OK it's expensive. Really expensive. One of those bucket listers that'll bust the bank. But then what did you expect?
I expected an unbelievable experience, to play astounding holes, impeccable green-keeping and a sensation that at long last I would fulfil all my golfing dreams. Well.....
Once you've found the place, away from the glitz and glamour and yet located amidst a millionaires housing estate, the first thing you notice is how understated everything appears to be.
Park up and walk through to the practice ground and club shop (large though it may be) and aside from the gorgeous looking driving range all is tranquil and serene giving you an exclusive but 'whats all the fuss about' vibe.
However setting foot on the first tee changes the dynamics greatly. Ignoring the fact that every single blade of grass seems to have been personally groomed, every tree hand crafted and placed what sets the golfing flames roaring is the mind-blowing cleverness in Valderrama's design. Every hole (yes every) is magnificent, challenging and demanding. The majority of the tees (especially if you're playing further back) require negotiation of a tunnel of trees mapping the exit to fairways. You really need to keep on top of yardages as nothing is what it seems due to the beautiful undulations misleading the eye.
Possibly the craziest, mind-warping emotion is derived by what happens in between holes as the course steers you through tree covered corridors to the next tee. This magical, mystery tour ensures you never know whats coming next until you emerge into the sunlight again just to be stunned by the next staggering vista.
Someone had warned me in advance of the biggest issue here from a playing perspective. "The greens are difficult to get on and even more tricky to get off" was the advice. And he was right. I've played here several times now and learned more every time. The crucial element about getting "up" is to scrutinise each hole and every yardage. You literally have a landing zone on each drive of about 20 yards square. A well struck drive down the middle just isn't anywhere near good enough as to leave an entrance for approach to many greens you'll need to be in exactly the right spot. Don't worry if this sounds like it's a course you need to play more than once to play well (it is) as you'll definitely want to return.
The greens are as true as you'll find but of course aren't a simple test. Pace, once you've worked it out is totally uniform throughout so it's line that needs your utmost attention to post anything half decent.
All too quickly you're at the 10th tee and before you know it putting out at 18. In between you'll have the time of your golfing life swept along on a wave of expectant trepidation and awe. Every hole is a highlight but 17 is predictably the one most want to conquer. Sevy has redesigned it three times (for the princely sum of 1million euros a time). It's doable if you're thinking glory. You'll need to smash your best drive straight at the bunker on the left. Carry that and the fairway will give you enough downhill momentum to reach with a 5 wood. Many pro's bail out to the left to be sure but if you have a high ball flight and you crush one you might get lucky and catch the front elevation enough to stay on. If not you'll be in the rear bunkers and facing a shot back to the water but on the right day with the right bounce you can tame the beast and walk off with a bird rather than a treble!
Valderrama staggers, beggars belief at times. The fees to visitors are severe but at £150,000 to be a member i'd say reasonable!?
So in answer, does it fulfil your golfing dreams? Abso-flaming-lutely.
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