Valderrama Golf Club

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What we say

top100As well as holding the European Tour's Grand Finale every year, it also hosted the 1997 Ryder Cup. It has evolved because of the efforts of its owner, Jaime Ortiz-Patino, who leaves no stone unturned in his pursuit of perfection. 

Dropped from once being Golf World Magazine's Number 1 course in Europe, in 2014 it fell to Number 8. It is still held in great affection by almost all the panel, but with memories of Volvo Masters and a stirring Ryder Cup fading, its exacting challenge between the umbrella pines isn’t quite enough to save it from a small drop. All that said, there is surely not a single golfer in Europe who would not relish a round here among the Sotogrande hills.

Tough Tour course that plots its way through the Sotogrande hills and in between tightly clustered umbrella pines. Famous for the 1997 Ryder Cup and numerous Volvo Masters tournaments.

When Felipe Ortiz Patino took over as Valderrama club president from his father Jaime in late 2007, he brought with him a vision for the future of the course. The vision looked confidently forward to meeting the challenges created by advances in equipment; and affectionately backwards to Robert Trent Jones Snr’s 1984 revamp that turned Valderrama into the finest course in Europe.

Thanks to the annual Volvo Masters, Ortiz Patino was ideally placed to see how technology was compromising the famous layout’s nature and test; but he had also noted time-lapse changes caused by day-to-day course maintenance and general growth that had perhaps taken something from the original challenge laid down by Jones.

“A golf course is a living thing,” he announces. “As such it is constantly growing and evolving; trees and bushes grow taller and wider, foliage becomes denser, and this gradually alters the shape of the holes, the width of the fairways, and the general playability of the course. It can also affect the quality of the playing surface. 

“In Valderrama’s case this is a very important factor as the course stands in the middle of a forest of cork oaks. The height and placement of trees is crucial, not only for aesthetics, but for the play and design of the course itself.”

So in May 2008 Ortiz Patino embarked on a reworking of the course based around five principles: To ensure the driver is brought into play more often; To ensure each hole presents the same challenge to players today as it did 20 years ago; To restore the original pin positions and features which had disappeared over time; To look at the height and density of the trees, the growth of which in some places may have altered the original layout; To re-examine the angles of the dog-legs and the carries they require.

To help, he recruited Kingsbarns creator Kyle Phillips. In this appointment Ortiz Patino was mindful of the work Phillips had done in Virginia, where he had actually remodelled a Robert Trent Jones Senior design.

The programme started with the lengthening of the 1st, 13th and 16th holes so that when played into the wind – or even with no wind – the golfer would need to use driver and not a fairway metal or long iron. But this is set to be the sum total of the lengthening. Trent Jones’ original philosophy for Valderrama was based around hole angles and obstacle positioning, and the changes will remain faithful to that. A good example is the 16th, a par-4 dog-leg right, but with camber kicking the ball left into rough and trees. Trent Jones’ original design was for a softer dog-leg, and the angle of play has now been modified to allow more options for the player off the tee.

The second step, carried out this year, was based around restoring green shapes and reviving lost pin positions. A complete restoration of the front of the 1st green has enabled Phillips to recover a front left pin position which had disappeared; he has also been able to create a new back left pin position, which demands that the player carries the group of cork oaks which guard the front right of the green. At the front of the 8th green a bunker has been redesigned to rescue a pin position that had completely vanished; meanwhile the 14th green has undergone changes with the bunkers at the back reshaped to bring them more into play as they were before. A thorough re-examination of the contours and width of the fairways has also been started this year, though leading the way is the work at the 13th which has seen a couple of trees removed to make taking driver off the tee more of an option. We can also expect to see some of the mounding created for the 1997 Ryder Cup removed or softened to blend back into the fluent, natural swells of the course.

This Patino/Phillips-inspired part of Valderrama’s development is expected to take around three years to complete, and so is still very much a work in progress. While it’s too early to assess the true impact of the alterations, Phillips’ sure touch – coupled with Ortiz-Patino’s devotion to the course – suggests genuine progress. “We must evolve as the game evolves,” sums up Ortiz Patino. “Now is the time to make adjustments to ensure Valderrama remains the test of golf we have been for the past 20 years.”

By Duncan Lennard

Click here to find out where Valderrama ranks in Golf World's Top 100 Courses Europe

Valderrama Golf Club, Spain's most famous golf course, is home to the Volvo Masters and has hosted World Golf Championships as well as, of course, the 1997 Ryder Cup. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Snr and opened in 1985, the golf course is an exacting examination of shotmaking, with tight tree-lined doglegs and adverse cambers. It can also be mentioned in the same breath as Augusta in terms of presentation and attention to detail.

How I Would Change Valderrama
By José María Olazábal

For me, Valderrama is not the best course in Spain. It’s in fantastic condition all the time, but they need to take away a few of the trees to make it a fairer test. Fairer in the sense that sometimes you hit shots off the tee that are good and safely in the fairway, but you get there to find that the tree overhangs and you have no shot. That can make it a bit of a lottery.

The 2nd hole is like that and the 18th needs looking at with the trees on the left. I would take those trees out and replace them with two big bunkers that are deep so that if you go in them you have to chip it out. At least then you can see the hazards. Right now you can hit two great tee shots and one can end up perfect in the fairway, but the other can catch a branch and end up in the trees or way over by the 10th tee.

My top three in Spain would be a battle between Golf Santander, Sevilla and El Saler with Valderrama and Neguri making up the top five.

  • Course Summary

  • Costs 5 out of 5
  • TG Rating 4.5 out of 5
  • Players Rating 4.6 out of 5
  • Address
    Avda de los Cortijos, s/n 11310 Sotogrande, San Roque, ,
  • Tel +34 956 791200
  • Website

Course Information

Course 71 par
Course Style -
Green Fees €200+ (£170 and up)
Course Length 6,951 yards (6,356 metres)
Holes 18
Difficulty -
Course Membership Other

Course Features

  • Course has: Bar
  • Course has: Buggy Hire
  • Course has: Driving Range
  • Course does not have: Practice Green
  • Course has: Pro Shop
  • Course has: Restaurant
  • Course has: Trolley Hire
  • Course does not have: Dress Code
  • Course has: Club Hire
  • Course does not have: Handicap

Your Reviews

  • 5 out of 5 Phenomenal is an understatement

    By Vera Whiteley

    In my many years of playing golf, never have I come across a course of such high quality. I'm a true believer in playing traditional golf in a traditional setting, and this is what Valderrama provides. Though my husband and I were unfortunate in the fact that we experienced rain, which nobody had control over, everything was simply spectacular. In fact, we've planned to move closer to the area in order to enjoy the pleasures that the club provides. If you want a great challenge fused with beautiful scenery, then this is the resort to visit!

  • 4.5 out of 5 Pay for what you get!

    By Craig6

    Unbelievable course, pristine condition, great weather but terrible for the bank account!

  • 5 out of 5 Europe's No 1

    By pierre1245

    Simply the best! Perhaps designed by Robert Trent Jones Snr - but with help from above. In all respects a fabulous course with an exceptional management team.

  • 3.5 out of 5 amazing

    By Fazerace

    Very expensive but a course you will remember for the rest of your life. Simply beautiful. And hard!

  • 5 out of 5 An oasis

    By Anonymous

    I thought the course was in great condition and almost like an oasis in comparision to the parched land around Valderrama so clearly your green fees are put to good use to keep the course in such 'good nick'. In terms of playability, I really enjoyed the round at Valderrama but playing off 11 handicap I think that it was a tough test and probably not as much satisfaction for a 16+ handicapper who would find it possibly too tough. Greens were lightning fast and bunkers could've almost buried you alive with the soft sand - highlights for me were the 3rd and 17th, both of which were tough holes but highly rewarding (a par and a birdie were more than gratefully received!).

  • 4 out of 5 Great course

    By Anonymous

    Superb from the moment you arrive to the time you leave. Staff and the course are first class. Highlight for me was a birdie on the 10th and the view from the 11th tee box.Well worth a visit

  • 5 out of 5 Going back

    By Anonymous

    The course was absolutely amazing and was in great condition. I will definitely be going back to Valderamma.

  • 4.5 out of 5 Lives up to its reputation

    By Anonymous

    I took a number of clients to Valderamma and it lived up to its reputation. The course is impressive and immaculately maintained. If you can expense the bill and want to impress you can't go wrong. Not the easiest place to get to if you are flying in.

  • 4.5 out of 5 Lives up to its reputation

    By Anonymous

    I took a number of clients to Valderamma and it lived up to its reputation. The course is impressive and immaculately maintained. If you can expense the bill and want to impress you can't go wrong. Not the easiest place to get to if you are flying in.

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