“Hot soup? Sandwiches? Fruit? Water?”
“No, thank you, but can you tell me how to master these blessed greens?”
I precis conversations around Finca Cortesin where the diligence of the staff matches the quality of the course but the over-riding memory is how tricky (impossible) putting was.
In fact, we were so bamboozled that we have promised ourselves tickets to the Solheim Cup in 2023 to see how professional players get on with them.
For tourist mid-handicappers, this is a fiendishly stern test. I was driving as well as I can and also struck some pretty decent fairway woods and long irons but even if I held the ball on the green, scoring was still difficult.
I felt even more sorry for Mrs W who saw what appeared to be several accurate approaches go unrewarded.
Indeed, one on the 14th, looked an absolute pearler and as if it was going to nestle next to the flag only for the ball to run on about teen feet, slip off the back, down the hill and never be seen again (I suffered an undignified fall, looking for it!).
Finca Cortesin is between the Mediterranean and the Sierra Blanca – consequently, the views are impressive whichever way we turned.
From its stunning downhill driving range in front of the magnificent clubhouse, the huge tract of land is used to pleasing effect.
The first hole is typical in the sense that the wide fairways allow easy placement in advance of the approach. But, do not be fooled - bunkers and run-offs await.
I have since watched a video of Spanish golfer Noemi Jimenez playing the hole. Her ball ran off by a few feet and her chip into the green is yards wide of the flag to accommodate the curve of the putting surface.
She has ‘the knowledge’ of Bermuda greens and the clues of where the ball will run because it is her home course! We didn’t!
The third is a beautiful par-five, bending around a lake with the sea in the background. Sensible course management should yield results.
The fourth appears to be a risk-and-reward par-four at only 256 yards from the elevated yellow tees but those going for the green would have to carry bushes and then a lake. I have no such power.
For me, the back nine has more stand-out, quirkier holes than the front.
The tone is set by the 10th, a steep downhill par-three which falls dramatically from left to right.
I aimed to bounce one down from the left but became tangled in the grass. From there, there is only a sliver of green with a deep bunker behind. Suffice to say, I blobbed but I still loved it.
The 11th is a par-five from a tee in a wood that demands a decent carry over bushes with bunkers awaiting on the other side. It’s a heck of a hole.
Another long par-three follows on the 12th demanding a thread between bunkers to hit the target. I was delighted with my tee shot, only for the familiar tale of a three-putt!
But the best sequence is yet to come… beginning with the short par-four 13th and its green behind a wide stream which is hidden until you are on top of it.
Even those who make it over will do well to hit the target which is also defended by a tree. I eluded both only to find sand! I chipped out and putt in for my most satisfying par of the day.
The 15th is arguably the most dramatic at Finca Cortesin. The almost 90-degree dogleg to the left follows a tee-shot which must carry at least 175 yards across thick bushes. Anything short is lost.
By the way, I ought to point out that the women don’t face any of these intimidating carries because their tees are a bus ride forward (not that I’m bitter J).
The course has an entertaining mix of eight par-fours, five par-threes and five par-fives and finishes with that sequence.
The final hole leaves a clear imprint on the mind of the mountain view, the Mediterranean backdrop behind, lots of sand (I counted 14 bunkers) and treacherous green.
I was delighted to find the latter in regulation, struck my first putt towards to hole only to watch it go sliding past, gather pace and fall 25 feet down the hill! Obviously, I had learned nothing.
Finca Cortesin provided another stellar memory of our Costa Del Sol trip and a delicious (if slightly expensive) sea bass overlooking the driving range polished off a gorgeous day.
By the way, it becomes clear why a buggy (I still hate them) is the only option here. There is such a long distance between some of the holes that walking would be impractical.
Good luck to the caddies at the Solheim Cup – they will not only have to know the greens intimately but they will have to be ruddy fit.