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Golf at the tip of Europe

Text: Michel Cruz
Photography: JD Dallet

Golf may not be the first thing you think of when you hear the name Tarifa, but lovers of the game will be happy to hear that there is no shortage of top class golf courses within close striking range from this charming coastal town.

Being true to the sea and with its focus clearly set on the laid-back water sports scene, Tarifa has no real golfing tradition of its own, yet among the many inland activities that thrive in the beautiful surroundings, golf is firmly placed as one of the best facilitated and most popular.

Good access roads have brought a whole range of first rate courses to within an hour's drive, but the three clubs that are regarded as local are Novo Sancti Petri, Montenmedio Golf & Country Club and Benalup Golf. Together they provide excellent courses and facilities in a range of settings that vary from beachside to hillside, with each course offering its own unique set of challenges and rewards.

Lying along the Atlantic coastline, between the small towns of Conil de la Frontera and Chiclana, the Novo Sancti Petri course forms part of a resort of select hotels and discreet holiday homes. A half-hour drive from Tarifa, this was the first golf course to be built near the town when it opened in 1990.

It was also the first course in Spain designed by Seve Ballesteros and occupies a marvellous seaside spot facing four kilometres of virgin beach.

The course itself forms three loops of nine holes, starting and finishing at the clubhouse, and sporting a spacious American-style layout and over one hundred thousand trees of 30 different species that provide ample shade. Additional challenges are provided on eight of the holes by four attractive, yet tricky lakes.

Beautiful sandy beaches, shops, restaurants, hotels, tennis, horse riding and poolside luxury assure that 'golf widows' have a wide choice of diversions, while those who want to improve their game can turn to an excellent golf school and practice ground.

Highly popular and acclaimed, Novo Sancti Petri has in a short time become one of the leading golf courses in this part of Spain, a status which is confirmed by the hosting of prestigious international events such as the Turespaña Masters Open de Andalucía.

Follow the N340 from Tarifa to Cádiz for about a quarter of an hour and you will see the imposing gates of the Montenmedio Golf & Country Club loom up just before the charming little town of Vejer de la Frontera. Turning up the long driveway you could be forgiven for thinking you are entering a private landed estate, for this is exactly what Montenmedio used to be.

More than just a golf club, this is a luxury country resort built into a large, elegant manor house. As at Sancti Petri, those not interested in golf can ride horse, play tennis, take a horse-carriage ride to view the fauna and flora of the estate, visit Vejer or the nearby beaches, or simply lounge on a terrace or by the pool.

The 18-hole course that winds through this 300 hectare estate, however, is a golfer's paradise, free of real estate developments and filled with the peaceful sounds of nature alone. Bunkers and water features mean you'll need precision to stay on track, but the generous fairways and excellent putting greens offer ample compensation, making this a highly enjoyable course for players of diverse levels.