All par for the course on the Spanish coast

We found it easy to get into the swing of things on the Costa del Sol


Fairway to heaven or a good walk spoiled?

Golf can divide opinion to the point where a keen clubber's paradise is their partner's purgatory.

But on the southern Spanish coast, the 148-roomed NH Almenara Golf Hotel and Spa in Sotogrande is endeavouring to appeal to both the tee-time set and those for whom greens more readily conjure up images of

If, like me, your view is somewhere in the middle - non-player but an avid TV viewer of the major tournaments - Sotogrande has some compelling locational virtues.

It's 20 minutes from Gibraltar airport, served by Monarch flights from Luton. Marbella is also within easy driving range (by car that is), as well as Jerez, the heart of sherry country.

Sotogrande, a 4,400-acre stretch from the Mediterranean's popular beaches, is distinctly well-heeled, with some properties selling for 10 million euros or more.

We are told that the monied set are a discreet bunch and this is this is borne out by a walk from the hotel to an area of gated residences during which I encountered no sign of life beyond a solitary jogger.

The walk was a small contribution, incidentally, towards dissipating the calorie mountain from the lunch

If the way to a non-golfer's heart is via the stomach, the Almenara scores through a creative menu which goes well beyond the standard hotel fare and showcases regional specialities.

There are plentiful fish and vegetarian options and a treat is in store for those whose experience of Spanish cheese has hitherto been limited to manchego.

Ditto for anyone unacquainted with Spanish brandy or the quality of high end sherry - a sherry tasting session proved both an educational and alcoholic delight.

Rooms are clean, spacious and comfortable, affording verdant views over the course or the gardens and a glimpse of the Mediterranean.

With an Andalucian gale making conditions infinitely more challenging for the golfers among our group, I decided to delay sporting embarrassment by taking a buggy ride around the resort's 27 holes - which can be played in three 18-hole par 72 combinations.

It was a fun and marginally warming way to appreciate both the natural and man-made splendour of the complex. Then it was off for a reviving drink at Veintee Ocho (the 28th hole), although given the weather, we gave the terrace a miss.

It would be lovely to sit outside in summer, when the hotel operates a beach club to bring in the family trade.

Close by is the iconic Valderrama course, host to the Volvo Masters on the PGA European tour and scene of the European Ryder Cup triumph in 1997. The hotel can arrange preferential rates for guests.

But remaining within the resort, I took another healthy option by spending an afternoon in the Elysium Spa, whose staff distributed "order of activity" guides to enable users to get the most out of the water-based and sauna facilities.

And what better to follow than a leisurely massage? Tennis and equestrian activities are also available.

As for my golfing indoctrination, it went better than feared.

Academy instructor Rafael wowed the ladies with his easy charm and appearance of a young De Niro - the golfing fraternity might suggest a resemblance to two-times Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal.

And as for the guys, Rafael made the basics of grip, stance and swing almost idiot-proof and within minutes I was hitting balls off the range with an encouraging amount of proficiency, if not always distance.

So does a golfing holiday beat par for the non-player?

Probably not for a lengthy stay, and sight-seers would be bunkered without a car at the Almenara.

But as a short break in a tranquil environment, there is much to commend it. Now go and watch the birdies.

Getting there

Hotel Almenara is offering a two night stay in a double room including from €128.00 per double room (00 34 902 18 18 36).
Monarch have direct flights to Gibraltar from Luton from £42.99 one way.
The hotel is around 20 minutes drive from the airport

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