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Feature Review: Condado de Alhama, Murcia
Condado de Alhama, located about 30 kilometres from both Murcia and Cartagena, is one of the flagship golf courses in the region. It is the signature golf course on the ‘Nicklaus Golf Trail’, comprised of six of the finest golf resorts in Murcia constructed by Nicklaus Design: Condado, El Valle, Hacienda Riquelme, Las Terrazas de la Torre, La Torre and Mar Menor. Each course is managed by Global Golf, and all the resorts include a variety of accommodation to rent or buy, multiple bars and restaurants, practice facilities and professional shops.
The resort, as a whole, is puzzling. A multitude of narrow apartment blocks seem to have been squeezed into a small area when open space is readily available. Thousands of car parking spaces run parallel to the main road through the resort, despite the apparent lack of a significant human presence. In order to reach the golf complex, identification must be provided to pass through security. Goodness knows what would have happened had I revealed I didn’t bring my passport with me. After passing though, you check in at a professional shop located almost a mile from the first tee, situated in a plaza in the middle of a gargantuan Moorish structure.
The shortcomings of resort, however, should not detract from what is a brilliant golf course.
Condado de Alhama Course Review
Each hole is different, and each hole is a definite challenge. The course is an absolute brute from the white tees - measuring just over 7,500 yards – but presents a fairer challenge from the yellow tees, at around 6,700 yards. It is a desert course and, as such, any drives that miss the fairway or sporadically deep rough will most likely find grassy outcrops or shrubberies that populate the desert areas.
The tee areas are perfectly manicured, and the greens are possibly the best that I have ever had the pleasure to putt on (despite the frustrating run-off areas!). The presence of water accounts for some wonderfully testing holes, and the views of the surrounding Carrascoy Mountains provide a lovely backdrop to an extremely pleasurable round of golf. There are no major flaws with the golf course, but the ground around the tees is unkempt; there are large, untidy areas of unused desert; the distances between tees are fairly substantial, and the fairways have an odd mixture of two types of grass that looks slightly unsightly. As mentioned, however, these are only minor issues at an otherwise excellent golf course.
The first two holes are mid-length par fours that play downhill, and are arguably two of the easier holes on the golf course. The third is the first par three, measuring over 200 yards from the white tees. The par threes at Condado are extremely difficult; the shortest measuring 190 yards from the yellows.
The fourth – the first par five on the course - is an exceptional golf hole. It isn’t long, but accuracy is vital. A lake runs all the way down the right hand side of the fairway, with the contours of the hole pushing your ball towards the water. Anything hit slightly left will find two deep fairway bunkers. Lay-ups are made difficult by the presence of mounds in the middle of the fairway that can divert your ball sharply right. Any approach hit slightly fat or pushed right will most likely find water that guards the green. The fifth, a par four, also has water down the right.
The sixth is an average length par four, and the seventh another long par three possessing a slick green with multiple run-off areas.
The short par four eighth demands good course management. Bunkers litter the fairway on a direct line from tee to green, and the prudent play is to lay up left of trouble with a long iron to leave an approach shot of no more than 150 yards. Bunkers and slopes surround the green and, despite its length, par is a good score on a hole containing more sand than grass.
The ninth is another excellent par five. Big hitters can carry a series of bunkers with their drive and catch a sizeable down slope. If so, the green is in range, but second shots must be perfectly struck to clear a sizeable lake. For the shorter hitter laying up is a challenge, with the lake encroaching from the right and minimising the area of the fairway.
The tenth hole is a tough start to the back nine. Drives are hit over a lake to a fairway protected heavily with bunkers. The second shot plays uphill to a well guarded green with some of the most severe slopes on the course.
The eleventh is a treacherous par three, especially from the whites. All tee shots must carry at least 150 yards or be engulfed by the enormous body of water stretching from the tee to the green. The putting surface slopes considerably from back to front; the longer the tee shot, the harder the second. Par is a fantastic score on this brilliantly designed hole.
Thirteen is another long par five with water all down the right hand side of the fairway, and fourteen a long par four that runs in the opposite direction.
The fifteenth is a short par four, but course management again comes into play. Long hitters might be able to clear a body of bunkers around the 220 yard mark, but the sensible play is a lay-up with a long iron. Approaches are hit uphill to a tiered green that is difficult to hold.
Sixteen is the final par five on the course. At 550 yards from the yellows, it is a long hole, but it plays downhill and often with the prevailing wind. The fairway runs out at the 290 yard mark to be replaced by desert and bunkers. Only an incredibly long and fortuitous drive will clear this obstacle. The lay-up area is dominated by sand, with desert to the left and right, and the green is protected by steep run off areas and some of the deepest bunkers on the course.
Seventeen is another long, tough par three, with a quick and undulating green. Only a perfect shot will find the putting surface, and the vast majority of tee shots that miss the green will leave an incredibly tough up and down.
The eighteenth is another beautifully crafted hole, and extreme precision is required from the tee. Water runs all the way down the left hand side of the hole and cuts across in front of the green, and a series of deep fairway bunkers on the right hand side of the fairway make finding the short grass a difficult task. A mid to short iron is required from the fairway to find a relatively small and sloping putting surface.
Condado de Alhama is a terrific golf course, providing a challenging yet extremely pleasant golfing experience. It deserves to be labelled as one of the best courses in the region.
Overall rating: I would give Condado de Alhama an overall rating of 4/5
For more information visit: http://www.golfshake.com/course/view/67813/Condado_de_Alhama_Resort.html