John and I are currently four losses and one solitary win in our series of challenge matches. Today at La Quinta Golf Resort C and B courses we are pitted against a pair of fine golfers and regular playing partners Damien Murphy and Mike Mariconda.
La Quinta Golf Resort is a highly respected name in Golf on the Costa del Sol , a prestigious venue home to a plethora of high profile professional events over the years and a course loved by players like Lee Westwood, Manuel Pinero, Olazabl and many others.
La Quinta Golf Resort is made up of three nine hole loops that alternate to give three different 18 hole combinations. La Quinta Golf Resort is renowned for its excellent layout and outstanding conditioning.
As we arrive at the driving range to utilise the complementary warm up balls we find Mike in ominous full flow with 2 empty range buckets next to his bag. “Striking it well big boy?” I ask, “Striping it” he replied with a predatory grin!
JW and I each step on to a mat and begin making the stiff curtailed swings with accompanying clicks, cracks and groans that golfers of a certain age are all too familiar with. “Good morning lads” says Damien as he strides towards the mat bumping fists in greeting. “You boys are looking smooth this morning,” he said ironically as JW and I exhibit the fluid motion of a pair of 1930’s Frankenstein monsters.
A few swings later as John and I zero in on the grooved portion of the club face our range balls begin to look healthier in flight. “Usual bet? Five euro Nassau? The question is how many shots are you going to give us” says John. Damien, still hurting after our last match whereupon JW and I bashed him and his partner to record our only win chimed ”It won’t be anything like as many as last time.”
As good as they are at golf they are no match for JW when it comes to negotiating the shots. My partner excelled again, 9 shots for John and 5 for me. This has all the makings of a lovely day at the La Quinta Golf Resort with the added benefit of a modest financial reward for your correspondents to boot!
Set in the heart of Marbella’s golf valley, The La Quinta Golf Resort is perfectly situated to offer the best that the Costa del Sol has to offer. Ten minutes from the attractions of Marbella and Puerto Banus, 30 minutes from Malaga airport.
La Quinta Golf Resort – Guadaiza (C) Course – The first nine holes
La Quinta Golf Resort: Guadaiza (C) Course Hole 1 Par 4 Stroke Index 16 White Tees 263m Yellow Tees 250m Blue Tees 228m Red Tees 212m
Irons from the tee are the order of the day on this opening hole. This is not a long par 4 at 270m. There is no benefit in trying to reach the green. The valley in front of the green makes it very unlikely that any drive will run up to the putting surface and certain that anything from the valley floor will be a very tricky flick into the small green.
The young pretenders win the toss and elect to lead the way. Having hit about 50 immaculate iron shots on the driving range it is with some schadenfreude that I watch Damien’s chunked 5 iron barely reach the fairway. Happy days! Mike’s swing suffered no such malfunction on the first tee and a perfectly struck 7 iron found the centre line of the fairway with only 120m meters left to the flag.
JW and I both mustered good 4 iron shots leaving us with simple wedges into this pretty green. With an enormous number of shots coming our way we agreed that a half on this first hole is as good as a win. These young lads need to win every non shot hole if they want to take our money.
Alarmingly, but not surprisingly Mike fizzed his approach shot to gimme distance for an opening birdie. One of us needed to get up and down to secure that half. Neither of us did. After one hole we are one down. “It could be worse” I said to JW in a consoling tone, “No it couldn’t” he replied.
La Quinta Golf Resort: Guadaiza (C) Course. Hole 2 Par 3 Stroke Index 12 White Tees 182m Yellow Tees 159m Blue Tees 136m Red Tees 91m
From the white tees this is an intimidating par 3. Very simple layout. From the front edge of the tee box all the way to the greenside bunkers is water. One hundred and eighty meters of it . Very simple strategy – do not miss hit your tee shot – if you are short Davey Jones locker awaits, the resting place of a thousand drowned score cards!
Only one man found the putting surface – yours truly. The others managed to find the fringes of this enormous green and each made a bogey (such is the difficulty of this hole). I carefully studied the topography of this deeply contoured green and struck my birdie putt with confidence. It ran tantalisingly close as it passed the left lip and kept on running. It ran like Forrest Gump eventually pausing for breath 4m beyond the cup. Horrified, I tried to maintain a confident demeanor as I lined up my par putt. Missed. Kindly the opposition conceded my third putt, a school boy error cost us a win, we remain one down going to the third.
La Quinta Golf Resort: Guadaiza (C) Course. Hole 3 Par 4 Stroke 10 White Tees 392m Yellow Tees 370m Blue Tees 356m Red Tees 331m
A long slender fairway with OOB. on the immediate left of the cart path. There is some room on the right courtesy of the 8th fairway running in the opposite direction. This is not immediately apparent from the tee, hence the view before us is of a long impossibly thin fairway with the green a distant speck on the horizon.
Mike leads the way intending to start his drive up the left and cut it back towards the centre. The dreaded double cross put pay to those plans, his drive only 2m left of the cart path was gone forever amongst the beautiful mature subtropical gardens that make up the rough. The rest of us found the fairway.
Damo’s 2nd shot finished short and right in a horrible position centimeters short of the sand traps that guard the right side. JW finished in the bunker and splashed out to 3m finishing with a bogey. My effort ran into the back left bunker. A mediocre bunker shot gave me little hope saving my par. Damien produced some short game magic to drop his lob shot within inches of the cup for a gimme par. We are 2 down. Untidy golf is being punished by the professionals. We need to sharpen up – urgently!
La Quinta Golf Resort: Guadaiza (C) Course. Hole 4 Par 4 Stroke Index 4 White Tees 339m Yellow Tees 326m Blue Tees 303m Red Tees 291m
A medium length par 4 playing considerably uphill is made more difficult by having a blind tee shot. From the tee we see the fairway winding up the hill and turn left as it reaches the dog leg.
Mike and Damien played to the corner of the dogleg with beautifully struck long irons. I hit a scruffy 2 iron into the left rough barely reaching the corner, JW’s drive as always found the centre of the fairway.
Mike was the first to play his shot into the green. With just over 100m to go to reach the green 4m above us his wedge shot was a pure strike. It was with some surprise and a little delight that I watched the ball fall short of the putting surface and spin 30m back down the fairway.
JW showing an unusual affinity for sand found yet another bunker. I clubbed up by 2 irons and made a good swing sending my ball to the heart of the green. The resulting nett birdie was enough to get a hole back.
La Quinta Golf Resort: Guadaiza (C) Course. Hole 5 Par 5 Stroke Index 14 White Tees 447m Yellow Tees 428m Blue Tees 406m Red Tees 371m
It’s our honour at last! The elevated tee box provides a beautiful view up the arrow straight fairway towards the distant green. The contrasting stripes on the fairway run perfectly straight like train tracks disappearing into the distance making the hole appear infinitely long.
I hit my best drive of the day dead centre and long. JW followed suit. The boys smote their drives with passion but were no match for the old codgers. Out gunned the youngsters were in disarray. Our confidence immediately spiked, we surveyed the hole ahead of us like Lord Raglan and Marshal Cranrobert at Balaclava. Our head long charge up this tree lined boulevard can only yield another win.
JW’s second shot reached the front apron of this par 5 in prime position for a birdie. The boys straddled the pin with mid irons, one finding the front edge the other the back edge.
The moment is mine. With a 7 iron in hand and a virgin green awaiting the prize is mine. Rather like the Light Brigade my own charge was short and disastrous. An awful pulled hook shot saw my ball end its life deep in the water hazard to the left of the green. In that moment everything changed. JW rolled his chip to 4 feet leaving a tester for his birdie which was soon made redundant by Damien who rattled in his eagle putt from the front edge to deliver a blow that would reverberate for the rest of the match.
La Quinta Golf Resort: Guadaiza (C) Course Hole 6 Par 3 Stroke Index 18 White Tees 133m Yellow Tees 120m Blue Tees 102m Red Tees 87m
A short picturesque par 3 with a large step dividing the green into two distinct sections. Banked from back to front it is desirable to keep the ball firstly on the right level and secondly below the cup. A barranca of thick rough of the ilk that consumed my approach on the previous hole awaits errant tee shots on the right of the green. A complex of three pot bunkers guard the left.
This hole is not about the rough, it’s about how close you can hit your tee shot.
Damien made his strategy perfectly clear, he said, ”This green is on 2 levels, if we are going to win the hole then we need to be back where the flag is. Playing for the green centre is like playing for a bogey”. With that he delivered a superb shot pin high to the left. Mike hit a pure 7 iron laser-straight directly at the flag, slightly long hanging on the back edge leaving a treacherous shot down the green to the hole. JW and I, still wounded from the previous hole and feeling the pressure of Damos commentary, hit a pair of depressingly uninspired iron shots to the heart of the green. With Damos words “playing for a bogey” ringing in our ears we drove silently to the green.
Mike, aware of the difficulty of his slippery downhill putt, tried a high spinning wedge shot intending to fizz it to a stop beside the flag. He knifed it right across the green and a good way back towards the tee, “Well, well, well – who could have imagined that!” we sniggered like Dick Dastardly and Mutley. JW cosied his unfeasibly undulating putt holeside for a gimme par changing the complexion of the hole instantly. Damien’s nervous birdie putt did not threaten the hole. A half in pars steadied us as we advanced towards the section of the course where we were to receive an abundance of shots!
Two down after 6 is not bad for us. We are usually 4 down after 6! We can win this!
La Quinta Golf Resort: Guadaiza (C) Course. Hole 7 Stroke Index 2 White Tees 432m Yellow Tees 407m Blue Tees 386m Red Tees 360m
Stroke 2, At less than 400m this is not a monster par 4, but as with most of the holes at La Quinta Golf Resort it has been perfectly set up to test every part of your game. A great hole.
The first challenge is the tee shot. A dog leg left and slightly downhill from the tee, the verdant rough, marked by red stakes running alongside the left edge of the fairway. From the tee a bunker is visible on the inside elbow of the dog leg, this is the tiger line and somehow draws your eye, I found it very difficult to aim away from it. The tiger line is just 2m from the terminal rough on the left. Beyond the bunker visible from the tee is another sand trap twenty meters further along ready to thwart those brave souls that accepted the challenge of taking the tiger by the tail.
Buoyed by their perfect start Damien took the honour and hit a drive that would bisect Hogan’s Alley. Five meters of push followed by seven meters of draw saw his ball fly over the inside bunker matching the shape of the dog leg perfectly. Mike took a more pugilistic approach and simply vaporised his ball over the tiger line with nonchalant ease.
Ruffled but ready to fight back JW hit a rather dinky little thing off the toe of his driver into the safety of the right rough. No problem for Juanito – his magic 5 wood will take care of the rest of it.
I hit a cracker down the middle – for once.
I had 170m for my second shot from a downhill lie. The resulting shot was weakly hit and came up short and right. With 155m from a similar lie both Mike and Damien found similar results although Damo made it to the dance floor 12m from the hole. Not the most dazzling golf!
It was imperative that we take this hole. JW had 100m into the green with his 3rd shot. This kind of “up and down” is a staple of John’s game. There is nothing between his ball and hole except for beautifully mown grass. This is an opportunity to watch and learn from the master! A divot the size of a Spaniel rose majestically into air as John played this crucial shot. The ball was barey disturbed by the golf club, the fairway had sustained a mortal wound! John chunked it about 2m.
I chipped mine reasonably close, just over a meter from the cup. That nett birdie was still available to us.
Damo’s long birdie putt came to rest at the side of the cup and a par was conceded. I had 1m of green to navigate plus a further 30cm between my ears to dominate in order to secure victory. Disaster. Another infuriatingly inept waft with the flat blade allowed the boys to escape with a half.
La Quinta Golf Resort: Guadaiza (C) Course. Hole 8 Par 5 Stroke Index 8 White Tees 520m Yellow Tees 498m Blue Tees 450m Red Tees 425m
Faced with the most difficult tee shot I can remember I have time to think about the many ways this can go wrong whilst our opponents tee off. The fairway is shoe lace narrow with 150m of water to carry before reaching terra firma. A gentle dog leg to the left following the out of bounds fence from the side of the tee box all the way to the green. If you miss the fairway on the left by more than four or five metres then your tee shot is gone!
Damien took a line at the fairway bunkers on the right of the fairway 250 metres from the tee. Mike hit the most glorious high draw following the shape of the fairway. John clattered into the trees on the left edge of the fairway just past the lake. I had no chance. I had become a nervous wreck contemplating all the possible permutations and combinations. My fifty plus years of golf experience meant nothing, it was simply impossible for me to hit this drive and keep in play. Sure enough my strident images of failure came to pass and my ball pull-hooked over the boundary fence within one second of impact!
JW was only able to punch an iron out of the rough and advance 130m up the fairway. He pitched his 4th shot on to the green. Damien laid up and hit a wedge for his 3rd, Mike from the front edge of the green did not hit his finest chip and had 2m for birdie. With his typical grit JW drained his putt to secure the most unlikely par you could possibly imagine. From scrabbling around in the bushes to pulling the nett birdie out of the cup a most incongruous collection of shots won the hole and brought us back to one down. JW has pulled it out of the hat again, like Monty in the dessert he displayed tremendous resolve in the face of adversity!
La Quinta Golf Resort: Guadaiza (C) Course. Hole 9 Par 4 Stroke Index 6 White Tees 349m Yellow Tees 338m Blue Tees 306m Red Tees 294m
One hundred and fifty metres of lake between the tee box and the fairway. From the base of the fairway the hole turns to the right and climbs 15m to the green . Death and disaster on the left make this another tough hole.
JW’s driver split the fairway, I found the left rough. Allowing three extra clubs to compensate for the severe incline we both found the putting surface in two.
Mike and Damo smashed past us with their drives, Mike on the back edge and Damien in the middle of the green after two strokes. This fabulous par 4 was halved in par meaning that we had lost the front nine holes, but only by one. It feels like a victory for us. We advance toward the first tee of the “B” course ready to steal victory!
La Quinta Golf Resort: Ronda (B) Course. Back Nine Holes
La Quinta Golf Resort: Ronda (B) Course. Hole 1 Par 4 Stroke Index 11 White Tees 293m Yellow Tees 264m Blue Tees 231m Red Tees 219m
We are playing it at 244m today. A water feature prevents access to the green and its narrowness suggests a lack of generosity which puts you in a defensive frame of mind.
JW, Damien and I hit long irons towards the green. Both of us have flicky wedges into a small green. Water on its front edge and no room around it. Mike in a moment of swashbuckling heroism hit a punch driver to the right edge of the green. A remarkable shot, not a full drive, not a full 3 wood – something he conjured up in between! His birdie won the hole. Two down.
La Quinta Golf Resort: Ronda (B) Course. Hole 2 Par 3 Stroke Index 17 White Tees 147m Yellow Tees 105m Blue Tees 90m Red Tees 75m
As a result of maintenance work the back tees for this hole are not available today. This hole looks and plays much better from the longer tees. From the yellow boxes it is an extremely steep climb to a blind green with a large bunker dominating your view.
We all hit wedges towards the green with varying degrees of success. Damo and JW are both stiff, Mike and I both hopeless. A half in birdies.
La Quinta Golf Resort: Ronda (B) Course Hole 3 Par 4 Stroke Index 1 White Tees 336m Yellow Tees 354m Blue Tees 298m Red Tees 312m
Damien, Mike and I hit beautiful drives. JW’s was commercial, not terribly pleasing on the eye, but nonetheless got the job done. A scrappy second eventually yielded a 5 net 4.
The elevation baffled me once again and my second shot finished woefully short of the green, my subsequent pitch into the green was no better leaving me 3m to save par – my shot wasted!
Damo and Mike fizzed irons to within 3m either side of the flag. Damien wasted no time converting his birdie to take the hole and go three up.
This was a bad time to go three down. A quiet ride to the next tee ensued.
La Quinta Golf resort: Ronda (B) Course. Hole 4 Par 4 Stroke Index 9 White Tees 363m Yellow Tees 354m Blue Tees 337m Red Tees 312m
Mike and Damien both shaped “cut” tee shots following the shape of the fairway to the right.
JW and I matched then, albeit Mike was 20m ahead of us. For the first time today Damien was fooled by the terrain. This hole looks flat compared to the previous holes, however it does in fact run slightly up hill. Deceived, Damien left his approach wedge slightly short of the green. I hit a decent shot to 3m whilst Mike over shot the flag and is at least a metre further away than i.
Buoyed by this turn of events we began to feel that we might be taking back control. That’s up until the moment that Mike drained his birdie putt and I made a dreadful effort at sinking mine for the half.
Suddenly in the period of 40 minutes we have gone from being poised to snatch victory to being on the wrong side of a pummeling! 4 Down with five to play.
La Quinta Golf Resort: Ronda (B) Course. Hole 5 Par 4 Stroke Index 5 White Tees 416m Yellow Tees 406m Blue Tees 299m Red Tees 282m
Downhill from the tee, the tee points you at the bunkers on the inside elbow of the dogleg right 220m gets you to the corner.
Damo hit a cut driver and ran out of fairway, knocking it onto the rough beyond the fairway end. Mike did the same with his 3 wood. The boys in their zeal to over power this devine golf course have left a door ajar for us. Two efficient 3 wood tee shots from JW and I are our first steps to seizing that opportunity!
The low point of the fairway is 80m short of the green whereupon it rises 2 or 3m to the putting surface. This slight elevation stops any plans of running one on to the putting surface. It has to be flown all the way.
My position on the fairway has left me with a slightly downhill lie with the ball a little below my feet. Not much, but enough to make me uncomfortable. After much wriggling and jigging from foot to foot a swing was made and the ball, clearly as confused as me, made hesitant progress towards the green!
From the rough Damien too had a similar tricky lie and made a similar shot. Mike played a 4 iron punch shot flighting his ball beneath the canopies of the trees running on to the putting surface finishing 4m from the stick. Outstanding! These lads are good. Piling on the pressure when needed, making sure they are “TCB” Taking care of Business with no mistakes.
Despite Mike’s remarkable shot making I for once managed to get up and down for a net birdie and a win. We are back to three down and ready for a win!
La Quinta Golf Resort: Ronda (B) Course. Hole 6 Par 5 Stroke Index 7 White Tees 416m Yellow Tees 406m Blue Tees 387m Red Tees 369m
A cut shaping to the right is the desired shape from this tee which our opponents had no issues in producing. I hit a crappy drive out of the heel of my driver producing a shot that initially squirted off to the left before slicing back finishing in the first cut of rough on the right. JW had 250m left after his tee shot. The boys have absolutely bombed their drives past us and have a terrific advantage. They can reach the green in two.
The green on this dogleg right is at the top of the fairway tucked away in a clearing on the left making the hole a reverse S shape. If your drive is on the left of the fairway you will not be able to reach in two. JW and I although on the right half of the fairway simply are too far away to have any chance of reaching the green. We both lay up more or less parallel with the top of the fairway and 60m to reach the flag, Strategically Damien does the same giving Mike free rein to attack the flag. His 4 iron flew over the back edge of the green leaving him a 20m chip for eagle. Fantastic iron shot.
From 60m away the climb to the green is significant. JW and Damo are 4m either side of the flag. Mike chipped his eagle attempt stiff for a half in birdies.
We are three down. History has recorded greater comebacks, Queen at Live Aid, JR in Dallas – we need to find a miracle!
La Quinta Golf Resort: Ronda (B) Course. Hole 7 Par 3 Stroke Index 15 White Tees 168m Yellow Tees 148m Blue Tees 128m Red Tees 109m
This medium/short par three presents a difficult green to hit. 35m long but only 12m wide there is no room either side of the green for errors. Beyond the bunkers which sit both left and right of the green is glorious rough from which no ball has ever emerged.
It’s our honor. As predicted on the tee the green proved tough to hit. JW, Mike and I coming up short and right. Only Damien was able to fizz one directly at the flag. This I am afraid feels very much like “handshake”.
A few moments later caps were doffed, fists bumped in a Covid friendly gesture of sportsmanship and our record of losses continues to grow. Is there anyone on the Costa del Sol that we can beat!
We are 5:1 down in the series. Damien wasted no time in avenging our only win. Some beer will help JW see where we went wrong and help us persuade ourselves again that we are unbeatable!
La Quinta Golf Resort is a prestigious name in golf along the Costa del Sol and for good reason. This is a golf course of the utmost charm! Short hitters will not feel frustrated by their lack of firepower, long hitters will love the shot making and strategising. This golf course is a glorious celebration of what makes golf great!
The bermuda putting surface offers a fast, true and grainy putting surface that requires your full attention. The greens here at La Quinta Golf Resort are beautifully laid and can be notoriously difficult when the greenkeepers reach for the frightening end of the Stimpmeter!
We had a terrific day of golf at La Quinta Golf resort. An utterly charming experience!