- Neil White
San Roque (New)
For the past ten days, we have heard about San Roque wherever we have played. Fast but fair greens, a gorgeous course and a beautiful new clubhouse were the common thoughts.
San Roque has benefited from very significant investment since its management was taken over in 2019.
We can testify to the magnificence of its clubhouse, having eaten there post-round and the practice facilities, part of the Jason Floyd Academy, bear comparison with its prestigious neighbours on the Costa Del Sol.
However, all of the talk had been about the Old course and, on the final day of our holiday, it was undergoing maintenance.
Therefore, noting its sister New course was no.32 in Spain on the top100golfcourses website, I believed it would be a more than adequate replacement.
I was wrong. It has become the Cinderella of the San Roque development – bags of potential but rather unloved.
Even the friendly staff seemed underwhelmed by the prospect of playing on it.
For starters we had the pick of tee-times – due on at 11.40am, we arrived 90 minutes early and were told we could play when we wanted either side of a party at 11am.
Meanwhile, the impressive new signage at San Roque pays little heed to the New course.
We struggled to find it and when we asked, we were simply told it was through the car park and across the road.
No starter’s hut or niceties here - it was a case of finding our own way and discovering a rather unkempt tee box and a presumption of the direction of the first hole.
Straightaway there are signs of neglect. Inconsistent fairways, raggedy bunker edges and greens which appear to have signs of disease.
The shame is that the course could be very special. Its bunkering is like none other I have experienced, its water features have great potential and the views are impressive even though we played it in ferocious wind and, in part, howling rain.
The daunting challenge of San Roque New is apparent on the par-five second. I counted 20 traps included one which runs down much of the right-hand side of the hole. The par-four third has even more.
The short 4th heralds ‘Seve’s Tee’ with a sign which points to a spot which appears to be its tip. Ours was significantly further forward but we still had bushes and a huge sand-trap to avoid.
However, after negotiating both, I discovered that the greatest danger is behind the target. Thus, after hitting a short chip too hard, my ball disappeared over the green and down into bushes never to be seen again.
Sloping fairways are one of the hallmarks of the course. Both Mrs W and I were driving well but often found the ball on the opposite site to its landing point.
Meanwhile, finding narrow entrances to greens such as the raised fifth was a huge challenge.
With a little love, the 7th could be a remarkable par-five with trees either side of an undulating fairway.
It leads down to a green between dunes and bunkers to the right and a lake, complete with fountain and huge sand trap with a tree in its centre, to the left.
Nowhere is the unique use of sand more evident than on the short eighth where the railway-sleeper-lined trap runs the entire length. We were both thrilled with par threes.
The eccentric use of sand takes another turn on the ninth which has tiered bunkering to the right of a green which has another lake to the left.
By comparison the opening holes of the back nine should be much more sedate but by now the wind and rain were so fierce we even contemplated giving up.
However, the band played on (not literally but there is a bandstand next to the 13th for no obvious reason!) until the 18th which brings water back into the equation at the front right of a relatively small green.
I thought I had hit a perfect four-iron approach only to see the ball find the camber and roll into the murky depths.
And that was it. We dropped our clubs in the sparsely populated car park before returning to the swanky clubhouse where adverts to entice would-be members highlighted an eye-watering €23,000 joining fee as if it were a bargain.
Well, the folk of Sotogrande certainly aren’t short of a bob or two and the new investment might be all the lure they need.
However, if they were to play regular golf on the New course, it would need a heck of a lot of work to justify that price.