From the 5th tee of the La Hacienda Alcaidesa Links, I can see it all: the sparkling Mediterranean, the iconic rock of Gibraltar, the Atlas Mountains in Morrocco and a golf course I could never tire of.
This stunning destination sits on an idyllic stretch of Spain’s south coast, not far from Marbella, and within touching distance of Costa Del Sol golf royalty in the shape of Sotogrande, Almanera and Real Club Valderrama.This trip to the La Hacienda Alcaidesa Links Golf Resort is about renewal, the chance to mark the start of a new era here on the Cadiz coast at one of the most exciting golf course projects in Europe.
This ambition of the owners and the team here, knows no limits. And while we are here to see an incredible redesign of the links, you get the feeling that is just the start with a new Fairmont Hotel already under construction on site. The stated goal of becoming the best Costa Del Sol golf destination and one of Europe’s elite resorts, feels within reach.
My flight to Malaga had been straightforward, as was the transfer to La Hacienda, which took around an hour. You can also arrive via Gibraltar, which is just 25 minutes away but flights are less frequent.
From the moment you arrive at La Hacienda you immediately know you are in for a treat. I walk up the steps to the newly refurbished clubhouse to a space that is both inviting, spacious and contemporary – first impressions are excellent.
The walkway leads you to an infinity pool, reflecting the ubiquitous blue sky above. The Mediterranean Sea and the stunning mountains in the distance, make for a truly breathtaking backdrop to it all.
Director Javier Jiménez-Casquet has worked at La Hacienda for more than 17 years and from his first visit has dreamt of turning this once barren piece of land, into what it has become today – a leading Costa Del Sol golf resort which boasts all the facilities any golfer could ever need and the wow factor to go with it.
The development has been backed by Millenium Hospitality, who acquired the land in 2019 and have made their intentions clear ever since. “The new golf course, hotel and dining facilities will complement the stunning real estate to truly transform La Hacienda into a benchmark for five-star tourism and catapult us into Europe’s elite golf resorts, “ Javier Illán, president of Millennium Hospitality, tells us. The clubhouse restaurant is now managed by Sal Verde, which also has a place on the beach, near the double green shared by the 5th and 13th holes, known as the Sal Verde Arena Bar. The food served is simply exceptional – perhaps that should not come as a surprise given it is cooked by the super talented Michelin Star chef, Manuel Berganza.
There is also a brand new pro-shop and driving range facility with practice greens. The next phase of the project is already underway with The Fairmont, which will be a luxury 5-star hotel with 150 rooms and villas overlooking the golf course and Mediterranean beyond. It’s due to open next year.
For now though, it’s time to take to the links. A bag of rental clubs featuring the latest TaylorMade wood, irons and a spider putter are loaded onto my state-of-the art buggy, fitted with GPS, digital scoring card and cooler box and we’re away to experience the most recent phase of the project – a course facelift, undertaken by the architect Kurtis Bowman. The American began his career at Augusta National and designed 50 courses under the stewardship of Jack Nicklaus before setting out on his own in 2016.
That stellar career experience continues to influence his design, judging by what we see as we explore this beautiful links. One of Bowman’s design fingerprints is an ‘easy’ opening hole and that’s exactly the 1st ticks that box with a relatively short par-5 which features a generous fairway, which helps calm the nerves.
It doesn’t take long to see this is a very different golf course to the one which stood in its place, with every green and bunker having been improved. The whole place is in immaculate condition to boot. With the 1st negotiated, we’re on to a relatively straightforward par-3 followed by a couple of tricky par-4s before I reach that view and one of the signature holes here – the 5th – the beauty of which is hard to sum up.
The views stay with you and if you can avoid becoming too distracted by it all, then you must negotiate a special hole with a ditch strategically running across the fairway, forcing most to take an iron off the tee. Once your ball finds its way safely down the steep fairway and short of the ditch, you have a difficult shot into the redeveloped 5th/13th double green, which is protected by bunkers and slopes.
The par-5 7th is another wonderful hole, with the green reachable in two if your downhill approach shot clears the water. I particularly loved the attention to detail with new wooden cladding that separates the water from the turf.
The 8th is a short par-3 and the 9th an excellent brand new hole. We drive up the pathway to the 10th and spot a friendly member of staff in a cart filled with refreshments and energy bars. It’s just a temporary measure until the new halfway house (complete with restaurant overlooking the ocean) has been completed but it’s still a lovely touch in a place that clearly understands the value of getting the little things right. The back 9 is every bit as good as the front, with the 11th a brilliant dog-leg right, with tall palm trees guiding the way down a wide fairway, which dips towards the green. It’s completely exposed to the elements and literally drops off the cliff to the beach below. It was one of my favourite greens at La Hacienda Links.
The 13th a par-4 which runs alongside a beach, was another. I could see the waves crashing and feel the sea breeze hitting my face. One of my playing partners actually put his drive into the sea just to hammer home the point. When we eventually reach the 13th green, it’s easy to forget it is shared with the 5th hole, such is the size of it. This double green has actually been carefully designed so, in theory, you don’t interrupt players putting out on the 5th.
The 14th, a small uphill par-4, was another of my favourite holes. It features water which cascades its way down through boulders, rocks and wildlife and eventually gathers in a newly designed lake. The green is protected by four large bunkers and a number of specimen trees and is simply stunning.
I noticed greenkeepers everywhere, all busy maintaining and manicuring the golf course to the highest standards. The bunkers were raked to perfection, the quality of the grass was some of the best I’ve ever played off and the greens, although extremely fast, were receptive to our approach shots. The finishing stretch was memorable, not least for the views across to Gibraltar. It’s hard to beat and the 18th is a fantastic finishing hole.
We also had fantastic fun playing the Heathland Course here, which is an excellent test of golf with elevated tees and blind shots. The first 5 holes are on a plateau area, with outstanding views of The Med. The deeper you navigate into this golf course, the more beautiful it becomes, as you become more and more immersed in nature. Above us we caught sight of a flight of buzzards peacefully gliding on the thermals and we could hear the sound of the Cigarras in the pine trees as the temperature rose. The Heathland course is long, undulating and punishes misplaced shots with its huge bunkers and water hazards. It’s a true test of golf right alongside The Links and the two make for a 36 holes that puts it right up there among Costa Del Sol golf’s very best.
What will I remember about La Hacienda? The dramatic views, of course. The incredible seafood: if I close my eyes I can still taste the fresh tuna caught in the Bay of Gibraltar and recall the fresh zingy taste of the anchovies on fresh bread with miso. I’ll also remember the warmth of the welcome and the attention to detail of the staff led brilliantly by Javier Jimenez-Casquet, the Managing Director, but with particular mention to Ana Berbel Rendon, the Commercial and Marketing Director and ‘Juanma’ Fuentes Perez, the Director of Golf Operations who set the highest standards.
I also won’t forget the incredibly refreshing ‘Galan’ cocktail named after the owner and reflecting his Valenciano roots. But above all I won’t forget the golf – it was fantastic and I can’t wait to return here to play it again.
La Hacienda Alcaidesa Links Golf Resort has everything in place to position itself up there with the very best Costa Del Sol golf destinations and challenge the best from further afield too. You simply have to come and see it for yourself.
*For more information or to book visit LaHaciendaGolf.com
*James Hogg was a guest of La Hacienda Alcaidesa Links Golf Resort