelandic golf architect.

I have talked about my friend Edwin Roald on these pages before.
Edwin is a golf course architect from Iceland. Edwin is also the founder of the “Why 18?” concept. In “Why 18?” the question of why does a golf course need 18 holes to be considered “real” or championship is considered. “Why 18?” also says that there should be no set number of holes. Read about the concept here.


In other news, they say that if you want to know the true nature of a man, play a round of golf with him. Last week we got a glimpse of the nature of one golfer.

Sure, we can say that because he owns the course, he can do what he wants. I think that if he has so little respect for the course, how much can he have for the game itself?

(This is updated from an earlier edition.)


Villaitana Resort-Levante and Poniente Golf Courses

I’ve kept my golfing to the local golf courses since arriving in Alicante. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Melia Villaitana Resort in Benidorm. Benidorm is about 30 minutes north of the Alicante Airport.

Once a sleepy fishing village, Benidorm is now Europe’s biggest holiday resort destination.  Some 5 million visitors arrive each year. Benidorm exploded with high rise housing to  accommodate the surge of tourists. In fact, Benidorm has the most high rise buildings, per capita, than any city in Europe. Its skyline, dominated by the huge “M” of The Tempo building.  From six kilometers away you see it rising on the horizon.

I’m lucky I was not heading for the hustle and bustle of Benidorm’s downtown. A haven from the city’s hoopla, Villaitana is an easy access by car from all points in Spain.

As I drove through the gates, I had an overwhelming feeling that I had been here before. This dèjá vu stayed with me until I played my first round of golf. On the third hole of the Lavante Course, it hit me. I was at Villaitana before.

Remember when the volcano erupted in Iceland? It happened in 2010 and it disrupted air travel for a week in Europe. I was at Villaitana for a conference of club managers (CMAEurope) when it blew. It left dozens of attendees stranded at the resort, scrambling for anyway to get back to their homes. The Swedish contingent hitched a ride on a bus of Swedish golfers returning home from a golf holiday.

Which leads us into the golf courses of Villaitana. Villaitana contains two 18 hole golf courses.  While they share a Nicklaus Design, they couldn’t be  more different.

Starting with the Levante Course, a 18 hole par 72.  I enjoyed a continuous vista of the city’s skyline, the sea and the coastal mountains. While the waters of the Mediterranean are in view, water on the course is hardly in play. Before you sigh in relief, Levante does have 106 bunkers to traverse. While the fairways are wide, almost generous, the bunkers are definitely in play. By the way, if you haven’t played Levante in a while, the bunkers have improved a lot. In fact, the maintenance of the entire course is a priority with the new management. Fairways are Bermuda grass and greens are tricky and in great condition.

Except for the 14th hole, the other par threes are a challenge for all handicaps. Remember, I mentioned the par 3 third hole earlier? It is a real treat hitting the shot from an elevated, and I mean elevated, tee. Watching your ball descend from high on a ridge and hitting the green results in a sigh of relief.  Along with some high fives from your playing partners.

The second Nicklaus Design at Villitana is the Poniente Course. Poniente takes you on a trip through the adjoining pine valley’s hillside. There are no par fives on the Poniente course for a par of 62.

Don’t dismiss Poniente on account of its length and stroke count, take a closer look.  Poniente, for most of your round will have you hitting tee shots on the par 3s over ravines and small canyons. While the views are spectacular, Poniente lives up to its Executive title. You will have to make the right “executive decisions” to score well. One round at Poniente you will understand the popularity of this captivating golf experience. It’s little wonder that Poniente is almost always booked solid.

The golf courses’ professional shop has everything that you would expect at a top resort. But it does carry something unexpected. After my round I tasted and chose a wine to take home with me. The Prado Rey wine shop, located on the hotel property, sells its own local wines at the golf course. What a concept! Enjoying a bottle of fine local wine will will have you looking forward to the next round at Villaitana.

Between rounds you can stay at the luxurious hotel and spa at Villaitana. Modeled after a traditional Mediterranean village, it has a large plaza with a church on one side.  At Vilaitana the hotel and spa surround the plaza. The conference center replicates the focal point of any Spanish town, the church. The “church” bells mark the time.

While the facade will transport you to Old Spain, inside the walls you will re-enter the modern world. The hotel rooms are elegant with views of the Gran Bahia of the Costa Brava. The resort boasts a huge lagoon swimming pool as well as a variety dining options. Please, take it from me, the breakfast buffet is sensational.

Something to experience is downtown Benidorm and its beaches. Villitana is only about ten minutes from the city center.  A different adventure is a visit to the impressive waterfall of Algar.  The water falls near the town of Callosa d’en Sarrià, a 15 km drive from Benidorm.

The Fuentes del Algar should be on the top of your list for places to visit.  The Algar waterfalls offer a sharp contrast to the normal days at the beach. They show you a different, quiet and cooler Spain. This is not your typical country swimming hole. The Fuentes del Algar are enchanting and unforgetable.

All in all, my weekend stay at the Melia Villaitana offered a lot more than your usual golf holiday. You can enjoy this destination just as I have. Villaitana offers excellent golf and stay packages to meet your specific needs. Contact them at:

or +34 96 681 3013.

Campo de Golf Villamartin

Mother Nature welcomed me back to Stockholm with cold and snow. Looking out the window, it made me think of better days and playing golf in Spain. Lucky for me, I’ll be back swinging at the end of the month.

On our first visit to the Villamartin golf course, it was a breezy and cool day in March . Of course, cool is a relative term. Some vacationing Swedish golfers were wearing shorts and polo shirts. By our tee time, the bright sunshine had warmed the course up to provide us with a gorgeous day for golf.

Villamartin is one of the classic golf courses in the Alicante region. It remains the standard that other local golf courses measure themselves. The golf course, #17 Villamartinthe clubhouse and its location make Villamartin as popular now as it was opening day.

Villamartin Golf Course has a large international family of residents. The residents enjoy a relaxing new way to live. The heart of this new life style is golf at the Villamartin Golf Course.

The club house at Villamartin offers a contemporary restaurant. The menu offers a selection that will please any palate. Enjoy your meal or after-round drink on the spacious terrace overlooking the golf course.

Villamartin remains one of the best golf courses of the Valencian Community. Over forty years of hospitality is the reason for Villamartin’s continued popularity. The excellent golf is just a bonus.


Making an Offer You Can’t Refuse

Verdura-18West-Aiden-BradleyOver the centuries, many visitors, welcome or not, have traveled to Sicily for rest, relaxation and the occasional occupation.

Sicilians are known for their great pizza; expressive conversation and their unique look at family values and organizational skills. What has never been mentioned has been Sicilian golf, until now.

What happens when you take one of the world’s foremost luxury hotel visionaries and a modern golf course designer dedicated to creating golf courses inspired from the classic courses of Great Britain and continental Europe? You create a remarkable resort called Verdura.

Verdura is located on the southwest coast of Sicily near the fishing village of Sciacca. The resort is the latest in the Rocco Forte Collection of highly individual and luxurious hotels and resorts.

Verdura is set over the stunning landscape of Sicily’s coastline giving a true sense of space and privacy. All rooms have private terraces with undisturbed Mediterranian views and interiors that combine every modern luxury with authentic Sicilian motifs. The care and attention to detail is manifest in every aspect of the resort. From the spacious and comfortable living areas to the opulent spa, every wish that a guest may dream seems to be already thought of. In addition, the staff genuinely cares for your comfort. There is always a friendly acknowledgement and quick response to your requests.

Sir Rocco Forte has found a beautiful piece of seafront ground where he’s developing this five star hotel, 36 holes of championship golf, plus a nine-hole par three course and full practice facility.

Kyle Phillips designs the golf course. Phillips is familiar to Swedish golf as the designer of the PGA of Sweden National Golf Course outside of Malmö. Verdura is a shoreline property utilizing a low-impact environmental concept, where only electric vehicles will be allowed inside the resort. Golf purists will love it!

Phillips is trying to give it a links land feel, with a rugged seaside look, transitioning to large, rolling, natural features as it moves back away from the sea. It is gratifying that you can be at the most inland part of the site, but still feel connected to the sea. The feel is similar to the feeling at Kingsbarns, in Scotland. The goal is to create a firm fast surface; with greens and bunkering that have a links style feeling to them. Both courses have roughly equal amounts of seaside and inland parts, and so it is possible a composite course that features the ocean holes could be created.

While there seem to be no “signature” holes, the overall design seems to blend effortlessly into the landscape it occupies. As they mature, the golf courses at Verdura will take on a “timeless” spirit, as if they have been played on for decades. Phillips has accomplished a design feat. Verdura is a golf course where no hole stands out from another, but the overall impression after a round is not just satisfying, but leaves you wanting to play more.

Another unusual feature of Verdura is that Phillips was also the project planner. This allows the hotel, restaurants, spa and golf course and clubhouse to seamlessly flow through the property. None of the resort attractions requires alternative transportation. All are just a stretch of the leg from one to another.

The golf courses at Verdura are young, but Phillips’ history is that his designs grow up very well. When the native grasses take hold, Verdura will successfully fulfill the Forte Collection’s dream for an outstanding luxury golf destination for continental Europe.

For more information on Verdura:

Telephone +39 0925 99 81 80

The Golf Club St. Leon-Rot – Germany

Aerial view of hole #8 on St. Leon.

Not far from Heidelberg lies the Golf Club St. Leon-Rot, one of the most interesting golf clubs in Germany. The club, founded in 1996, is the brainchild of SAP founder Dietmar Hopp. The Golf Club St Leon-Rot is a high-end private facility with two 18-hole championship courses, St. Leon and Rot. It hosted the Deutsche Bank – SAP Open, a professional golf tournament on the PGA European Tour, four times. The world’s best players have played St. Leon-Rot. Tiger Woods has won the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open three times. The Golf Club St. Leon-Rot is not only one of the best golf courses in Germany but has established itself as a top European destination.

As proof, this stunning complex will host The Solheim Cup in 2015. For the first time in Solheim Cup history both tournaments, the Solheim Cup and the PING Junior Solheim Cup, will play at the same club. In 2015, the Solheim Cup will be the largest sports event in Germany.

St. Leon, with many water hazards, requires length and precision. St Leon has undulating fairways, abundant deep bunkering and well built greens. Some traps look more difficult than they are. They feature huge faces but flat surfaces making it easy to escape from unless right underneath the lip. Kept in immaculate condition with greens that roll well and can pick up speed when prepared for tournaments.

Did you know?

Almost every golfer has played to an island green somewhere. But what golfer has mastered an island fairway? The rather short 308 yard par 4 # 8 on the St. Leon course is not only scenic but is one of the most dramatic holes in Germany. You need two shots over water, a precise drive and a well-placed shot to the green here are necessary to secure a chance to par. The hole design is ​​more difficult still by placing fairway bunkers in the landing area of the tee shot. Furthermore, a green side bunker protects almost the entire green.