Sol Cup and La Cala Pro AM
Myself and some of the Irish tour operators were invited by Tour Spain and the Andalucian and Costa del Sol tourist boards to take part in the annual Sol Cup, with an added bonus of playing in the Andalucia Costa del Sol 9 Pro-Am, a European Challenge Tour Event.
The first night was spent in the Parador Hotel and Golf Course. With the golf course right at my door step I was able to get some putting practice in bright and early that morning. The 27-hole golf course is very popular with tourists as it is 5 minutes down the road from Malaga airport and its neighbouring towns Torremolinos and Benalmadena are just a short drive away.
The La Cala Golf Resort was selected to be the first host of the Andalucia Costa del Sol Matchplay 9 tournament.
This tournament was appealing to many as the chosen format of 36 hole stroke play qualifying followed by the match play battles for the top 32 qualifiers was sure to present an intense tournament. 156 players from the Challenge tour, Royal Andalucian golf federation and the Royal Spanish golf federation would be competing for the top prize.
We arrived at the La Cala Golf Resort on Thursday morning to be greeted by Rocio and Silvia who gave us a tour of the hotel and clubhouse. We were then treated to a delicious lunch on the terrace of the clubhouse overlooking the Asia Golf Course where we would be playing that afternoon. There was a great atmosphere around the clubhouse as all the players and caddies were preparing for the day’s round of golf.
La Cala held a wonderful welcome reception on arrival. Each player was given a generous gift package on arrival; a towel, tees and some extra golf balls which I’m sure came in handy for a lot of people.
The format of the competition was a scramble which took a lot of pressure off everyone and led to a lot of eagle and birdie chances. This was my first time playing in a pro-am and the course was in perfect tournament condition for the week ahead. The professional that I was paired with was Jordi Garcia, he was very generous with his advice about the tricky greens on the golf course and even giving us some swing tips which has helped my game improve already.
Unfortunately, Jordi didn’t qualify for the match play stages of the competition, narrowly missing out by 1 shot. However, it wasn’t all bad news as the Irish player Gavin Moynihan made what turned out to be a very important birdie putt on the 18th hole to secure his place in the top 32 and advance to the match play stages of the competition. Gavin went on to finish 2nd place overall securing his challenge tour card for the rest of the 2017 season, moving from 81st to 8th in the Road to Oman rankings. Golfbreaks.ie would like to wish him the best of luck in the rest of his golfing season and hopefully he can keep up the form he has been showing in the last few weeks.
La Cala Golf Resort is an ideal destination for a golf holiday, with 3 golf courses on site and a full range of practise facilities. Located 20 minutes from Malaga airport. The narrow cobbled streets of Mijas is just a short drive from the resort. Despite being very popular with tourists the town has managed to hang on to the Andalucian way of life, a festive town with a very relaxed outlook.
The day ended with a terrific dinner and awards presentation where we were joined by Bradley Neil, an up and coming Challenge tour player who gave us an insight into what it’s like to play on the tour which was very interesting.
After a long but extremely enjoyable day we headed back to the Westin La Quinta hotel in Marbella, this year’s venue for the Sol Cup where the Irish tour operators would take on the Spanish. The 27-hole golf course, designed by 3-time World Champion and Ryder Cup champion Manuel Pinero is relatively short but a very tricky golf course is suited to all levels of golfers. This year the Irish came out on top winning the majority of the trophies and bringing the Sol Cup back to Ireland for another year.
As we were just a few minutes’ drive from the glistening harbour of Puerto Banus we decided to visit. The pristine streets entice all sorts to the area, the Ferraris, Bentleys and Lamborghinis cruise by slowly, turning heads of the people they pass. There are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from in the area. We were invited into La Sala which is a popular chain of bars and restaurants around Spain. They offer great deals especially for groups of golfers looking to enjoy the nightlife after a long day on the golf courses of the Costa del Sol.
The trip was coming to an end but we were keen to get one more round of golf in the sun before we had to return to Ireland. Rio Real Golf Course is in one of the most privileged places in Marbella, 5 minutes from the city centre. The 18-hole golf course is built around the banks of the Real River where it enters the Mediterranean Sea. The course provides a mixture of both flat flanked holes as well as higher sloping ones which offer wonderful views of the Mediterranean Sea. One of the memorable holes on the card are the 10th which requires a straight forward tee shot then takes a drastic 90 degree turn to the elevated green on the right. Another signature hole is the par 4 11th, the tee shot from the extremely elevated tee box is a nerve wrecking one, I only realised how close I was to the edge when I was on my downswing. The terrace in the clubhouse offers a great view of the golf course and is a nice place to relax after your round.