Four courses to finesse your swing within striking distance of the Spanish capital.
Centro Nacional de Golf
Where is it? 10km north of Madrid.
What’s it like? This state-owned facility is built on a landfill site, the same concept as Paris National, the venue for Europe’s Ryder Cup victory last year. The home of the Royal Spanish Golf Federation, it opened in 2006 as an all-comer’s pay and play. It’s tight for an 18-hole layout but architect Dave Thomas used judicious landscaping to create a course worthy of the 2018 Spanish Open.
To everyone’s delight, the Open was won by Jon Rahm, Spain’s world number eight. The 24-year-old Basque was among the first pupils to establish his credentials at the Centro Nacional Academy, which provides young talent from all over the country with the ingredients for success.
The course is designed to encourage rather than hinder at every level of expertise. The rough is natural, which means fairly sparse during long, dry summers. Fairways are contoured to draw in balls as they run off the slopes. Water features attract flocks of large brown birds from the moorhen family, known locally as swamp chickens. Wild boar are also present, although generally unseen.
Contact Arroyo del Monte 5, 28036 Madrid; tel +34 (0)91 376 9060; centronacionalgolf.com
Price Visitors €80 (US$90), Spanish Federation members €40-50 (US$45-56). Buggy €35 (US$39); club hire €35/US$39 (Srixon).
Club hours From 8am summer, 8.30am winter; driving range floodlit until 11pm.
Maximum handicap 36 recommended. Foreigners must have a handicap at home but certificates aren’t usually requested.
Facilities 18-hole championship course, 6,504m, par 72. Centre of excellence for the Spanish national team, with extensive pitching/putting areas and floodlit driving range.
After the golf The ranch-style clubhouse blends into the rolling countryside. Three-course lunch menu with drink and coffee €14.50 (US$16) Mon-Fri, €25 (US$28) Sat-Sun; à la carte dinner €25-35 (US$28-39).
Club de Golf La Dehesa
Where is it? 30km west of Madrid.
What’s it like? For a British club golfer, this is the perfect home from home. The relaxed members’ club welcomes strangers with an absence of airs and graces – by no means always the case in a country where protocol can prevail. The walkable layout rambles across open countryside, the stands of pines interspersed with deciduous trees. For the first-timer, hole 1, a short downhill par-4 with card-wrecking potential in the form of an angled blind shot across a ravine to the green, comes as a bit of a shock. Negotiate it and the way is clear for the rest of a benign front nine along the river.
The fairways are wide, the water fowl at peace and the views of the snowy Sierra de Guadarrama outstanding. Beware complacency: Manuel Pinero, one of Spain’s leading golf architects, ramps up the technical challenge on the back nine. A horseshoe lake provides a spectacular climax to both loops, although the tee shot to the island green at the 18th is more likely to end up in the water.
Contact Av. Universidad 10, 28691 Villanueva de la Canada, Madrid; tel +34 (0)91 815 7022; golfladehesa.es
Price 18 holes weekdays €50 (US$56), weekends €85 (US$95), with member €27/45 (US$30/50). Buggy €28 (US$31); club hire €35/US$39 (Callaway).
Club hours Weekdays from 9am summer, 9.30am winter; weekends 7am summer, 8am winter.
Maximum handicap 36 recommended.
Facilities 18 holes, 6,037m, par 72. Driving range, practice area and putting green.
After the golf La Dehesa has a traditional 19th hole in the form of a semicircular bar with high stools and zinc-topped tables. Breakfast from 9am; three-course lunch with drink and coffee €25 (US$28). Restaurant open until 9.30pm. La Dehesa has tennis, squash and padel courts, a football pitch, kids’ play areas and a pool.
Real Sociedad Hipica Espanola
Where is it? 30km north of Madrid.
What’s it like? The Sociedad Hipica Club de Campo opened as an equestrian centre in 1901, attaining royal status when golf was incorporated seven years later. At the end of the Spanish Civil War, the clubs merged, eventually finding a permanent home near the Escorial in 1990. US architect Robert von Hagge used every trick in the design book to devise two superb courses on hilly terrain. The snowcapped sierra provides a magnificent backdrop to multilevel fairways and tight, hostile greens.
Campo Norte, host to the Spanish Open in 2007, is the more prestigious. Laid out in two loops of nine with long walks from green to tee, it is a buggy must for all but the most resolute pedestrians. Doglegs dominate, putting a premium on club selection and strategy. There are four large lakes on the back nine, but the front nine sets more subtle traps, notably on the 4th, where a creek snaggling down the middle of the fairway drains into the pond in front of the green. Campo Sur, completed in 2000, is shorter, hillier and trickier.
Contact San Sebastian de los Reyes, 28709 Madrid; tel +34 (0)91 657 1018; rshecc.es
Price Visitors (Mon-Fri only) 18 holes €75 (US$84); buggy €25 (US$28); club hire €40/US$45 (Taylormade).
Club hours From 9am summer, 9.30am winter.
Maximum handicap 36 recommended.
Facilities Norte 6,501m, par 72; Sud 6,121m, par 72. Driving range, practice area and putting green.
After the golf The mellow clubhouse serves a three-course lunch menu (€17.50/US$20), plus tortillas, sandwiches and burgers. Dine outdoors until 2am Fri-Sat.
Where is it? 23km west of Madrid.
What’s it like? Funded by the bank of the same name, Santander is a gruelling challenge. The plan was to provide a world-class facility for the employees in their “Financial City” on the outskirts of Madrid. An advanced skill set is required for one of Spain’s longest tracks, but six tees on each hole give a glimmer of hope. Designed by Rees Jones, with help from Seve Ballesteros, it opened in 2005. Major earth moving transformed a rubbish dump into “18 highly versatile holes”, as Ballesteros put it. Big bucks also supplied assorted water hazards, 5,000 trees and myriad shrubs, and eco-charter prioritised a wildlife-friendly environment so look out for hares and red partridge. Hardest of all is finding the correct closely guarded entry portal – one of three – to access the club. If you don’t have a reservation or take your passport, you have no chance. If you do, officials phone the number through to the pro shop, where it’s checked against the document before you play.
Contact Avenida de Cantabria s/n, 28660 Boadilla del Monte, Madrid; tel +34 (0)91 257 3929/30; golfsantander.es
Price €110 (US$123) weekdays, €146 (US$163) weekends; with member €45/68 (US$50/76); buggy €30 (US$34); club hire €35/US$39 (Taylormade).
Club hours From 8am summer, 9am winter.
Maximum handicap 36 recommended.
Facilities 18-hole championship course, 6,856m, par 72. Driving range, practice area, putting green, and the Jim McLean golf academy.
After the golf An imposing two-storey clubhouse in marble and glass with a vine-shaded terrace. The restaurant specialises in international golf fare.