An unsung hero of golf's great escapes, Tenerife ticks all the boxes for golfers seeking sun, sand and a setting fit for the world's rich and famous.
Tenerife has long suffered from an identity crisis. Famed for its clubs, bars and theme parks in Playa de Las Americas, the island’s clientele in the south has often been confined to partygoers, sun worshippers and young families looking for an upgrade on Blackpool.
But golfers? Crazy golfers maybe. The raucous day and night life hardly sounds conducive to a relaxing golf break, but swap the hustle and bustle for the quieter surroundings of Costa Adeje and you might just change your mind.
Straddled by towering palms and crystal-clear waters, this upmarket resort is anchored along Tenerife’s upbeat strip of coastline and screams understated elegance. The terracotta, pink and vanilla- hued buildings have that effect until you realise they are home to plush hotels, chic boutiques and posh restaurants. Six golf courses can be found within a 20km radius of Costa Adeje, each as dramatic as the sweeping vistas lurking in the backdrop.
Rising to a peak elevation of 315m above sea level, Abama golf course takes the concept of 18 holes and repackages it as a game of snakes and ladders. Glimpses of the Atlantic Ocean and Mount Tiede – the third largest volcanic structure in the world – arrive at nearly every tee and green, which are separated by rocky outcrops, 25,000 palm trees and 22 lakes linked by waterfalls. It's a photographer's dream, and a golfer's kryptonite. Buggies, equipped with GPS and water coolers, are compulsory and included in the green fee, which gives you an idea of how undulating the walk actually is.
At 6,869-yards off the tips, the former European Tour venue is a beautiful beast and will leave you marvelling at the velvet greens one minute, and lamenting them the next as you putt from one side and o the other. Hitting one in regulation requires more than a cursory glance of the surrounding hazards, and the knowledge that the ball (nearly always) feeds towards the water.
After emerging from one of several tunnels which connect many of the holes, a trek up a helter skelter- like hill awaits on the par-3 4th and leads to another elevated tee. In-between the green, which sits 200 yards in the distance, lies a lake and four Augusta-white bunkers – one for every stroke you'll probably want back after finishing it.
The sea views distract from the wasteland and out-of-bound markers bordering the right side of nearly every fairway and green. This is not a slicer's course, nor will it satisfy those hoping for an easy game of golf after a four-hour flight. But if you can embrace the technical challenges, the visual delights will leave you reaching for a camera at every opportunity.
The front nine ends with a deceptive par 4, where the fairway tumbles towards a cascading waterfall hidden from view. Again, you need to take great care keeping your ball in play on the par-5 10th, which plays downhill to a dogleg fairway interlaced by four bunkers and three lakes. Then, there's the 13th which resembles Woburn's signature hole on the Marquess with a split fairway, and the par-3 14th which is encased by water on the right and at the back. It's a relentless test of nerve, but one which is rewarded once you reach the clubhouse and sample Japanese fare at Abama Kabuki. It is one of two Michelin star restaurants open to non-residents at the five-star Ritz-Carlton Abama Hotel.
The luxury can be matched at Las Madrigueras half an hour away where an underground garage and a buggy awaits every hotel guest who wishes to play Las Americas. A private gateway opens out onto the 4th hole, which is ideal if you need to replenish your ball supply after a few wild shots early on. Designed by John Jacobs, the par-72 layout stretches 6,415 yards off the yellows and meanders through pines and water-filled ravines, lakes and streams.
It opens with three water holes – home to many ducks, geese and swans – before presenting the first of two driveable par 4s and winding up into the floral hills. The course can be attacked on the back nine and is more open, if not a little forgettable and flat. The conditioning, though, cannot be faulted and the 18th offers a beautiful amphitheatre with the clubhouse balcony overhanging the green.
Las Americas' status as a resort course means a round can drag on but if you set off early, you can squeeze in another 18 just 5km away at Golf Costa Adeje. There, you'll find 27 holes occupying an area once covered with banana plantations. Remnants of its past have been incorporated into its design, with small plateaus and dry stone walls acting as obstacles on the 18-hole championship course.
The front nine plays predominantly towards the sea, and opens with two par 5s, sandwiched by the shortest par 3 on the course. It seems like a gentle introduction until you are confronted with a 100-yard carry over coastal vegetation on the third tee. The same test arrives on the next, only with the difficulty cranked up a notch. The tee box clings to the course's edge and faces what my playing partner describes as "no man's land." The fairway resembles a row of ancient farm terraces, divided by a dozen stone borders.
The routing then reaches its toughest point just before the turn. It starts on the par-3 7th, a 170-yard carry over a deep ravine to a sliver of green surrounded by cacti and native flora. A double dog-leg jumps out at the par-5 8th, where the last 100 yards mimic a runway flanked by volcanic wasteland. The desert-like feel continues on the back nine, opening with a 242-yard beast of a par 3 and ending with a reachable par 5, played downhill to a green surrounded by yes, you guessed it, more sand and vegetation. It's a theme which is repeated at Tecina, the only course located on Tenerife's neighbouring island of La Gomera. Getting there takes 40 minutes on a ferry, and the same time negotiating the terrifying, yet spectacular mountain roads.
It doesn't seem worth it when you first clock eyes on the scruffy-looking clubhouse, and then the driving range which could easily be mistaken for a dilapidated allotment. The journey to the first tee is equally bizarre, and requires a 15-minute buggy ride uphill, past swathes of indigenous plants and through the heart of the course. Luckily, all but one hole is played downhill. Among them is the breathtaking par-3 4th, where anything left is gobbled up by a yawning ravine. From tee to green, the distance is 170 yards with a vast drop in-between. The views alone make you wonder how good this place could be if they upgraded some of the accompanying facilities. The course itself deserves far greater acclaim than being a former Challenge Tour venue. Yes, the greens need work, but it's hard to find fault with Martin Ebert's design when so many holes are Instagram worthy.
One of the highlights comes at the start of the back nine, where the 10th tee clings to the side of a cliff and looks out to sea. The first half of the fairway is blind; the second divided by a cactus-filled barranco leading to another heavily contoured green. Completing a trio of signature holes is the 12th, a dogleg par-4 which slaloms downhill towards overhanging shrubs and bunkers protecting the pin. Lost balls come with the territory, but it's worth it when you can bask in the splendour of one of golf's most under-appreciated layouts. Just make sure you hire an experienced driver to negotiate the mountain roads when you do.
What TG Readers Say
It was my first golfing trip to Tenerife though I'd been to the Spanish mainland several times and, to be frank, it made a refreshing change. I was very impressed with the standard of courses on offer and, being based in Las Americas, we didn't have to travel far to get to several of them which was very convenient. The accommodation and food were excellent and good value too, and there's no doubt I would seriously consider returning in the near future.
- Brian Kavanagh, Reading
We booked via Your Golf Travel and I can't help but give this holiday five stars with the course at Buenavista the undoubted highlight: it was so exciting to play, especially the 18th hole... and the on-site hotel was everything we could have asked for.
- Adam Collins, London
We had a great time at the Melia Hacienda del Conde hotel, which is in a perfect location overlooking the Buenavista course and the sea. I played 10 rounds in 12 days and every hole was amazing - it's a spectacular course, but take plenty of balls. Off course, I found the hotel staff very helpful.
- Sheila Barton, Hertfordshire
Tenerife: Off The Course
OFF-COURSE GUIDE WHERE TO STAY
We stayed at the five-star Hotel Jardin Tropical in Costa Adeje, a 15-minute drive from Tenerife South Airport. Refurbished in November, the hotel is set among botanical gardens and boasts a seawater swimming pool, four restaurants, a beach club and a Hawaiian- style fitness & spa centre. It's also within walking distance of the Puerto Colon marina, and a short taxi ride from the nightlife of Playa de las Americas.
FOOD AND DRINK
A magnet for gastronomes, Tenerife was recognised for its foodie credentials by Michelin, which chose to launch its 2018 guide to Spain and Portugal there in November. The south is also home to Las Rocas, where TV dating show Take Me Out is filmed. The restaurant overlooks the island of La Gomera and offers a heavenly tasting menu featuring the best smoked octopus you'll ever taste and a chocolate lover's dream for dessert. Further inland there's the equally romantic SeaSoul Restaurant at Iberostar Anthelia, where you can indulge in local wine, a supersized platter of cheese and a whole turbot, garnished with papas negras arrugadas' (wrinkled, black potatoes).
Adrenaline seekers should make a beeline for Siam Park, Europe's largest waterpark, and then take a cable car to the summit of Mount Teide, the highest peak in Spain. The journey takes visitors 1,200m above the crater floor and overlooks much of the Canarian archipelago. Once on rm land, you can recapture your youth by jumping between arcades, bars, pubs and clubs on the seafront. It's a bit like Blackpool, only with a dose of added sophistication. Just don't pass up the chance to book a whale-watching excursion as the sun goes down. We recommend Roulette Charters. Fares start from £50pp, and include food and alcoholic beverages. 0034 670 960261 roulettecharters.com
BEST TIME TO GO
Often described as the 'Island of Eternal Spring', Tenerife enjoys average temperatures of 18°C in the winter and 25c in the summer. Oh, and there's very little rainfall as well. Unlike the UK.
Tenerife South, situated within a 20km radius of six golf courses (including three of those featured), is the busiest of the two airports on the island, and the only one serviced directly from the UK. Ryanair, Thomas Cook, British Airways, and Jet2 all operate regular flights, which take four hours, 15 minutes on average.
➤ A three-night B&B at the ve-star Hotel Suite Villa Maria, based on two people sharing a one-bedroom villa.
➤ Two rounds of golf at Costa Adeje's Championship course included. Costs from €1,248pp. A three-night B&B at the five-star Las Madrigueras Golf Resort & Spa, including one dinner at the Bogey restaurant, a 25-minute golfer's massage and use of the spa facilities. Two green fees at Las Americas, plus one golf buggy per room, is included. Costs from €499pp, based on two sharing a superior double room.
➤ A three-night B&B at the five-star Ritz-Carlton, Abama, based on double occupancy of a deluxe room with resort view. Package includes use of the gym, one water circuit at the spa, and one green fee at Abama Golf (inclusive of shared buggy). Costs from €595pp.
➤ A three-night B&B at Hotel Jardin Tropical, based on two sharing a double room. One green fee is included at Abama Golf and another at either Costa Adeje, Golf del Sur or Amarilla Golf. Costs from €593pp.
IT'S NEVER BEEN EASIER TO PLAY IN MAJORCA
Jet2.com has increased its number of flights to Majorca. It has more than a million seats on sale this summer–an increase of 13%. Golf club carriage is fixed at £25 each way.