The latest Golf Resort to be designed by Jack Nicklaus is located inland approximately 45 minutes from Los Alcázares. The widely anticipated Signature Course has attracted a great deal of interest. Not least for the unique commercial Centre including the largest communal pool of any Golf Resort we have seen to date. Is this the best of the Nicklaus Design courses in Murcia? Club Murcia visited the course this week to find out.
Condado de Alhama is the largest of all the 'Nicklaus Golf Trail' Golf Resorts and the furthest inland. For those players familiar with the route to Hacienda del Alamo, effectively add 15 minutes to the journey time. The route is straight forward and Driving Directions are available from the Features Menu on the left hand side of this page.
On arrival, save any first impressions until after you have followed the resort "Golf" signs and you've reached the Commercial Centre, the current location for the Pro-Shop (far left hand corner*). The structure is simple in design but has to be seen to be fully appreciated. Think Egyptian Temple in Upper Egypt and you won't be far off. The design has been created to keep visitors cool while laying around the pool during the summer months.
Note: The 1st Tee is located adjacent to the Practice Range. Players will be advised to use their vehicle or use their hire Buggy rather than walking from the current Pro-Shop location*.
At 6059 metres off the Yellow Tees, the course is not long but this Par 72 course is a technical challenge which should appeal to most of our players.
Weather Conditions: Cold with a very strong wind. Course Conditions: Very Good, Greens: Very Good.
Hole 1: Par 4 - 337m off the Yellow Tees. This short Par 4 is a slight Dog Leg to the right. Players will be tempted to take a driver off the Tee but with a relatively small landing area, players should look to take the trouble out of play. A long iron or utility club down the left hand side of the Fairway, just short of the Fairway Bunker, would leave players with a full swing approach with a 9 Iron or Pitching Wedge. The Green is small so players will need to be cautious with their approach play. There is a Green side Bunker to the back left and front right. Depending on the flag position, most players will opt to play safe and go for the centre of the Green. Anything catching the fringe may run off but players should feel confident of finding the Green in regulation from the Fairway. A nice opening hole.
Hole 2: Par 4- Plays 353m off the Yellow Tees. On the day, this hole played straight into the prevailing wind and required a solid Drive. The Tee position and the Green are both slightly elevated which means the landing area is on an up slope, therefore players will be looking for a good carry with their Driver. The Fairway also slopes from right to left and with a series of Fairway Bunkers down the left hand side, the ideal line is down the right hand side of the Fairway. From this position, players will have a good view of the elevated Green. Playing from a up slope into the prevailing wind requires good club selection. The Green is quite generous but the landing area looks tiny from the Fairway. There are two Green side Bunkers either side of the putting surface and a run off area to the rear. There are a number tricky borrows on this Green and a good approach will be crucial to saving par.
Hole 3: Par 3 - Plays 182m off the Yellow Tees. The first of the Par 3's and officially the easiest hole on the Golf Course. Despite making par on the day, this is tough hole. The prevailing wind is from the rear and the Green is heavily protected by five Green side Bunkers. The Green is wider than it is deep which makes club selection tricky in windy conditions. A miss hit Tee Shot falling short of the Bunkers will find a Fairway and offer the player a chance to save par. The Green is difficult to read therefore a good approach will reduce the risk of a three putt.
Hole 4: Par 5 - Plays 447m off the Yellow Tees. From the Tee, this hole looks daunting and regular visitors to Murcia will find similarities to the opening hole at La Serena Golf. This narrow hole is flagged by water all down the right hand side, from Tee to Green. With a slight dog leg right to finish, this hole should be played as a true Par 5, in other words, even with the prevailing wind from the rear, play safe and look for position off the Tee and again further down the Fairway to set up a good approach. If a further warning was needed, the Fairway slopes from left to right, you guessed it, towards the water! The ideal Tee shot is a long Iron or Utility club down the left hand side, in line with the first Fairway Bunker. The Green will be in view but with a very narrow landing area, club selection and execution will need to be at it's best to find the Green safely in two. The percentage play is to leave a full short approach to the Green. players finding the Fairway off the Tee should have little difficulty advancing the ball forward. The key is to leave a full swing approach as the Green is protected by water to the front, from the middle section towards the right hand side. The pin position will be key to your approach. Pin positions 2, 3 and 5 and players should settle for a good par. Pin positions 1 and 4 and players have a genuine chance to make a Birdie. A good hole but don't be tempted by the big stick!
Hole 5: Par 4 - Plays 338m off the Yellow Tees. This is another tricky par 4 which requires a good Tee shot to avoid all the hazards. A confident Drive will leave a short iron approach but with a prevailing wind, the safer option is to use a Long Iron or Utility club. Despite the water down the right hand side and a series of Fairway Bunkers also down the right, the Fairway is fairly generous in width. Laying up short of the Bunkers will still leave players with little more than a 9 Iron/Wedge approach to a slightly elevated Green. A decent approach should find the Green in regulation as the Green is protected only by a single Bunker, front centre. There are run offs to the left and right of the Putting surface and a raised bank to the rear. The short game could be tested but players should feel confident of saving par.
Hole 6: Par 4 - Plays 379m off the Yellow Tees. The Green is hidden from the Tee. The landing area is elevated, requiring a good carry into the prevailing wind but the Fairway is also narrowed by the encroaching rough from the left hand side and the Fairway Bunkers down the right hand side. Most players will be left with 150m+ approach to the Green. However, the key to the approach is to avoid the run off area to the left of the Green and the Green side Bunker, front right. This is a difficult Green to hit and hold. The approach shot looks fairly straight forward from the Fairway but the entrance to the Green is narrow and the camber on the Green is severe in places. A double Bogey a real possibility, even from a good position off the Tee. A tough Par 4.
Hole 7: Par 3 - Plays 185m off the Yellow Tees. On the day the prevailing wind was hard off the left. If this is the normal direction, then players will need to take an aggressive line to the left of the Green in order to find the putting surface from the Tee. The Green is protected by three Green side Bunkers and the Green is slightly tiered. A good Tee Shot is required to find the Green in regulation, with the wind in play, a par is a very good score.
Hole 8: Par 4 - Plays 350m off the Yellow Tees. We don't think we are exaggerating when we say there will be a slight pause as players stand on the 8th Tee. Silent mutterings mixed with cries of "Hey?" and the odd "Urmm" may be heard from your group. Alas fear not, once digested this unusual hole is more straight forward than it looks, albeit still one of the most difficult. From the Tee, the Fairway is incredibly wide. It is littered with Fairway Bunkers in the centre, towards the right hand side and beyond. This huge Fairway is not very deep, making the area down the left hand side a safe looking option but this is long way from the Green to a slightly elevated Green! Therefore, the "consensus" of opinion would be to lay up just between the start of the Fairway and the series of central Fairway Bunkers. This requires little more than a mid Iron but it will still leave a difficulty second shot. The Green is slightly elevated and heavily protected by series of Green side Bunkers. There is a run off area to the left and rear of the Green and players will have more chance of saving par if they go slightly left and a bit long. The Green angles slightly left to right away from the players view and the landing area is narrow at only 13m. The key to this hole is the position off the Tee. A conservative lay up will keep players out of trouble but two very good shots are required to find the putting surface in regulation. A par here is an excellent score. It is also a good side bet for those players that would like to chance the Driver off the Tee. Risk and Reward? If players can keep the ball on the Fairway with the Driver, then a short Iron approach is as generous as this hole is going to be. Scant reward perhaps but an interesting Par 4.
Hole 9: Par 5 - Plays 450m off the Yellow Tees. This slight double dog leg left then right is all about the final approach. Players can afford to be fairly conservative off the Tee as the key to this hole is the positional play required for the second shot which will bring into play the water hazard down the right hand side. A decent drive should allow you to use a mid iron to advance the ball down the Fairway, leaving a short to mid iron approach to the Green. Depending how far players advance the ball down the Fairway, it is likely that most players will still have to come over the corner of the lake to find the putting surface. The Green is protected by three Green side Bunkers and there are three distinct run off areas making this Green difficult to hold. The putting surface has several difficult borrows and the Pin position will be key to saving par. A difficult par 5 and a good finishing hole to the front Nine.
Hole 10: Par 4 - Plays 360m off the Yellow Tees. This slight dog leg left requires a solid accurate Drive over water to a tight landing area. There is room down the right hand side to take a more conservative line but this option is less likely to reward the player with a par as the approach could be too far back to find this trick Green. Therefore, most players will take on the Driver and the ideal line is to bring the ball in over the water, to the left of the main Fairway Bunker down the right hand side. There are Fairway Bunkers down the left hand side and these can come in to play, especially with the prevailing wind from the rear. Players finding the Fairway and avoiding the Bunkers, will have a short iron approach to an elevated Green. There are two Green side Bunkers and two run off areas. The Green is heavily contoured and there is a distinctive hollow which can collect a poorly struck putt.
Hole 11: Par 3 - Plays 159m off the Yellow Tees. The shortest of the Par 3's is over water which also runs around the left hand side of the Green. There is a Green side Bunker front right and back left but a bale out area on the right hand side of the Green. On the day, the hole played long in to the prevailing wind, so club selection which key to carrying the ball on to the Green. Players finding the Green in regulation should not get too over confident as putts back towards the water are quick and three putt is a real possibility.
Hole 12: Par 4 - Plays 360m off the Yellow Tees. This slight dog leg right has a wide Fairway with a single Fairway Bunker down the right hand side. Players will be looking to find a solid Drive down the centre of the Fairway. The ideal line is to favour the right hand side of the Fairway if possible as the Fairway generally slopes from right to left. From the centre of the Fairway, players have a good view of the Green which depending on the lie, could be slightly be below the level of the ball. There is a Green side Bunker front centre and two smaller Bunkers, back left and back right. With the prevailing wind from the rear, players will hope for a short iron approach to quite generous Green.
Hole 13: Par 5 - Plays 442m off the Yellow Tees. On the day, this hole played shorter than the scorecard suggests due to the strong prevailing wind (ie a Driver and 9 iron) However, this a difficult driving hole. There is water down the left hand side and the Fairway slope from right to left towards the Water Hazard. There is a large Fairway Bunker down the right hand side but the ideal line is straight down the middle! Wind direction will play a significant role in the line players will take. As with previous Par 5's, players can opt to be conservative off the Tee and look to advance the ball forward to set up a comfortable approach. The Green is protected by three Green side Bunkers and there are two distinctive run off areas. Despite a Handicap value of 5, players avoiding problems off the Tee will fancy making a Birdie. The Green is tiered therefore the pin position will be key.
Hole 14: Par 4 - Plays 367m off the Yellow Tees. This straight Par 4 plays up hill into a prevailing head wind. The Fairway is fairly generous and there are no significant Fairway Bunkers to negotiate. The key to this hole is the Green which is difficult hit and hold despite there being no Green side Bunkers. The Green is narrow at the front and the ball can easily run off on either side. Towards the back of the putting surface the Green widens and there is a tiered step making the rear position of the Green higher than the front. Even without Bunkers this hole is ranked Handicap 3.
Hole 15: Par 4 - Plays 332m off the Yellow Tees. This slight dog leg right has a cluster of Fairway Bunkers down the right hand side. Longer hitting players will try to clear these Bunkers or keep down the left hand side. However the single Fairway Bunker on the left may come into play and over all the Fairway slopes from left to right. Given the length of this hole, players maybe be tempted to take the trouble out of play and use a long Iron or utility club off the Tee. From a good position on the Fairway, players will have a good view of the Green and the two Green side Bunkers to the front right and back right. There is plenty of room to the left and rear of the putting surface. Players missing the Green will have a reasonable chance to save par.
Hole 16: Par 5 - Plays 501m off the Yellow Tees. The final Par 5 is the longest hole on the Golf Course. On the day, the prevailing head wind made this hole particularly tough. From the Tee, players cannot see the Green. There are large Fairway Bunker down the left hand side and further up the Fairway, there is a second Fairway Bunker down the right hand side. The ideal line is to carry the Bunkers down the left. However, assuming the prevailing head wind is a regular feature (albeit not as strong as we experienced), players will not be going for the Green in two. Therefore the key to this hole is ensure a good position for the approach. The second shot will need to negotiate a narrow Fairway and some additional Bunkers in order to stay out of trouble to improve the chances of reaching the Green in regulation. The Green is protected by a large Bunker front right. If you miss this Green, it is better to miss to the left. Ideally, players would want a high soft landing as the Green slopes away in several places. However, keeping the ball under the wind makes chasing the ball on to the front edge of the Green particularly difficult. This is a tough par 5 requiring a great deal of accuracy to avoid a Bogey.
Hole 17: Par 3 - Plays 173m off the Yellow Tees. Officially the second easiest hole on the course, the Green is protected by three Green side Bunkers, one to the front, one back left and one to the right. The Green is narrow but quite long which means players will need to be accurate to find the putting surface in regulation. There is a run off area to the front left of the Green and to the rear the ground is raised, so players will have an opportunity to make a good up and down to save par. A nice looking Par 3.
Hole 18: Par 4 - Plays 344m off the Yellow Tees. With water running down the left hand side of the Fairway and the prevailing wind blowing from left to right, players will need to judge the ideal line required to find the centre of the Fairway. There is a couple of Fairway Bunkers down the right hand side therefore a solid Drive down the centre of the Fairway is essential. Players may have to start the ball out over the water so this Tee shot could make or break your round. From a good position on the Fairway, players will have a good view of the Green which is slightly elevated. There are four Green side Bunkers, two to the left, one front left and one front right. Players will require a good approach, again allowing for the prevailing wind but from a good position, players will feel confident of making par.
In summary: Retiring to The Clover Bar after the round to warm up, yes it really was that cold! The opinion of Condado de Alhama was positive. True it is a brand new course and resort but the condition of the course was very good and the Greens were all in very good condition and much quicker than expected. The layout and style of play of The Signature Course ranks along side the best of the courses in the Murcia region.
Professional players and Low Handicap players will relish the challenge, especially if the prevailing wind is as strong as we experienced on the day. Higher Handicap players and casual players will find it a tough going in parts but a lot will depend on the conditions.
Visiting international players should not be deterred by the location. The course stands up as decent venue and welcome addition to any Golfing itinerary. Given the size of the resort, the amount of facilities and services available are sure to increase.