- Neil White
A replica Ryder Cup alongside photographs of Manuel Pinero’s greatest moment – victory in 1985 - were the backdrop as Mrs W and I tucked into a well-earned post game steak at La Reserva.
We were 20 minutes late completing our round and initially were told that we would miss out on our late lunch.
But disappointment turned to delight after we were chased by a waiter who told us special dispensation had been given so our hungry bellies could be filled.
This exemplifies the service at La Reserva, where Pinero is a member.
Details matter here – from imposing hacienda-style clubhouse to the perfect triangles of balls on the practice area, everything is just so in this corner of the Costa Del Sol.
No surprise then that this is also true on the course – the bunkers barely have a grain of sand out of place and the water is azure blue.
But the most memorable element were the greens. This is the 60th course on my top 100 odyssey and I have not played on faster or trickier ones yet.
This was summed up on the par-four 11th.
After I had proudly found the back of the green in regulation, a 40ft putt trundled towards the hole, threatening a possible birdie.
And it went on and on and on leaving me nearly as far away going uphill. After three more putts, I walked away with a chastening double-bogey.
It is not that we weren’t warned. The practice green is so slick and the reads so tough that golfers were laughing as they watched their balls finish yards off target.
The toughness of the test at La Reserva was recognised. My handicap of 11.1 was converted to 15 off yellows and the starter smirked while shaking his head when I asked whether we should be hitting off whites.
The course holds the interest from the opening hole a right-to left dogleg which entices big hitters to cut the corner. A stream guards the front of an elevated green.
Greenside swales are a key part of La Reserva’s defences. Concentration and guile are demanded.
Anyway, I started pretty well, given that I had dropped my phone on the third and had to drive back for a sweaty chase given that it had our plane boarding passes, QR codes for vaccines and Spain entry on it.
I discovered it the middle of the fairway but, despite my panic, nailed pars on the uphill 4th and par-three fifth.
The 6th is one of the most memorable we have played during top 100 challenge so far with a high tee looking down on to what seems like a slither of fairway and thick wood to the right.
Even if that hurdle is negotiated, sand and the water to the right of the green demand a route is taken down the undulating left-hand side.
It is a belter and Mrs W’s face was beaming when she grabbed three points.
The 8th also sets pulses racing from the tee because water cuts in from the right hand side, drawing down balls which are even slightly off target.
The 9th looks and easy hole but has an upward gradient to the green and we found to our cost that even a good-looking shot can find itself falling 15 yards back down the fairway if it comes up short.
The 12th has another elevated tee, with a steep right bend to a green which has the backdrop of some of the estate’s stunning properties
There are plenty of opportunities for those with a canny short game, especially the par-fives like the 13th. They aren’t particularly long but run-offs into greenside bunkers can still wreck cards.
The 15th is my favourite of the par threes, requiring a long iron down the right to avoid water and a deep bunker. But a strike too far will also land in sand.
The uphill 18th looks great with the clubhouse in the background. It is appropriate that it has another raised green with a steep slope in front of it.
Our round at La Reserva was played in a buggy and I have to say, I hate them. They don’t allow for the tempo a good round requires but, beware, it would be a heck of a long walk with a trolley.
And the signposting is poor. We managed to get lost a couple of times and saw others meeting the same fate.
However, our overall experience of La Reserva was very positive. I would just love to go back and try to conquer those greens.