Hacienda Riquelme Feature Review
Hacienda Riquelme is one component of six Jack Nicklaus-designed courses littered throughout the region of Murcia. In recent times, all courses in this collection have justifiably received high levels of praise, and they’re undoubtedly partly responsible for the surge in golf tourists heading to Murcia.
Although La Torre is generally regarded as the flagship course, Ricquelme is recognized by many as the best of the set. It is laid out through a semi-arid desert area that’s populated with trees, grassy knolls and dense shrubbery. Unlike other courses in the portfolio, it will punish if you stray off the clearly defined fairways and grassy areas. The challenge isn’t solely confined to keeping the ball off the desert, though. Riquelme has some of the most severe bunkering I’ve ever encountered, in terms of depth, placement and sheer quantity, and the undulations on the greens make finding the right section a priority.
There is nothing unfair about this golf course, however, and if you’re playing good golf and hitting the ball in the right areas, it’s perfectly feasible to notch 40 points. As with almost all golf courses there are some relatively nondescript holes, but the vast majority are brilliantly designed and individual in their character. The large, sprawling greens are even-pace and maintained in superb condition, and the designers should be highly acclaimed for fashioning so many good holes out of a barren, flat and water-deprived portion of land.
The four par 3s on the golf course are relatively long off the whites and generally exposed to wind, compounding their difficulty. The front nine’s par 3s are shorter but arguably tougher, given that water comes into play. On the back side, there is more margin for error but, unless you’re a huge hitter, you’ll be coming in with a long iron or fairway wood.
The best par 3 on the course is the 7th hole, although that may be doing the 5th a slight disservice. Both are laden with water, but the nature of the 7th means it gets the nod. Tee shots have to clear a pond that stretches from the tee to the green, with absolutely no bail out area. To make matters more difficult, the prevailing wind blows left to right, the angle at which the green sits. You don’t want to aim too far right or come off your shot, so aiming long and left of the green is the sensible play. That said, chipping downhill and back towards water from beyond the putting surface is not a shot you want to leave yourself. It’s a great par 3 and certainly not for the faint hearted!
On the back nine, the 15th is a tough, uphill par 3. It plays some 210 yards from the tips, and, when into the wind, many will need a driver to get home. It’s better to be short than long, though, as the long, thin green slopes heavily from back to front. A downhill chip from a downhill lie onto a green that slopes away from you isn’t what you want.
The Par 4s at Hacienda Riquelme are a really varied selection, ranging from some all-but driveable holes (depending on wind) to a few brutish, 400-yard plus par 4s that often play directly into the wind. Water comes into play on several of these holes, and the 9th and 18th, both laid out around different sides of a central pond, are two of the best in the region. As a general rule, the par 4s at Riquelme have generous fairways, but the bunkering is prolific. Often, you’ll see mounds of scraggy rough and a collection of sand in the middle of the fairway, and most bunkers have slight slopes running into them, effectively reducing the area of the fairway.
Water is more prevalent on the back nine, but it features all down the right side of the 9th – a marvelous, fear-instilling par 4. The hole is only 360 yards, but anything even remotely pushed will catch the pond that separates the 9th from the 18th. Bunkers also litter the left of the fairway, but an overly cautious tee shot will leave a hazardous approach over the corner of the pond to a large, three-tiered green.
The 18th is very similar to the 9th, but the narrower fairway, deeper bunkers and greater diversity of obstacles make it arguably the best hole on the course. You stand on the tee to be confronted by a seemingly miniscule strip of fairway between a great lake and some links-esque bunkers. The natural instinct is to bail out right, but, as I found out, your ball could well end up lost amid the sporadic trees and dense patches of shrubland. Even if you crack one down the middle, you’re left with a tricky shot over water. It’s a great closing hole and symptomatic of the quality of the par 4s in general.
The par 5s at Riquelme are where you should be looking to make your score. They employ many of the same characteristics, but the fairways are a touch wider and you can, generally, advance the ball a good distance out of the fairway bunkers. Of the four par 5s on the course, three are certainly reachable if you get your drive away, most notably the 4th hole.
It is a great risk/reward hole, where the more aggressive line off the tee will leave a shorter approach. The hole doglegs sharply round to the left, and the length of your second depends on how much of the lake you want to chop off. Veer too far left and you’ll find a watery grave, but hit it too straight and you’ll find a deep, purpose-built bunker. Even from the ideal position, the approach is fraught with danger. Water runs all up the left side and if you bail our right, you’ll face a downhill chip towards the lake. That said, it can be reached with a driver and an iron if you pick the right line off the tee.
On the back nine, look out for the huge cluster of bunkers short of the 14th. It’s not a long hole, but you’ll struggle for bogey if you get caught up in there. The 11th, a bunker-laden hole with a stream running through the middle of the fairway and up the left side, is also one of the more memorable holes on the course.
Overall, there is little to criticize about Hacienda de Riquelme. The walks between tees are quite long and the course was quite dry, but, given the state of the global economy, that’s understandable. It’s a good golf course with a lot of excellent and unique holes, and it should definitely be played if you’re in the area.
Overall, I’d give Hacienda de Riquelme a rating of 7/10.
|Polaris World Hacienda Riquelme
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