GOLF CLUB LOS NARANJOS
“In the shade of the old orange trees”
A little over twelve months ago I tipped my hat to the management at Los Naranjos as, faced with unsatisfactory greens and an unreliable irrigation system, they took the bull by the horns and closed the course for a couple of months in order to carry out the necessary remedial work. The additional costs, caused by the loss of revenue, must have added tremendously to the eventual total but a recent visit there illustrated what marvellous improvements have been achieved.
On a delightfully sunny November morning I arrived at the course having eventually negotiated the endless round-abouts encountered on the journey through the area known as “Golf Valley”. Having driven into the car park an attendant guided me into a space and then carried my clubs into the clubhouse. Check-in was quickly dealt with by a smiling Manolo, whom I seem to remember has been working at Los Naranjos for countless years: he gave me a card of the course and also offered a course planner.
Manolo has the happy knack of making visitors feel welcome and, coupled with the experience in the car park, provides an excellent introduction to this most friendly golf club. The check-in area is located in the professional’s shop, where many bargains were on offer, but I stopped my eyes from wandering, beat a hasty retreat, and headed to the first tee before I could give in to temptation.
The opening drive is absolutely tailor-made for the average amateur whose stock-in-trade is a slice. That is exactly the shot necessary to carry the ball around the sweeping fairway as it heads downhill into a valley. A plethora of shamrock-shaped bunkers guard the right-hand side of the fairway as it rises up to an elevated green where more bunkers stand guard. Any shot which does not reach the putting surface will topple a considerable distance back towards the player, such is the severity of the slope fronting the green. The second is a par-5 which gets a rating of index 4 simply due to length. A more straightforward hole it would be hard to find but, at 517 metres, getting on in two will be the exclusive domain of the longer-hitters. The par-4 third measures 327 metres (all measurements, by the way, are from the yellow markers) and is played from an elevated tee down into a valley where two bunkers are strategically placed on the right. A river (which will cause consternation over the next number of holes) cannot be seen from the tee but, rest assured, it lies in wait for a mishit drive. From the valley the fairway rises up to an almost circular green which is surrounded by bunkers and slopes severely from right to left.
The fourth is a par-3, measuring 168 metres, played from an elevated tee to a green down below. The putting surface is fronted by the already mentioned river, which is five metres wide, while anything over-hit will descend into serious quantities of sand. Large eucalyptus trees, standing on either side of the entrance to the green, may hinder the tee shot, be it drawn or faded. This is a first class hole and one which will be remembered when others may well have escaped the memory. The fifth is a short par-5 played onto a fairway which slopes from right to left. The river continues all the way up the left-hand side while the gardens on the right must also be avoided. The generous landing area is dotted with palm tress on the right before the fairway swings sharply left, across the river, to an elevated green, the surface of which cannot be seen from below. Any approach shot landing short will tend to run back down the slope and, hopefully, be caught by a bunker; otherwise it will meander all the way into the stream. More danger lies over the back-right of the green where oblivion awaits amongst the bushes and shrubbery. The sixth is a difficult par-4 which well merits its rating of index 2. Mainly difficult because of unseen dangers, the drive should be hit out onto a plateau which eventually dives dramatically downwards. A tee shot hooked wide of the bunkers on the left may well tumble down a steep hill and into the river which is still very much in play. If the tee shot does not reach the brow of the plateau, the golfer will be playing his second blissfully unaware that the river (again) runs across the front of the green, where it quietly awaits its unsuspecting prey. All-in-all the sixth is a hole which may well be deemed somewhat unfair by golfers playing the course for the first time.
The seventh is a short par-4 measuring 325 metres played onto a wide fairway, but heed should be taken of a notice on the tee which warns that out-of-bounds lurks outside the bunkers on the right. The left-hand side is lined with trees while there are a few more scattered up the right. The main danger to the approach shot is the big bunker on the front-right of a good-sized green which has palms at the back. The par-3 eighth, which measures 180 metres, requires a good hit across a valley to reach the target. The green is well bunkered and its many dangerous slopes will make holing out in two putts difficult. The final hole on the outward nine is another difficult par-4. While it is tempting to try and take a short cut over the bunker on the left of the fairway it does require a hit of almost 200 metres to carry it, so beware. A safer line is out to the right which will, of course, make the hole longer but you can take my word a bogey is a good score. One hundred and fifty metres from the green the fairway dives down into a valley before rising up sharply to a well-bunkered green which is one of the smaller ones on the course.
A half-way house, situated on the journey to the 10th tee, is a welcome sight and a short respite is taken whilst lost energy is replenished with some fruit and a refreshing bottle of sparkling water. The design of the front nine holes at Los Naranjos is as good as one could wish for and the present condition of the greens brings an unaccustomed confidence to the putting.
The opening test on the return journey is a long par-4 where the tee shot should be aimed out to the left of a fairway lined on both sides with palm trees. The green, which has a narrow entrance, is surrounded by bunkers and slopes from right to left. On my way to the 11th tee I am reminded of the name of the golf course by the sight of countless oranges trees while their fruit, lying around in gay profusion, could be disconcerting for anybody using a yellow golf ball. The hole is a fairly straight par-4 where a lengthy drive is a prerequisite for any golfer hoping to reach the green in regulation. The slightly elevated green is shallow but wide, while banking at the back will assist an over-hit approach trickle back onto the putting surface. A lake, sitting just one metre off the right-hand side of the green on the par-3 12th, could be the cause of recurring nightmares to the golfer with an uncontrollable slice. While the green is a good size, the bunkers on the left, coupled with the large expanse of water, seem to diminish the target area considerably to the eye of the golfer standing on the tee: anybody walking off with a par should be quietly pleased.
The 13th is a par-4 measuring 347 metres where the main danger are the white posts lurking down the left. Played from an elevated tee the landing area is generous despite the two bunkers which eat into the fairway about 120 metres from the green. The putting surface is well bunkered and, despite what you may read, does slope from front to back, while any ball over-hit will dive into waiting bushes. The 14th is a long par-5 where the left-hand side must be avoided at all costs as an out-of-bounds line stretches from the tee to the green. Measuring 493 metres this is a genuine 3-shotter (for most) with a plethora of orange trees on the right while, towering over the green, five palms stand straight and tall, like sentries keeping watch over all who pass through. Despite its deceptively easy appearance, the 15th is an awkwardly shaped hole where a hooked tee shot will find a watery grave. In order to avoid the water (at least on the tee shot) it must be played up the right out towards the corner of a dog-leg. The fairway then turns towards a green bounded on the left by more water while sand awaits the pushed approach. This is a hole which will inevitably catch out the unwary and spoil many a good card in the making.
The 16th is another par-4 played onto a fairway which swings gently to the right. Lined on one side with palms and the other with orange trees the green is guarded on the front-left by a big bunker, while its smaller brother lies in wait on the opposite side. The penultimate hole is a delightful par-3 played to a green framed with stately palms. From the tee, a sea of sand assails the eye and this is another short hole where par will be a welcome return. The final hole on Los Naranjos is one which will long remain in the memory bank: a superb par-5 measuring 504 metres. The fairway, which slopes from right to left, swings gently to the left in a seemingly endless curve. About 140 metres from the green a lake appears menacingly on the left: it then feeds a river that meanders along until it reaches the front of the green. The final section of the fairway turns at right angles as it approaches the elevated green that is shallow but wide and banked on all sides with the clubhouse gazing over all. An approach shot not reaching its target will probably fall back down the slope into the ever-waiting river. What a terrific hole: for my money one of the best finishing holes on the coast.
Lunch on the veranda, overlooking the final green, was a treat and excellent value at ?7.50. Gazing down on unfortunate golfers endlessly picking golf balls out of the water was a cause of merriment to some: for me it was simply an action replay of my own experience just a short time earlier. Los Naranjos is in terrific condition but, like all golf courses on the Costa del Sol, is quite thirsty and will benefit greatly from a good dousing with much-needed rain. The standard of the course is a just reward for the decision to close at the beginning of last season and the management deserve great praise for taking that costly step.
With the green fee set at ?84 during high season Los Naranjos is not inexpensive but it more than compensates by presenting a golf course prepared to the highest standards. The friendliness of the staff in all departments, coupled with a top class restaurant, all combine to make it one of the leading golf facilities on the coast and I would have no hesitation recommending it to fellow travellers. It will certainly be included in the itinerary for my next visit.
Article reprinted courtesy of Andalucia Golf The views expressed do not reflect the opinion or verified data of Golf in Spain and are LIABILITY of their author/ s.