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Golfer’s Guide – Valderamma

We review Spain’s most iconic golf course

Golf expert Sophie Horn takes us around the legendary Valderamma golf course.

Valderrama is a relatively new course, yet it has still remained Europe’s No. 1 course for such a long time, and has already created a level of history that some famous clubs haven’t gained over hundreds of years.

When I first got offered the chance to play the fabled course, I grabbed it as quickly as I could get hold of my clubs, not forgetting to take a little Dutch courage out with me on the way out!

Make no mistake, Valderrama is expensive to play, and not always the easiet of courses to secure a tee-time, but whether or not you feel the green fee is justified, the place is undoubtedly special.

There is an undefinable buzz about the place, and memories of the Ryder Cup in ’97 inevitably flow through the mind, with Seve very much to the fore.

After a warm up on the practice range and a few putts, we were good to go. I decided to play off the men’s tees (or I might have been forced by my playing partners – they were a bit scared, perhaps!), and the first thing that strikes you is the immaculate presentation of the whole course. The tees resembled greens, and the greens themselves are out of this world! In fact, I almost felt bad making any kind of mark on the pristine grass – this is certainly no place for the dreaded ‘fat’ shot!

What makes Valderrama stand out from so many courses in world golf is how you have to think about every shot carefully. You must not try to be too daring or brave, and good course management is key. You must take a few moments on every tee to work out how best to attack the hole, even if it doesn’t quite work out. And, there are several holes when your driver must stay in the bag, which was quite a challenge for me.

Valderrama is not a long course by modern day standards, but it is so very interesting. The greens are also relatively small, again by modern standards, and the cork tree lined fairways (and the odd one in the middle of the fairway) provide a really fair penalty if you go offline. I like the fact that you can usually find your ball, but suffer that half-shot penalty by having to play back to the fairway. This course keeps you captivated the whole way round.

My only disappointment, I suppose, is the restaurant area set aside for non-members.

It wasn’t really in keeping with the rest of the Valderrama experience, but more in keeping with a high end coffee shop – not what you wish for after taking on the famous 18!


“I loved the majestic Par 5 4th hole, and the short 8th, with the bunker all the way round the front of the green. Meanwhile, on the back nine – the par 3rd is great fun, and, of course, the much discussed par 5 17th is magnificent.”

To find out more about Sophie’s travels visit her website at or follow her on Twitter @SophieHorn.