Mar Menor Feature Review
The six IRM Golf Experience courses in Murcia have rightly garnered more acclaim over the last few years, thanks largely to their diversity, strength of design and shrewd positioning in the market.
This part of Spain is hot and dry for most of the year. It means that water is the most precious commodity of all, so if you build a golf course in this part of the world you need to take the environment into account, and that's precisely what they have done in Murcia. No matter what time of year you play, you will find greens that are fair and true – it helps that IRM controls all six courses and the attendant resorts because that means you are guaranteed consistency. And at a time when we are still watching the pennies, prices are highly competitive, with generous bulk discounts available.
Before my latest trip to Murcia, I'd played Condado de Alhama, Saurines de La Torre, El Valle and Hacienda Riquelme, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed all four of them. In my mind, El Valle - which has hosted the European Senior Tour and Spanish professional tournaments in its past - and Condado were the two stand-out layouts, but all of them had some superb holes and wonderfully testing green complexes. It would by fair to say my expectations were high heading to Mar Menor - a popular golf course in a resort that's unequivocally the most thriving and lively of the IRM golf set.
Mar Menor has been expertly designed and planned to fit in a relatively small plot of land that runs alongside villas and flats. What a place to live or have a holiday home! And you don't have to worry about hitting a wayward drive into somebody's swimming pool, as there are plenty of nets at strategic points around the course. There is also a request not to hit a driver at the par-four sixth hole. Sometimes when a course wends its way through private homes you feel hemmed in, but the course architects have done a wonderful job at Mar Menor in ensuring that doesn't happen.
The course provides an enjoyable all-round experience. It's refreshing to play a track where you're actually able to hit some mid and short irons to par 3s. Without wishing to generalise, one of the main afflictions with Spanish golf courses is overly lengthy par 3s that force those not blessed with huge power to hit fairway woods.
The nature of the layout works to its advantage, as restricted length facilitates a number of exciting holes, from short par 4s to par 5s that can be reached in two, even for the moderate hitter. Naturally, there is some repetition, but the good holes more than outweigh the nondescript ones, the bunkering and green complexes are shrewd and imaginative and the greens are exceptionally true.
The first couple of holes are fairly straightforward, perhaps to lull you into a false sense of security. Then you arrive on the third tee, a long par four that dog-legs slightly to the right and downhill at about 250 yards, masking the lake that lurks ominously to the front right of the green – a shallow target that is not especially receptive to long-iron approaches. Get out of here with a bogey and you will be satisfied.
Then comes a stretch of holes that allow you to make the basis of a good score – from the fourth there are three par fives in four holes. But step onto the eighth tee and you are brought back to earth with a bump. It is a 200-yard par three, uphill and usually played into the prevailing wind. Oh yes, and there is trouble behind the green, a back-to-front sloping surface surrounded by plenty of strategically placed bunkers. This is a hole that makes you think. The wind was so strong the day I played that my driver came up short, although a chip shot over sand set up an unlikely par! The front nine closes out with a long, uphill par four, with shrubland left of the fairway and villas to the right. Find the fairway and you are left with a long iron or a fairway wood to a green positioned some 20 yards beyond a shoulder of raised terrain that intrudes into the fairway.
If you're looking to consolidate a good score, the start of the back nine offers some chances. The 10th is a par five with a wide fairway, so you can open up your shoulds, and that is followed by two par fours that can be reached with a fairway wood and a wedge. Be warned though – there is a lot of shrubland on these holes, so miss the fairway and any thoughts of that good score go out the window. make a score, the start to the back nine provides a good opportunity for three-pointers. The greens are well protected by swales, run-off areas and bunkers, providing good balance.
In my view, the best three holes on the golf course come consecutively at 13, 14 and 15 - a beautiful and tranquil stretch played around a central lake. The 13th is a short par 4, but positioning is paramount. Drives should be hit as far left as possible to provide the best angle to attack the green. Those who go too far right will have to cross the lake with their approaches, and when the flag is positioned on the right of tiered green that's some 25 yards from front to back,. It is pretty daunting.
The next hole is a par 3 that plays over the corner of the hazard to a putting surface is diagonal, narrowing the target area. It's a hole that suits a fade, but if you're unable to create left-to-right spin, shots need to start out over the water. Both the 13th and 14th are excellent, thought-provoking holes, but the 15th is even better - a truly superb short par 4. The fairway looks extremely small from the tee, with water right and a waste bunker/hazard running all up the left before cutting across the fairway around the 220 yard mark. The bunker continues up the left hole, offering ample protection for a long, thin green that tilts from back to front. I'd go so far as to say it's my favourite hole in the entire IRM portfolio.
Mar Menor is an extremely pleasant course that's perfect for holiday golf. It rewards good play and presents a number of scoring opportunities, but well-placed obstacles and hazards mean it's by no means a pushover. Overall, I'd give it a rating of 7/10.
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|Mar Menor Golf Resort
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