It’s a sunny March evening in the bustling port of Los Cristianos on the Canarian island of Tenerife, and the unmistakable summit of Mount Teide, the world’s third largest volcano looms large in the distance. This is the scene from the top deck of the 7.00pm Fred Olsen ferry as it departs for the less visited island of La Gomera, 28km away. With our important cargo of golf clubs stored safely inside our hire car in the vehicle hold below, it’s the beginning of a week-long trip by car, ferry and plane, teeing it up on half a dozen of the best tracks on La Gomera, Tenerife and Gran Canaria.
Around 35 minutes later we arrive at the sheltered harbour of San Sebastián, which was the first Spanish settlement on La Gomera founded in 1440 and now the capital, with a population of only 6000 inhabitants. It’s a laid back and likeable introduction to the second smallest of the seven main islands of the Canaries.
The light is fading by the time we roll off the ferry and then drive up and down the strikingly steep and snaking Carretera del Sur road towards our bed for the night. Located on the outskirts of Playa de Santiago on the island’s south coast, the Hotel Jardín Tecina is a unique 4-star tourist complex that stands on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by verdant vegetation with a multitude of vibrant flora such as bougainvillea, hibiscus and jacaranda. After a delicious buffet breakfast the following morning, we find ourselves at Tecina Golf, a friendly and welcoming Donald Steel design for golfers of all abilities, only a wellstruck drive from the hotel. Grabbing a few bananas from a bunch hanging outside the clubhouse, we follow the green line of the cart path that leads skywards – seemingly forever – to the tee block of the opening hole, a 420-metre par four.
From here, we get a real sense of what La Gomera’s only golf course is all about. The scenery is unparalleled, with spectacular views of the natural beauty of the lush island landscape, the Atlantic Ocean and 3718- metre-high Mount Teide on neighbouring Tenerife. What makes Tecina Golf so special is that it plays like a ski slope, with the holes zig-zagging back-and-forth while descending a steep hillside towards the ocean.
Though perhaps not of championship quality, Tecina Golf is an excellent introduction to Canaries golf, providing golfers with an experience of almost continuous descent with constant sea views. Wearing shorts and tee shirts with a slap of sunscreen, we smile together in satisfaction as we hit our drives on a mid-week morning, and think of all the poor souls back in chilly England, fighting the traffic on their commute to work.
It’s on our return journey back to San Sebastián in the afternoon to catch the ferry back to Tenerife, that we get to really appreciate La Gomera’s volcanic origins and dramatic landscapes - the result of frantic geological activity that according to experts stretches back some 10 million years. Since then, erosion has painstakingly transformed the surface grinding down hillsides and mountains and carving out deep ravines into the coastline.
La Gomera, like the other Canaries, is also something of a Lost World due to its range of exceptional plants with over 650 unique species that grow only on the islands. Thousands of cacti in all shapes and sizes appear on hillsides, gardens, golf courses and some plant species, such as dragon trees, have remained largely unchanged for millions years.
Back on Tenerife, the largest island in the Canarian archipelago, our home for a three nights is the not too shabby Iberostar Anthelia, in the upmarket area of Costa Adeje on the island’s south coast. Situated on the beachfront, between the beaches of El Duque and Fañabe, this attractive and elegant 5-star resort in a garden setting offers top-quality facilities including two superb outdoor pools, the Thai Zen Space Spa, rooms with balconies and ocean views.
Tenerife has a total of eight excellent quality golf courses open to the public and the Costa Adeje makes a convenient golfing base with Abama Golf, Golf Las Américas, Amarilla Golf & Country Club, Golf Costa Adeje, Golf del Sur, and Centro de Golf Los Palos all within a 16 kilometre drive away. The other two courses are further afield in the north – Real Club de Golf de Tenerife established in 1932 and Buenavista Golf designed by the much-missed and muchloved Seve Ballesteros.
Buenavista Golf is situated at Buenavista de la Norte in the extreme north western corner of the island and getting there from Costa Adeje is all part of the golfing adventure. The roads on Tenerife, just like on La Gomera are often narrow, steep and undulating and can take longer than expected to navigate, so its best to allow plenty of time to get there, especially if like us you decide to go the infamous Masca route on the TF- 436 from Santiago del Teide.
The road runs through the Teno Rural Park, an unbelievably surreal setting with extremely rugged terrain. If you go this way (there’s an alternative way to come back), don’t forget to take you travel sickness pills first and buckle in for one of the world’s craziest road trips with more twists and turns than the back-nine at Augusta on Masters Sunday.
One of the appealling aspects of golf is that courses are often to be found in some fabulous settings – and the scenery and backdrop of Buenavista’s 18-hole, par-72 (6019 metres) layout certainly doesn’t dissapoint. The course features six par-3s, six par-4s and six par-5s, and Seve has used the fabulous clifftop location to craft some dramatic holes with five greens set tight to the rocky coastline. A classic hole is the 221-metre par-three 15th with the Atlantic crashing onto dark jagged rocks beyond the green. While you play, keep an eye out for Seve’s trademark in the form of an ‘S’ bunker on the par-five 10th hole.
Buenavista Golf offers buggy, trolley and club hire, two practice putting greens and a chipping area, and it’s well worth allowing time for a pre-round coffee or post-round beer from the clubhouse terrace with impressive views over the course and Atlantic Ocean. Buenavista may be a little off the beaten track – but its well worth the extra effort to include it on your golf schedule. The third course of our golf trip is Tenerife’s best – Abama, and a serious contender for the Canaries number one.
Admittedly you need deep pockets to play and consequently this Canaries jewel recieves a reletively small amount of traffic, but this all adds to the exclusive experience. With a driving range to die for and tee blocks that look good enough to putt on, we know we are in for a treat. This Dave Thomas design rambles over 6,271 metres of ever-changing terrain with dramatic elevation changes, 22 lakes linked by impressive waterfalls, white-sand bunkers and 25,000 palm trees. On the back nine you play your way around the distinctly ochre-coloured Moroccan inspired hotel, starting with a superb par-5 played from an elevated tee.
Abama is a serious test for club golfers and we are both well over our handicaps walking off the final green. If you can steer you ball into the right positions, it’s the slick and undulating Augusta-quality greens that are the course’s main defence. But it doesn’t make it any less enjoyable, the immaculate conditioning of the course and the scenery make certain of that, with most holes providing fabulous views of the Atlantic and the island of La Gomera.
The following morning we drop off our hire car at Tenerife South Airport to catch a flight to the last island of our Canaries golf trip. At only thirty minutes, there’s is barely time to buckle up the safety belts and review the scorecards of our rounds played so far, before the Binter Canarias plane hums low over Gran Canaria’s arid volcanic landscape and angles in towards the runway.
Experts rate the seven golf courses in Gran Canaria as among the best in Spain – and the layouts not only entertain and challenge, but allow you to experience the island’s varied and dramatic scenery in all its glory. “Even though there has been a golf course here since 1891, it’s only during the last five years or so that golf course development has really taken off,” says Pablo Llinares de Béthencourt, Managing Director of the Gran Canaria Golf Association.
In a similar way to Tenerife, the majority of Gran Canaria’s golf courses are situated in the south of the island, all conveniently within a 20-30 minute drive of each other. Just like Tenerife, when it comes to accommodation we are roughing it again, this time at the 5-star H10 Playa Meloneras Palace nestling in a peaceful beauty spot in Meloneras facing the sea and in a great location for accessing the five courses: Lopesan Meloneras Golf, Maspalomas Golf, Anfi Tauro Golf and Salobre Golf (South and North courses).
Right next door to our hotel along Meloneras Bay is the new Lopesan Meloneras Golf. The course begins with a front nine of fairly open and relatively forgiving holes characterised by palms and mountain views, and then gets progressively more difficult entering the back nine along the cliff tops. Nearby, is the excellent Maspalomas Golf, a Mackenzie Ross design surrounded by magnificent sand dunes, protected as a nature reserve and home to a variety of flora and bird life.
A bit further afield and taking full advantage of Gran Canaria’s amazing geology, Salobre Golf is a stunning place to play and not to be missed. The two courses Sur and Norte, make up the only 36-hole complex in the Canaries and feature swathes of emerald green fairways and greens in a desert landscape of rock canyons and gullies dotted with cacti. It’s the kind of environment where you half expect to see the original ‘magnificent seven’ come riding over the horizon on horseback as you tee off. After playing a morning round on the superb and more recent Salobre Norte course, we meet Sergio Garcia look-alike Fernando Martinez from Guest services. “I’m told I look like Sergio many times a day,” he tells us with a grin, as he drives us back to the clubhouse for a 19th-hole beer.
Our final round is at Anfi Tauro Golf, which along with Abama Golf and Salobre Golf Norte makes up our Canaries top-3. Designed by Robert Von Hagge, this Arizona-style impeccably maintained PGA Championship course is located among rocky canyons and gorges, native vegetation, teeming waterfalls and glistening lakes and offers a perfect contrast to the surrounding volcanic mountains.
Anfi Tauro is one of those rare courses that generate a genuine sense of awe from one hole to the next for an entire eighteen holes, creating an unforgettable round of golf. The course is a dream for the golf photographer and even the most inexperienced snapper can’t fail to bag good a good image here. One of the most photogenic holes is the classic 209-metre par-three 6th, framed on either side with swaying palms and a pyramid-shaped rock as a backdrop.
In the island’s north are the other two courses that make up Gran Canaria’s magnificent seven. Real Club de Golf de Las Palmas, near the island’s capital Las Palmas, is Spain’s oldest golf club having being founded in 1891. This strategic parklandstyle Mackenzie Ross design has been cleverly fitted into an area of just 375,000 sq metres, spectacularly situated on the edge of an extinct volcanic crater.
Rising Spanish star Rafael Cabrera-Bello is a member of the club and he trains here whenever he returns home. Although primarily a members club, morning tee times are available for visitors from Monday to Friday and situated only a long putt away from the first tee is the VIK Hotel Bandama Golf, offering a comfortable base for the two northern courses. The final Gran Canaria golf course is El Cortijo Club de Campo, an interesting design featuring six lakes and 600 ancient palms trees. It hosted the Spanish Open in 2002 and is conveniently located close to the airport for that final round before flying out…
PETER SWAIN’S PROPERTY SPOTLIGHT
PUEBLO DON THOMAS
With majestic ocean views, and cunningly placed fruit-salad landscaping – bananas palms, orange, guava, tamarind, carob and papaya trees proliferate – the Pueblo Don Thomas development is up on a hill, overlooking the Tecina course on La Gomera. It was established by Fred Olsen, the Norwegian cruise ship boss, so not surprisingly many of its mostly second-home owners are Scandinavian, although Germans and Brits are also well represented. Two-bedroom apartments start at €299,000 (£240,000). Those on the upper floor have balconies, the ones underneath have gardens; both have high spec bathrooms and kitchens. Larger 135m2 threebedrooms apartments typically cost €387,000 (£311,000), with all having access to good-sized swimming pools.
Three-bedroom villas are laid out over one or two floors, come with their own private pools, and start at €680,000 (£546,000). The two left overlooking the golf course cost €780,000 (£627,000).
James Wyatt of Barton Wyatt, the Wentworth-based estate agents handling sales to British buyers, suggests a 5% discount is about all you can expect.
‘They’re not after bargain-hunters, they’re after the right type. Anyway,’ he adds, ‘the recent depreciation of the Euro has made prices for pound sterling buyers 10% cheaper than 12 months ago.’ The annual cost of golf membership for owners, including the ‘Rights to Play’ or joining fee, is currently €2,550 (£2,060).
The rather fine Hotel Jardín Tecina is a five-minute walk away. Overlooking the sea, it has a cliff-side lift down to the Playa de Santiago beach, a good spa, fine restaurant, tennis and squash courts, a magnificent garden plus a number of shops. Rooms start at just €52.50 (£32) for half board from jardin-tecina.com, and it’s all a 45-minute ferry-ride from Tenerife.
Monarch operates year-round flights to Tenerife from Birmingham, London Gatwick, London Luton and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, starting from £58.99 one way (£99.99 return). Year round flights to Gran Canaria are also available from Birmingham, London Gatwick and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, starting from £62.99 one way (£124.99 return). From some airports such as Manchester and London Gatwick, there’s the option of flying into one island and out of the other. For further information or to book Monarch flights, Monarch Holidays or Monarch Hotels, please visit www.monarch.co.uk
Car Hire: www.hertz.co.uk
Ferries: Return car/passenger ferry trips between Tenerife and La Gomera with Fred Olsen ferries leave from Los Cristianos port, Tenerife: www.fredolsen.es Inter-island Flights: Various flights between the Canary Islands are available on the airline Binter
WHERE TO STAY
LA GOMERA – Hotel Jardín Tecina www.jardin-tecina.com
TENERIFE – Iberostar Anthelia www.iberostar.com
GRAN CANARIA – H10 Playa Meloneras Palace www.h10hotels.com
GRAN CANARIA – VIK Hotel Bandama Golf www.vikhotels.com
WHERE TO PLAY
Tecina Golf: www.tecinagolf.com
Buenavista Golf: www.buenavistagolf.es
Lopesan Meloneras Golf: www.meloneras-golf.com
Anfi Tauro Golf: www.anfi.com
Salobre Golf (Norte & Sur):
Real Club de Golf de Las Palmas:
WHEN TO GO
With an attractive climate and annual average temperature of between 20 and 24 degrees centigrade, the Canaries can be visited year round. High season is during the UK winter and places usually get busy from mid-December to February. It can be an advantage to visit the Canaries during the UK summer months when accommodation, flights and green fees can be cheaper and more easily available.
GRAN CANARIA GOLF PASS
For guests who book rooms at hotels including H10 Playa Meloneras Palace, VIK Hotel Bandama Golf and others (check website below), a 4 x green fees pass (for any of the island’s golf courses) is available to use from Ist May to 30th September. Cost is €160 (available from hotel receptions). Visit www.grancanariagolf.comor email: email@example.com
FURTHER INFORMATION/ USEFUL WEBSITES
ATTRACTIONS & ACTIVITIES
LA GOMERA: Explore the Parque Nacional de Garajonay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that contains around 400 species of flora including the world’s premier laurel forest. Get off the beaten track in the northern part of the island with slow-paced rural villages remaining relatively untouched by tourism.
TENERIFE: A visit to the Parque Nacional del Teide (Spain’s favourite national park - pictured below) is a must. Dominated by the 3718-metre-high volcano Mount Teide, and featuring dramatic and otherworldly landscapes, the national park was used as a backdrop for scenes in the movie Star Wars. Drive to the picturesque harbour town of Garachico in the island’s north east to swim and snorkel in a series of unique natural seawater pools, formed as the result of a volcanic eruption in 1706 as lava cooled on contact with the sea. Take a whale and dolphin-watching trip. Of the seventy-nine species that exist in the world, nineteen have been seen in the waters of the island, especially in the channel between Tenerife and La Gomera, though you are most likely to see pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins.
GRAN CANARIA: Take a sunset walk among the magnificent sand dunes at Maspalomas, protected as a nature reserve and home to a variety of flora and bird life. Contrary to popular belief, these 988 acres of golden sand didn’t blow across from the nearby Sahara Desert; they washed up from the ocean. Explore the old town of Las Palmas and visit the historic Catedral De Santa Ana (you can go up the tower for city views), the emblem of the city since the Spanish conquered the island over 400 years ago. Sample the catch of the day in one of many family-run restaurants on the seafront of the enchanting fishing village of Puerto de las Nieves, with its characteristic low white-and-blue houses. Culture vultures can immerse themsevles in history at two excellent museums in Las Palmas – the wonderfully atmospheric Casa Museo de Colón where the main focus is the discovery of America and the journeys of Columbus and the Museo Canario showcasing in-depth coverage of early Canarian history.
Feeling energetic? Book a surf lesson at the southern end of Playa de Las Canteras (Las Palmas city beach), and area known as La Cicer, and have a go at riding some Atlantic waves with city views.