Escape to Murcia
The region of Murcia is in the protected south-east corner of Spain between Andalucia and Valencia, meaning mild winters and hot summers. If you are looking at a clock map of the Iberian Peninsula, Murcia would be at 4 o’clock. The region is served by a fantastic new airport at Corvera, this having replaced San Javier Airport in 2019. As well as Corvera, the area can also be accessed via Alicante which is under one hour to 90 minutes away from most of the area’s golf. The interior of the region is mountainous and sparsely populated but the coastal areas are remarkably flat which facilitates the building of accessible golf resorts.
The annual temperature is a very golf-friendly 18 degrees C or 64 degrees F and is one of the driest regions of Spain with just 12 inches of annual rainfall and 3,000 hours of sunshine. So whatever time of year, Murcia can be considered for a golf escape safe in the knowledge that you have a high chance of sunny days.
With this climate and landscape, it is easy to see why, in the early 1970s, a group of developers decided to create a luxury resort with housing, a hotel and 2 golf courses. And this, La Manga Club, was the start of the Murcian golf industry in 1972 when the resort opened its doors. To this day when you think of golf in Spain, La Manga is one of the first resorts that comes to mind. La Manga Club has developed over the years now boasting over 2000 private properties, bars and restaurants to please all tastes and of course the luxurious 5-star hotel Principe Felipe. The numerous private dwellings mean the resort is alive throughout the year, and with leisure facilities and sports pitches to match resorts worldwide, 3 wonderful championship golf courses, and amazing practice and learning sports facilities. La Manga Club boasts numerous outdoor pools, an indoor pool, world-class tennis, football and cricket amenities, and even a beach. Not to mention the dozens of restaurants, shops and bars in and just outside the resort catering for all culinary and entertainment requirements.
The original two courses at La Manga Club are the South and North, both within an easy stroll of the hotel. The courses are relatively flat with palm trees lining the fairways and large greens protected by bunkers. There are several water hazards notably protecting the green on the South’s par 5 finishing hole. This hole has seen many dramas including the times when it hosted the Open de España in the 1970’s. The West Course was added several years later and is remarkably different from its older siblings. The course was carved from a pine woods and with the back nine winding up into the hills offers a more varied experience than the South and North. Although the West is shorter, it is certainly a trickier course. Superb practice facilities and a renowned academy round off the extraordinary golf experience at the unique resort that is La Manga Club.
Just half an hour north-west of La Manga Club in the early years of the millennium, a group of developers and investors created the Nicklaus Trail of golf courses. As the name implies Jack Nicklaus was invited to design seven golf courses around which luxury residential and holiday resorts were to be built under the Polaris World name. Sadly, the financial crash and the associated Spanish property crash in 2008 decimated these plans but fortunately for all golfers, six excellent courses were born and still exist from the original idea.
The original Polaris World courses are now under two different ownerships. These are UGolf who look after Mar Menor, Saurines de la Torre, and Hacienda del Alamo (not one of the Polaris courses). GNK Golf run El Valle, Hacienda Riquelme, La Torre and Alhama Signature. This enables us to create some exciting golfing packages depending on the accommodation that suits you and your group best.
Mar Menor is a traditional Spanish resort course – flat terrain, wide fairways, good-sized greens and loads of bunkers and water! Arguably the most requested by our clients due its value and location on-site to the Caleia Mar Menor Golf & Spa Resort, a quality 5-star hotel boasting extensive facilities on-site and within walking distance of several bars and restaurants. Also, in the same estate, we find The Residences at Mar Menor – well-furnished and equipped self-catering properties with one, two and three bedrooms offering groups fantastic value for money that is hard to match when compared to other packages available throughout Spain and Portugal.
Saurines de la Torre is a most enjoyable course combining characteristics of resort golf with target desert golf. Lots of doglegs and interesting holes create a most enjoyable experience.
Hacienda del Alamo is a fine Dave Thomas-designed course stretching to over 7,400 yards from the back tees. There is a definite desert feel to this course even though the fairways meander through almond and olive trees. The new Hacienda del Alamo Golf & Spa Resort offers 155 stylish and modern rooms and 100 well-furnished apartments and although closed due to the pandemic we have some great packages available for 2022.
Out of the GNK courses, El Valle is the most highly rated. The course is located in desert terrain with fantastic mountain views. This excellent design makes full use of its geographical advantages with amazing scenery and offers a great experience to golfers of all abilities. A great modern clubhouse completes a fine day out.
Hacienda Riquelme is nestled in the heart of a desert valley and again, the natural land features have been integrated with the course design. Wide fairways and large greens are features of this most enjoyable course. This is not a well-known course, however, after playing this course many of the Golf Escapes team rate it highly and we suggest you include this in your itinerary on your visit.
The Alhama Signature Course was designed personally by the great Jack Nicklaus himself and although this fine track is around half an hour’s drive from its siblings and cousins towards Murcia city, it is well worth the drive. The Sierra Espuna mountains provide a dramatic backdrop to this long course and in common with other Nicklaus courses, the secret is to avoid the (116) bunkers! Not a course for the faint-hearted but certainly one for a golfer that relishes a challenge.
La Torre completes the series. A resort course that is easily walked and great fun to play. It is the shortest of these courses but don’t be fooled by the length. This is still a great test of golf with hazards of the sand and water kind seemingly everywhere and doglegs galore. Very much a thinking golfer’s track.
On-site to La Torre, and similar to Mar Menor, there is the excellent 5* DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel with great facilities and prices, especially with packages on the 4 GNK courses. This option really does tick a lot of boxes for golfing groups and is very popular as a result.
We now move back to the coast, and to the area close to the old San Javier Airport. Roda Golf is another popular complex with an exciting 18-hole course with good self-catering options in resort. The course has a linksy feel and meanders around a great clubhouse from where you have views of pretty much every hole. Beware – there is plenty of water here, however, a cold beer in the clubhouse afterward is the perfect reward.
Plenty of water does not even begin to describe the course at La Serena just 10 minutes from Roda. With lakes on 16 holes, you may need your ball retriever regripped after a round here. The course is flat and easily walked and not long, but you can see where the trouble lies.
Close to the Roda and La Serena courses, we’ll find the popular resort town of Los Alcazares. Here we find two hotels popular with golfers: Hotel 525 which backs onto lively 525 Square, and the beachfront Hotel Costa Narejos which offers fantastic value out of the peak summer season. These hotels are great options for golfers wanting to experience the excellent variety of courses within half an hour while also enjoying a variety of après golf nightlife right on the doorstep.
Although not in the region of Murcia, honourable mention must be made of Lo Romero and Las Colinas, both accessible within half an hour of the GNK and UGolf resort accommodations as well as Los Alcazares. They are great courses and well worth the journey as an addition to your Murcian golf itinerary, especially for those returning to the region and looking for the next challenge.
We now move to the capital of the region, Murcia city. This is the seventh-largest city in the country with just under half a million residents. It has yet to be discovered as a major tourist attraction which adds to the attraction for many. We highly recommend a few nights to wander around this fascinating city and take in everything to be loved about the lifestyle. The old town is beautiful, the cathedral stunning, and there are more tapas bars than is possible to visit in a few days’ stay. This is, in common with most Spanish cities, a great place to sit in one of the many “plazas” with a beer, coffee or whatever you fancy, and do a spot of people watching. Nightlife is fantastic, great value and quality, and the locals are very friendly.
Our preferred accommodation is the 4* Hotel Occidental Murcia 7 Coronas. Located right in the city center of the Murcia region, this hotel has existed here since 1971! A recent refurbishment regenerated this classic construction with a new modern touch. Due to its central location and close vicinity to many acclaimed golf courses, Occidental is the ideal base for your next golfing holiday.
Occidental provides 156 rooms with a range of affordable options. Most rooms feature a view of the city below, with a contemporary design and a luminous feel. A comfortable bed, full air conditioning, a plasma TV, a minibar, and a digital safe are all included in every room. The Hotel Bistro Restaurant offers excellent gastronomy options. With the finest artisan techniques and Murcia-sourced ingredients, the Bistro offers a variety of seasonal dishes. Restaurant guests can dine outside on the restaurant’s sunny roof terrace overlooking the city if they prefer.
Nearby golf courses Altorreal, El Valle, La Torre, El Valle, Hacienda Riquelme, and Saurines de la Torre all have a 30-minute or less trasnfer time. Hacienda del Alamo, Mar Menor, and Alhama Signature Course all have a 40-minute or less transfer time. Last but not least, La Manga North, La Manga South, and La Manga West have 45-minute transfer times.
It is not just about golf or visiting the bars and restaurants in Murcia; there is a lot more that the city has the offer. There are many famous museums and historical landmarks nearby. You can also take a 10-minute taxi to Terra Natura Murcia, a zoo with animals from all over the globe. This zoo is attached to a water park which is open during the summer.
Our final golf region of Murcia is the Aguilas municipality in the southern coastal area of Murcia province close to the Almeria border. Our accommodation here will be in the coastal town of Aguilas itself, a traditional Spanish beach resort very much geared towards traditional Spanish visitors so you may need to brush up on your language skills before your trip to ensure you get the most from your time here! This will be worth it however as you will discover a charming town, unspoiled by tourism with restaurants offering the fresh produce from the nearby fields at incredible prices. Our main base in Aguilas is the 4-star Hotel Puerto Juan Montiel, as the name suggests opposite the marina directly opposite the glistening Med and the beach. The rooms are modern and comfortable, and the hotel’s terrace bar is a great place to relax overlooking the marina before heading along the promenade into town. For those looking for a very economical option, Aguilas de los Collados is a very good choice for self-catering apartments a couple of miles out of town in a very pleasant residential area.
There are two courses serving the immediate area. Lorca Golf is a great track, extremely highly rated in a beautiful rural area 20 minutes’ drive from Aguilas. A short but hilly and tricky course, the front nine is fairly straightforward but the back nine becomes more challenging. The fairways are narrow and there are quite a few water hazards but if you are having “one of those days”, you can always admire the stunning mountain views.
Aguilon is another scenically spectacular course 20 minutes from Aguilas. Ravines, bunkers and lakes create a great challenge in a setting that could be straight out of a spaghetti western. The lush green fairways appear as you come to the course most unexpectedly. This time the front nine is the tougher of the loops, and the course is another fine test of golf. Highly recommended and even more so with a remarkably low green fee for the quality.
If you want to add more choice from Aguilas, the Almeria courses of Valle del Este and Desert Springs are both under an hour away, as are Hacienda del Alamo and Alhama Signature.
We hope you have enjoyed our tour of Murcia. This region will always hold a special place in the heart of the author as the producer of almost all of the supermarket Gazpacho found in Spain (a cold tomato based garlicky soup). With great weather, green fees and accommodation at half the price of some other Spanish provinces and with great quality on offer, if you have yet to tread the Murcian fairways, now might be the time to start planning your next Golf Escape here.