San Roque Club Old Course Playing Guide and Review

The sense of occasion starts as soon as you head up the cobbled avenue of beautiful flowers and gardens that adorn the entrance road to The San Roque Club: San Roque Club Old Course and San Roque Club New Course. As you walk towards the clubhouse and are greeted by one of the smiling, confident Caddy Masters you know that your experience here is going to be special.

Along with Valderrama, Sotogrande, La Reserva and Finca Cortesin this corner of the Costa del Sol is home to the finest tournament golf courses in Europe. It beggars belief that  golf courses of this magnitude are located all in one place! What an incredible opportunity for golf addicts like us to realise our golfing dreams. To walk in the footsteps of the golfing greats and tick it off the bucket list!

The San Roque Club is steeped in modern golf history. You will notice a villa sitting on the side of the 10th tee. This villa was formerly the Club Professional Tony Jacklin’s residence. Both the European and USA Ryder cup teams stayed in the villas at San Roque during the 1997 Ryder Cup match at Valderrama. Hundreds of golf’s aspiring stars saw their dreams come true on both the Old and New courses as both played host to European Tour Q School for 15 years. 

So taken with The San Roque Club was Seve Ballesteros that he bought a holiday home here and simply played golf here for fun! – This is the heritage that you immerse yourself in as you cross the threshold into The San Roque Club. 

The new owners of The San Roque Club, Russia based Golf Estates, have invested multi millions of Euros into a total revamp of the Old Course, the clubhouse and pro shop in order to pursue their vision for the resort. The results are magnificent, yet it retains a warm, open ambience. The atmosphere is both casual and elegant, informal yet professional. The hospitality team are proud of their club and greet both members and visitors with genuine enthusiasm. Their focus is on their members and guests to ensure that the most incredible experience is enjoyed by all. 

Everything runs smoothly, everyone is friendly. Everything is perfect. 

First impressions

Caddy Masters 1

Before heading to the first tee we had a few swings on the range and a few minutes on the putting green, both of which were occasions in their own right! The putting green surface has a texture the likes of which I have never seen before. The cut of the grass resembles the texture of baize found on a billiards table. The green is vast. JW commented that it is easy to imagine the field of 50 tournament professionals busily working away on their  technique replete with gadgets. 

To the right is the driving range. The caddy master provides you with a leather bag of titleist practice balls. The range can accommodate 50 players. The Academy run by Jason Fowler promises to  address the mental, physical and the technique. Judging the quality of ball striking on display he is enjoying tremendous success.

We drive to the first tee, the caddy master wishes us well and runs through the rules of the day. Stepping on the tee was another moment of incredulity. The surface of the tee box was like finely woven cashmere! It looked to be exactly the same cut as the putting green. The perfectly formed square of grass stood in bright contrast to the millimetre longer first cut of grass around it. Incredible .

Yet this level of perfection does not overawe. On the contrary it fills me with joy. It is a pleasure to stand here, it is a delight to have 18 holes of this ethereal golf in front of me. I feel like an 8 year old on Christmas Eve. 

Many of the staff have been at San Roque for 20 years or longer, yet they too look as excited as I feel. They know that they are a part of something special here and they are genuinely excited to share it with you. The San Roque Club is comfortable with excellence.

Location

The Course

Driving Range 1
  • Opened: 1991
  • Original Designer: Dave Thomas
  • Re-Modeled 2020
  • European Tour Qualifying School 13 Years
  • Spanish Open 2005/6

Facilities:

  • Clubhouse
  • Restaurant
  • Pro shop
  • Changing Rooms
  • Driving Range
  • Short game Practise Area
  • Putting Green
  • Golf Academy

San Roque Club Old Course

San Roque Old Course Par 72 6311 Metres

San Roque Club Old Course Front Nine Holes

San Roque Old Course Hole 1 

Par 5 Stroke Index 13 

Tee 63: 479m: Tee 60: 452m: Tee 56: 442m Tee 49: 403m

1st Tee

The course is so well presented that it becomes a point of excited conversation on the 1st tee. All 4 of us, with many tens of thousands of rounds under our belts, are chattering excitedly about the condition of the tee box! “Perfect” is not a strong enough word to describe it! The grass is so tightly cut, not a single blemish and each of the ninety degree angles that form the box are geometrically perfect!

The buggies are brand new with the plushest of seats giving Bentley levels of soft squidgy comfort. The on board GPS. is perfectly dialled in and is extremely helpful in successfully playing each hole.

We step on to the tee and are ready for business!

Standing on the tee and taking a moment to soak up the majesty in which we find ourselves we note that the tee box is cut to the same length of the green. The first cut of rough is perfectly evenly cut, beyond the first cut in the “wilding” areas amongst the Cork Oaks the playing surface is covered in wood mulch. From an aesthetic point of view the range of textures and colours is spellbinding. Fortunately the wood chip surface only requires a slight change of technique and is a very playable surface. 

Everything is pristine, this is going to be a rather special day of golf.

Cork trees line both sides of the fairway on this slight dogleg left. A fairway bunker sits invitingly on the right side. Beyond the bunker the right side of the fairway and adjoining rough is elevated and falls away into an adjoining fairway if your tee shot is dreadfully off line. The fairway is impeccably cut. OOB along the left. 

The avenue of Cork Oaks lining either side of the fairway frames the hole giving it a wonderful aspect.

This Is a very good opening hole. A challenging drive dictates the strategy, good shots here rewarded, poor shots bring penalties. If you miss the fairway it is probable that you will drop a shot. Keep your drive on the fairway  and then the risk vs reward equation might present you with a birdie chance!

The  risk and reward here is clear. The fairway is reasonably wide along its entire length. All that is needed for a successful second shot is one that goes straight. So the strategy is to hit whichever club gives the best blend of length and accuracy. In my case a straight 3 wood whilst not an easy shot, would get me on the green in two. I messed it up.  If I had laid up with a 7 iron there would have been no risk and a simple 60 degree wedge would be my potential route to birdie. 

Be as courageous as you dare, but don’t attempt shots that you know never go well for you! Get as close to the green as you can with the second shot and maximise your chance of par or better.

As JW and I walked on to the green we were awestruck by the presentation of the putting surface. The greens are deeply undulating and extremely fast. As awe inspiring as this course looks from each tee, the game enters its most challenging phase as you step on to the green. This is how it must feel to be a Tournament professional.

Playing golf on a true tournament standard golf course like this exposes every fragility both mental and physical that you have. The secret for club golfers like us to play here is to soak up the ambience, to revel in the glorious heritage and to enjoy the spectacle.  This is a treat!

San Roque Old Course Hole 2 

Par 4 Stroke Index  1  

Tee 63: 403m: Tee 60: 379m: Tee 56: 372m:Tee 49: 326m

2nd Green

Stroke Index 1, the most difficult hole on the course. The tiger line on this slight dog leg to the left  is over the trees on the inside of the dog legs elbow.  The safe line is on the left of the farthest bunker. Warning, do not go to the right – death and disaster are all you will encounter over there!

Once again the contrast in colour between the tightly mown fairway and  the perfectly even first cut which in turn leads to the richly textured oaks sitting on their bed of dark chipped wood is beautiful. There is nothing that has not been attended to. Everything is pristine!

The hole plays downhill to the green with a pond on the right guarded by a large Cork Oak which might save balls destined for a watery fate. A bunker sits on the left of the green, a little further left is a gazebo providing refreshments and washroom.

The green rises from the front to the back and therefore presents itself perfectly, surrounded by low banking it makes an inviting target. The fairway is canted slightly from the cart path on the right towards the pond on the left, it is not a threat  but simply a visual suggestion! 

The run off areas on the “short side“ of the green will collect shots that do not go deep enough into the green and leave you with a difficult up and down to save par. The Green is huge. The low point of the green is in its centre which means that every putt from every position on this green will have a complex break.

This is a hole which has been superbly crafted.

San Roque Old Course Hole 3 

Par 4 Stroke Index 5 

Tee 63: 363m: Tee 60: 341m: Tee 56: 334m, Tee 49: 271m.

3rd Tee

A par four dog leg to the right the tee points you towards bunkers which are on the left side of the fairway suggesting the laying up to the elbow of the dog leg is the right thing to do. Again, this is a perfectly laid out hole, perfectly presented, it shows you the different options of strategy clearly from the tee. 

It is for you to decide if you have sufficient talent to challenge the golf course! The woodchip runs right up to the fairways edge on this hole making it imperative to find the short grass.

A mid iron shot into the green needs to avoid the false front of the green. If your ball does not carry deep into the green it may be collected by this well placed collection area and leave you with a difficult chip back to the green.

There are bunkers guarding each side of the green, but its most effective defence is that false front. 

The green is perfect. We are all still fascinated by the quality of the playing surfaces. The tees are cut as low as the greens, the fairways are simply amazing and the greens like nothing else I have experienced on the Costa del Sol.

San Roque Old Course Hole 4

Par 4 Stroke Index 11

Tee 63: 405m: Tee 60: 388m: Tee 56:382m: Tee 49: 287m.

4th Tee

As we drive along the manicured cart path towards the 4th tee enjoying the gardens along the way  we reach a highpoint of the terrain. There is a beautiful backdrop of hillside on the left rich in Mediterranean flora. This is a sight to behold, the magnificence of Andalucia.

The 4th hole at The San Roque Club Old Course runs sharply downhill from the tee with trouble on the steep bank above you on the left.  This dogleg left runs out of fairway at 270m. The tiger line is over the olive trees on the left leaving something short into the green.

A push to the right of the fairway is likely to find the OOB. fence. This is a tough driving hole sufficiently intimidating to make you consider the safe option. The safe option is a 3 wood or driving iron directly along the fairway centre line leaving a longer , but drama free shot into the green.

The green is set below you cut into the bank. Between the cart path on the right and the green is a welcoming greenside bunker cut into the bank.  Left of the green are the wood chips and Oak trees.

The best miss is left of the green.

The green looks like a living sculpture, something breathed upon by Henry Moore. A rolling, undulating artwork wrapped tight in a perfect green baize

The “specialness” of The San Roque Club Old Course is tangible. John described The San Roque Club Old Course as a stadium course, Dean Symonds, our 4th man and local professional at Santa Maria Golf and Country Club commented that this is a TPC course. There is no doubt that The San Roque Club Old Course is designed to and ready to host events of the highest tier. Simply playing here feels like you are playing a PGA event. This is a special test of golf.

San Roque Old Course Hole 5

Par 3 Stroke Index 7

Tee 63: 161m Tee 60: 155m Tee 56: 144m  Tee 49: 110m

5th Tee

This is a wonderful par three. The tee drops away into a valley and rises to the green, a lay up area offering solace short and right of the target.

The green is large, today the flag is tucked in the right half directly behind a bunkers giving a devilishly small landing area. A safe tee shot takes you to the left of the green but with no real prospect of making two putts. In this case the already magnificently difficult greens are made harder by having a steep tier running through the middle of the green.

There is plenty of room around the green allowing options for chip and putt. The real defence of this hole is the green itself. Despite the wide open spaces this is a highly technical hole. If you miss the green with your tee shot it is unlikely that you will save your par. It is a brilliantly designed hole. Classic “easy bogey, hard par”. Golf holes do not have to be endlessly long to be challenging, they just have to be as good as this one!   

San Roque Old Course Hole 6

Par 4 Stroke Index 15

Tee 63: 327m  Tee 60: 313m Tee 56: 303m Tee 49: 262m

6th Fairway towards Green

A short par 4, playing uphill and a slight dog leg to the left, the big boys might be tempted to have a go at the green. A stone wall on the left off the fairway marks the out of bounds. A little inside that wall is also the tiger line to the green. It’s a risky tee shot as you have to carry a lot of Cork Oaks and wood pulp before you reach safety.

The safe line is to aim at the bunker sat on the far side of the fairway, a tee shot of 220m or more is sufficient to leave a clear shot into the green. The green is elevated with bunkers guarding the front left and right making access tricky. The green slopes markedly from the back to the front. Make sure your second shot gets past the flag as it is very likely to run down the slope back towards the front of the green.

Another great golf hole perfectly presented. Every detail is immaculate. Nothing is overlooked. The first cut of rough appears to be as precise as the fairway but perhaps 2mm longer, such is the relentless attention to detail.

San Roque Old Course Hole 7

Par 3 Stroke Index 17 

Tee 63: 156m Tee 60: 148m Tee 56: 125m Tee 49: 107m 

7th Green 2

A par 3, playing 147m today. A gnarled Cork Oak offers some shade on the tee. The low part of the green is the front left,marked with a capacious bunker. 

The green is framed in its parallel lines of Cork Oaks. It is beautiful.

San Roque Old Course Hole 8

Par 5 Stroke Index 9

Tee 63: 447m Tee 60: 446m Tee 56: 389m Tee 49: 389m

8th Tee SL

This is an intricate par 5 and requires both courage and guile.

The tee shot is the easiest part of the hole. Hit it as far as you can as straight as you can right up the middle of the fairway! Now the fun starts! Risk and reward assessment time. For me the green was in range with my second shot.A lake sits on the right of the green. From the fairway the green looks large. It is not. The green runs along the bank of the lake and is extremely narrow, just a few paces wide.

A false front and capacious run off area to the left and below the green make a safe bail out area  for those going at it in two or those worried about the water on the right. The two features appear to make the green look deceptively large from the fairway. 

With respect to the water, I, like the majority of players, took a line left of the flag and found the left hand run off area leaving 3m of elevation on to the tiny green with water a few scant meters away. Most players will find either the frontal or side run off area and will be faced with a very deft pitch up the bank towards the pin.

The thing is that there is no safe way to play the hole. If you lay up with your second shot and leave your favourite wedge into the green you still face this agonisingly tough shot into the green the most likely results being at the bottom of the run off areas or in the drink!

This is one of the great par 5s on the Costa del Sol!

San Roque Old Course Hole 9

Par 4 Stroke Index 3

Tee 63: 390m Tee 60: 367m Tee 56: 366m Tee 49: 309m

9th Green towards clubhouse

This is a dog left that offers you a straightforward “safe line” from the tee directly at a  bunker which sits just off the back of the fairway at the furthest point before the hole turns to the left. The tiger line is to aim over the 2 Oak tree closest to the cart path where the path turns left.

Water resides on the right of the green and will prove irresistible to any balls that venture towards the right edge of the green.

Cork Oaks guard the access to the left of the green. They are not close to the green but you need to go over them to find the safe line avoiding the water.

This is one of the easier holes on the golf course requiring a decently straight tee shot with a decently straight 2nd towards the green. provided that you avoid the water this should be a comfortable end to the front nine holes.

We stop for a moment to take in our surroundings and reflect upon the nine holes just completed. Our golf has not been sparkling. Yet we are all excited to be here and concur that this is the best golf course we have played in a very long time and each of us is revelling in a very special golfing experience. 

San Roque Back Nine Holes

The beginning of the back nine at The San Roque Club Old Course is tough, from a scoring viewpoint they are  excruciating. There is no trickery, they just demand good golf. You need to be in total control of your technique and then make sure to choose the right strategies. It is such a wonderful opportunity to play here and see what tournament golf really feels like!

San Roque Old Course Hole 10

Par 4 Stroke Index 6

Tee 63: 376m Tee 60: 357m Tee 56: 343m Tee 49: 287m.

10th Tee_

The view from the 10th tee is unique. Firstly you have a vista ahead of you showcasing another in a series of spectacular golf holes, secondly you are stood close to an iconic building for golf fans, the Captains Lodge, the villa that was assigned to Tony Jacklin the one time Club Pro San Roque Club.  In 1997 Seve led the European team to a stunning Ryder Cup victory at nearby Valderrama. San Roque was home to the European and USA teams  that week. Spare a moment to visualize the celebrations that must have taken place in the villa! 

Most of the holes so far have offered a tiger line and a safe line. This however is an unusually tight driving hole. There is no discernable safe line! On this hole it is much easier to make a mess of it than it is to find the fairway.

Beautiful homes line the right side of the fairway and run close to the fairways edge. The prevailing wind will propel your ball relentlessly towards those homes. The best line is on the left edge of the fairway. 

A large triangular shaped green  with 2m deep false front with an equally deep run off area on the right makes this large green difficult to hit. The green runs from the edges to the centre making every putt complex. 

This short par four has confounded all of us!

San Roque Old Course Hole 11

Par 4 Stroke Index 8

Tee 63: 418m Tee 60: 397m Tee 56: 391mTee 49: 306m

11th Tee

On your right is the most exquisite view across the Med. There are many beautiful areas on the Costa del Golf. Our home course, Mijas Golf, with its red mountains and rolling fairways is wonderful, but there is nothing quite like golf on the Costa del Sol. From Finca Cortesin to Sotogrande the country is unparalleled in its beauty. Each of the golf courses set into this amazing backdrop only serves to increase its beauty.  Visitors coming here to play golf will have  an experience like nothing else. This superlative, so far removed from the weekly experience that most of us have at our home clubs!

Playing downhill from the tee, this dog leg to the right needs a good drive aimed at the bunker on the right side of the fairway to recover from the hardship of the previous hole!

A narrow, deep green awaits at the bottom of the hill. Two run off areas which falsely make the green look larger will collect approach shots that are poorly hit and make you struggle to save par. The run off areas add a whole level of complexity to the short game challenge which is most desirable.

Missing the green in any direction is a bad idea as saving par will be tough. If you do reach the green then the complexities of these amazing putting surfaces will test you further. This is proper golf!

San Roque Old Course Hole 12

Par 3 Stroke Index 18

Tee 63: 152m Tee 60: 130m Tee 56: 116m Tee 49: 92m

12th Tee

A downhill good looking  par 3. Again the false front makes the green look much larger than it actually is. Large bunkers guard the entrance to the green on either side making the actual entrance to the green quite narrow.  Beyond those bunkers there is plenty of perfect real estate to aim at.

Don’t go over the back and don’t miss on the right. You will not like it in either of those places. A big target made up of a huge run off area in front of the green.

Either of the bunkers is a reasonable miss, certainly easier than dealing with the run off areas. Finding the green is of course the optimum solution and this unusually benign putting surface will yield a lot of pars and birdies for those that do so.

San Roque Old Course Hole 13 

Par 4 Stroke Index 14

Tee 63: 343m Tee 60: 317m Tee 56: 274m Tee 49: 272m

14th tee

This is a tough par 4. I remember years ago being afraid of this hole. As soon as I stood on this tee those old feelings came flooding back. This is the narrowest fairway we have seen so far. 

Out of bounds along the right and Cork trees densely stacked in the wood chip on the left. 

Again the only drive that will work here is a straight one. Distance is not so important. It matters only to be on the short grass.

The green is slightly elevated with a pronounced run off area on the right waiting to take your ball away from the putting surface and deny your par!

This is a difficult hole, having said that it only requires two well struck shots and a par is yours. Today this hole has me beaten. I look forward to another chance sometime soon to even the score!

San Roque Old Course Hole 14

Par 5 Stroke Index 16

Tee 63: 466m Tee 60: 448m Tee 56: 408m Tee 49: 407m

14th tee

An absolute pristine square cut tee box greets you here, as indeed it has on every hole!  A dog leg left par 5. The flag is visible in the distance on the left edge of the fairway. Out of bounds will eagerly greet the erratic on the right.

The line to take is directly the flag. If you go very left you will find an adjoining fairway, if you go right you will be playing another tee shot – somewhere between those extremes is the requirement. There is no landing area to play to, the fairway is equally as demanding all along its length which means you need to hit your straightest longest shot, there is no reward for caution! The same applies to the second shot. This hole goads you into being aggressive. 

Once again the green is defended by a false front which makes the green look bigger than it actually is. A bunker guards the right making this a very satisfying par 5.

All of the par 5s are excellent, each of them offers a risk and reward opportunities, if you take on the tiger line with drive and second shot then birdie chances abound, if you don’t quite execute those shots and find yourself on one side of the green then you have a reasonable chance of an up and down or a par, if you miss on the wrong side of the hole then it will cost you a dropped shot. Excellent design perfectly presented.

San Roque Old Course Hole 15

Par 4 Stroke Index 2

Tee 63: 399m Tee 60: 390m Tee 56:284m Tee 49: 284m

15th Fairway

Out of bounds on the right. A slice will see you bouncing off some very expensive villas!

If you are on the right side of the fairway your view of the green will be obscured by 3 Cork Oaks that defend the green. You need to be on the left side to have any shot in.

Oak trees run along the entire left of the hole all the way to the green.

A false front guards the entrance of the green, a bunker lurks at the back. There is no lay up or bail out area, you just cannot afford to miss this green. Only a well executed second shot will suffice.

I cannot think of another golf course where the greens are more beautiful or more difficult. This is an incredible experience

San Roque Old Course Hole 16

Par 3 Stroke Index 12

Tee 63: 177m Tee 60: 172m Tee 56: 155m Tee 49:102m

16th Tee

With the wind behind this par 3 plays a lot shorter than it looks today

Cork Oaks run along the left and right as well as behind the green. A bunker guards the front left and another the mid left. The front right is open allowing miss hit shots to roll on to the surface. The putting surface is pretty big. Missing the green on the right will leave a difficult chip, missing it long another difficult chip.

This is certainly an easier bogey than it is a par!

San Roque Old Course Hole 17 

Par 5 Stroke Index 10 

Tee 63: 446m Tee 60: 441m Tee 56: 430m Tee 49:356m

17th Tee

Looking from the tee back up the fairway it looks absolutely fabulous. OOB on the left, sufficient room on the right. A narrow fairway, the only line from the tee is directly at the green, no option to miss it left or right, it has to be straight.

A fairway bunker sits halfway up on the right from which point it narrows a little. Cork Oaks line the right too. Beautiful surroundings. Just exceptional.

A bunker sits 30m short of the flag on the right side, if you go right of the bunker you are in the wood chips. If you are right of the wood chips then you are in someone’s garden!

Left of the cart path is OOB. Two  bunkers guard the front left of the green. This is a complex hole and demands you utmost concentration. 

The green is slightly elevated. The fairway runs a little uphill all the way to the flag. This is a strong par 5. Its large green gives you the opportunity of benefiting from the risk/reward conundrum, however this in my opinion is the toughest of the par 5s. Just nudge it up the fairway, get on the green in three strokes and hope for a par!

San Roque Old Course Hole 18

Par 4 Stroke Index 4 

Tee 63: 403m Tee 60: 385m Tee 56: 304m Tee 49: 304m.

18th Fairway towards green and clubhouse

There is some  sadness when we find ourselves on the 18th tee. This has been a fantastic experience, I don’t want it to end yet!.  With the clubhouse visible in the background we set to work on figuring out how best to play this last hole.

This is a straight par 4. The line for the tee is on the roof terrace of the clubhouse. A saddle shaped tree lined fairway encourages you to keep it straight.

A false front makes this last green another difficult one to find. Cleverly the frontal left and right bunkers are actually guarding the false front, the green itself is 20m beyond them. This clever design sucks you into leaving yourself short of the putting surface.

The green is deeply contoured in every direction. Limiting yourself to two putts on this green is an achievement that should make you proud.

This tough but fair par 4 is a great way to close out the round. The appreciative gallery on the clubhouse terrace are sure to acknowledge your great approach shots. 

Summary

Outside Terrace 3

Before the redesign the San Roque Club Old Course was recognised as a tough uncompromising golf course of the highest quality. Often gruelling  the Old Course could humiliate the very best players.

I remember as a young man in my 20’s playing off 1 or 2 handicap playing San Roque with my friends from the tournament tees saying to ourselves that if we could get one or two under par then maybe we could make it through Q school. My best was 8 over, The disappointment a crushing burden.

Today, 30 years later playing off 2 handicap from the back tees I still shot 8 over, but this time I feel completely fulfilled. I have never enjoyed a more pristine or more satisfying golfing experience. 

The fairways once that seemed closed in and dark, impossible threads if elusive  green set between mean oak trees, streams and lakes are now light, bright and open. Clever use of wood chips in the rough areas and an opening of the landing areas to make the tee shots more fun have made this experience an utter joy. As you get closer to the green, the challenge manifests itself to give each hole its unique character. Utterly addictive.The condition and presentation of the golf course are otherworldly.

Every hole is clearly laid out and simply requires well struck shots. There is nothing tricky or unfair. It is quite simply an extremely high quality test of every aspect of your game. This course is designed to challenge the best players in the world. It amazes me that we can play this standard of golf for such a reasonable green fee. Amazing!

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