El Valle Golf Resort is the second 18 hole championship course to be opened as part of the 'Nicklaus Golf Trail'. As with La Torre Golf Resort, the course has been designed by Jack Nicklaus and Club Murcia decided to brave the heat to find out what challenges lay ahead for the players.
As the name would imply, El Valle is situated in a small valley surrounded by impressive views of the Murcian hills and countryside. The course is undulating and has been well designed utilising both the natural terrain and well placed hazards.
Weather Conditions: Very hot with a moderate breeze. Course Conditions: Excellent, Greens cut slightly long.
Hole 1: Par 4 - Plays 312m (341 yards) off the Yellow Tees from an elevated Tee position. The hole is a slight dog leg left to a raised Green. The main consideration from the Tee is to avoid the large fairway bunkers to have an opportunity to reach the Green in two. A general feature of El Valle is the use of the natural terrain which will often draw the ball into various hollows and hazards. In this case the ball can be drawn to the right hand side of the fairway, pushing the player away from the hole. The approach is uphill, with a number of Green side bunkers, front and right. A nice opening hole.
Hole 2: Par 4- Plays 400m (437 yards) off the Yellow Tees and requires a decent drive. The Fairway is quite generous but there is a Fairway Bunker on the right hand side which needs to be avoided. The Green is fairly well protected but players should know their distances as anything short will either find the Green side bunker or run back into the large hollow area. The main consideration is to drive to the left of the Fairway in order to approach the Green from the left. Any players dropping short off the Tee would be well advised to lay up and hope to make a good up and down.
Hole 3: Par 5 - Plays 453m (495 yards) off the Yellow Tees and requires a long but accurate drive. The fairway on this dog leg right hole, is narrowed by the Fairway Bunkers for the longer hitters but even from a good position, the smart play is to lay up with the second and hit the Green in regulation. The Green is slightly elevated but there are a number of problems for any players trying to take on this Green in two. There are a number of Bunkers and hollows as well as an undulating Green. The main consideration is to find a good position, short of the Green in order to approach the Green in regulation with the chance of making Birdie.
Hole 4: Par 4 - Plays 314m (343 yards) off the Yellow Tees and is a comfortable Par 4. The hole is almost straight from Tee to Green and a well struck Tee Shot will leave the player looking down on an open Green with nothing more than a short Iron. The main consideration is the Fairway Bunker on the left and the rough cutting into the Fairway from the right hand side which may catch some of the longer Drives. One of the easiest approaches, so a genuine Birdie opportunity.
Hole 5: Par 4 - Plays 303m (331 yards) off the Yellow Tees and is another Birdie opportunity, depending on Pin position on the day. There is however a large "Desert Area" cutting into the left hand side of the Fairway. Anything long or to the right of this hazard will enjoy a modest pitch. The Green is protected by a large Bunker, front right but a well placed drive should afford the player an opportunity to comfortably hit the Green and a potential Birdie chance. Anything finding the large Desert Area off the Tee could be looking at a double Bogey.
Hole 6: Par 3 - Plays 182m (199 yards) off the Yellow Tees and requires an accurate and well struck shot off the Tee. The main consideration is the Desert Area which stretches from the previous hole across the front of the Tee position and along the left hand side of the hole all the way to Green. However, anything hit slightly short or pushed slightly right (into the hollow), will still have an opportunity to make an up and down. A "Good" miss would be to go through the Green at the back. Club Selection off the Tee is key to this hole, especially in a head wind.
Hole 7: Par 5 - 509m (557 yards) off the Yellow Tees and is Stroke Index One, however on the day we were all slightly surprised that this hole was technically the hardest hole. Apart from the distance, the hole is straight from Tee to Green and the Fairway is a generous width off the Tee. The main consideration is not to be too greedy with the second shot as only two exceptional shots will threaten the Green in two. Players who find the Fairway off the Tee will be required to play an accurate lay up to hit this Green in regulation. Sensible play will be rewarded but any approaches running through the back of the Green will find a large hollow and a tricky up and down.
Hole 8: Par 4 - Plays 318m (348 yards) off the Yellow Tees and was considered to one of the most difficult holes on the day. The main consideration is the Fairway Bunker catching anything driven down the right hand side. Infact, anything driven down the right will leave a very demanding approach as the Green is partially blind due to the Rock face. The Green is also well protected with steep faced bunkers to the front right and left. The ideal Drive is to the left of the wide Fairway where players have a clear view of the Green. An aggressive approach can be rewarded and anything long should still leave a makeable up and down. Consider playing a long Iron off the Tee to leave a full short Iron approach to the Green.
Hole 9: Par 3 - Plays 166m (182 yards) off the Yellow Tees from a slightly raised Tee Position, relative to the Green. The Green is protected by a large steep Bunker to the left and a small Bunker front right. The main consideration is the Pin position. On the day it was cut back left and with the Green sloping away from the hole, players can easily find themselves rolling off into a deep hollow. Players finding the Green from the Tee will be happy with Par. Players missing the Green and finding the Bunkers or the hollow run off areas, will require an excellent second to save Par.
Hole 10: Par 4 - Plays 309m (338 yards) off the Yellow Tees with bunkers protecting both sides of the fairway. The ideal drive is to the right side of the fairway but anything pushed too far right, beyond the rough and the path, will find the rocks. A decent drive will leave an uphill approach over two imposing bunkers protecting the front-left of the green. The Green slopes back to front so an approach to the back of the Green may feed back to the flag, depending on the Pin position. On the day, the Pin was cut to the front which left a down hill put which could easily run past the hole and off the Green.
Hole 11: Par 4 - Plays 260m (284 yards) off the Yellow Tees from the highest point on the golf course and a steep walk from the 10th Green. However, the views are worth taking in while deciding how to play this hole as the 11th is arguably the best Risk and Reward hole on the Golf Course. This downhill Par 4 is reachable for many Club Golfers but players need to be accurate off the Tee. There are bunkers in the centre of the Fairway and players can either drive down the left leaving a short chip over a deep bunker to a shallow Green or approach from the right side of the fairway. Players going down the right hand side can reach the Green for a real Eagle opportunity. Anything falling short of the Green down the right side of the Fairway will leave an easy pitch and a Birdie chance. This is an exciting hole and one that will generate plenty of discussion, especially on match days!
Hole 12: Par 3 - Plays 164m (176 yards) off the Yellow Tees to a downhill island Green surrounded by Rocks, Sand, Cactus etc. The prevailing wind on the day can make this a difficult Green to hit especially as the Green is also protected by Bunkers front and right. There is a small run off area (hollow) to the back of the Green which will collect anything running beyond the Green but there is another Bunker back left. Despite the heavy punishment that awaits the player, good club selection and a decent swing should find the Green.
Hole 13: Par 4 - Plays 331m (362 yards) off the Yellow Tees. With all the Rocks and natural Spanish Terrain, you may be forgiven that water would not be a feature at El Valle, however water comes into play for the first time at the 13th. A lake runs along the left side of the fairway and then a small stream cuts right in front of the green. The ideal drive is down the left side of the fairway along the lake, leaving a short iron approach and taking the stream and small Green side bunkers out of play. The left side of the green is guarded by additional bunkers and there are some run off areas. Bunkers and out of bounds can be found along the right hand side of the fairway, making an approach in regulation extremely difficult. Players opting to use a mid to long iron off the Tee can still reach the Green in two but Club selection is crucial to carry the hazards.
Hole 14: Par 4 - Plays 282m (308 yards) off the Yellow Tees and is a potential Risk and Reward hole with a favourable wind. The lake from the previous hole is again in play along the left hand side of the Fairway, cutting in front of the Green at about 250m (273 yards). There are Fairway Bunkers on both sides, with out of bounds also down the right. Although the Green presents a narrow target from the Tee, players can potentially find the Green if they can thread the drive down the middle. Left handed players or players capable of a drawing the ball, will have an advantage when taking on the Green from the Tee. Any decent drive which avoids a hazard, will have a simple pitch with a birdie opportunity. With such a short hole the percentage play is take a mid to long iron leaving a full short iron approach for a Birdie chance.
Hole 15: Par 3 - Plays 157m (172 yards) off the Yellow Tees. This is the last of the Par 3's to an elevated Green. A number of bunkers are stacked right up to the right side of this hole. Players will be tempted to play to the left hand side of the Green to take the Bunkers out of play. Anything short, will run back down the slope, leaving a tricky up and down. Anything long will find the rough which protects the remainder of the Green. Club selection is important on this hole, with the elevation and wind playing an important role.
Hole 16: Par 5 - Plays 495m (541 yards) off the Yellow Tees from an elevated position. After admiring the view, players have to steady themselves for arguably the most difficult drive on the Golf Course. The Tee position is offset, meaning the players are driving across the Fairway. The Fairway itself is narrow with Bunkers and flanked on both sides by high rock faces. The landing area is relatively small but players hoping to go for the Green in two will be disappointed. There are two sets of crossing bunkers further down the fairway and players have to thread another accurate but long shot to remain in good position. The main consideration on the hole is to ensure you hit the Green in regulation. The Green is small and any approach from distance will struggle to stay on the Green at best. Players will need to choose how far they want to advance their second shot in order to hit the Green. Golfers able to keep their ball in play should have a good chance of making par on this difficult Green.
Hole 17: Par 4 - Plays 357m (390 yards) off the Yellow Tees from another elevated position. Golfers are in sight of the new Clubhouse and with this downhill Par 4 hole playing shorter than the scorecard suggests, players have a chance to take advantage and make a Birdie. The main consideration is a lake along the left and a series of fairway bunkers on the right. The Fairway is quite wide and a safe drive should present a good position from which to attack the pin. There are no Green side Bunkers but the lake can come into play on the left. Pin position will determine the approach on the day.
Hole 18: Par 4 - Plays 322m (352 yards) off the Yellow Tees. The finishing hole at El Valle is more demanding than it first appears as the hole plays uphill to a dog left Green. There is the lake along the left hand side of the Fairway and on the right there are two sets of bunkers. The Green is quite high, relative to the landing area and it's also well protected to the front and right by two deep bunkers. Players should avoid missing this green long as the run off areas can make for a difficult Up and Down, depending on the pin position.
In summary: The Greens are still new and will take sometime to fully bed in. However, with the various borrows and changes in elevation, there is no doubt that the Greens will become quicker and toughen up the Golf Course. The first cut of rough enables a player to still make the Green in regulation however the second cut of rough is more demanding as the ball can often sit down. There are very few Out of Bounds to contend with but any players missing the rough and going beyond the boundary paths, will find plenty of natural terrain to deal with. With so few trees on the course, players finding themselves this far out of position, can still advance the ball forward and get back in play. At 5634m (6161 yards), El Valle is not a long Golf Course and players confident of their yardage can score well and avoid many of the hazards by taking Irons off the Tee instead of a Driver.