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  • Writer's pictureGolf on Costa del Sol

La Cala Golf America Course — The Pro Challenge

Updated: Feb 29

Our playing partners today at La Cala Golf America are Mike Roberts, a professional of 40 years standing and Director of the Sunshine Golf booking agency, and Damien Murphy, a playing professional just returned from the Alps Tour who was raised in golf from a young lad here at La Cala Golf and Mijas Golf.

La Cala Golf is home to 3 excellent golf courses, each of which offers a different challenge, each of which is also always excellently presented.


la cala golf america

Pre-match coffee

We meet on the terrace of the clubhouse for a pre match coffee and to negotiate terms of battle. The clubhouse at La Cala Golf is excellent. The interior reminds me of an American style “Sports Bar” whilst the open air terrace is simply jaw dropping offering inspiring views down the 18th fairway of the Asia course.

In early November at 9am on Monday morning the temperature is comfortable for shirt sleeves with the sun promising more to come.


The service in the cubhouse is both cordial and efficient. Mike’s “Full English Breakfast” looked great and was quickly dispatched. The menu is varied and the quality is high. Our coffees arrived quickly and soon the talking was done, time to head for the first tee.


The bet


La Cala Golf America Course golf course review Costa del Sol Mijas Andalusia Spain

The Professionals have to give JW and I a lot of shots. John is playing better than Bobby Jones whilst at the moment whilst my own form is more akin to an extra from the Walking Dead. Our confidence is absolute — this feels like an easy 10 Euro bet!


The front nine

The first here at La Cala Golf America is a par 5 dog leg right. The fairway is below you and to the left. Damien has the honour and hits his drive left onto the 2nd fairway, the safest option for the first swipe of the day. Mike found the bunker set on the right of the fairway at the dog leg corner. JW hit a cracking tee shot only to be blocked by the canopies of the trees set in the rough dividing the first and second fairways. My drive crosses onto the 2nd fairway also.


All 4 of us hit dismal second shots. Our 3rd shots into the green were not inspired either. A half in par was a fair result.


I joined Damien on the white tees whilst Mike and JW played from the yellow tees. Damien hit a laser like tee shot into the perfect position. Mine was a miserable pull hook into the first fairway. Both JW and Mike striped their respective drives.


My partner and both of the opponents hit short irons tight into the flag on the tiny green. Another half in par.


La Cala Golf America Course golf course review Costa del Sol Mijas Andalusia Spain
Hole 1

Wide fairways give a sense of confidence from the tee. As you learn more about the course you learn to trust what you can see and how the terrain can be used to help you. In the same way that we all “read” the greens tee shots here need to be read to get the best advantage. Watching Damien manage his way around was illuminating. Clearly he knows La Cala Golf America well and knows where his tee shots need to finish in order to find the safe part of the green with the next shot. The fairways are often cut into the hillside, the rough above the fairway is often shaved allowing you to use it to cut a corner with your drive, to get a kick back into the fairway. Wherever you see a slope above the fairway take a good look, will it kick your ball back to the fairway, if so, use it. To get the best out of yourself and La Cala Golf America course you need to take a moment on each tee and understand what is before you.


These are wide fairways, but this is not a hit and hope golf course. This is a superbly technical track, far more so than its sister courses here at La Cala Golf. A good drive needs to be placed in the right part of the fairway for a good second shot to be able to set up the par or birdie opportunity. Most courses ask that you hit at least one decent shot per hole. Here at La Cala America you need to hit 2.

I learned from Damien that this is a very fair design. If you find the right spot off the tee you will have the option to attack flags if your skill level permits it. Damien balanced the risk and reward elements of La Cala Golf with expert aplomb. Only twice did he leave himself “short sided” on these difficult greens such was his discipline in sticking with his gameplan.


The third was also halved in par and then suddenly the golf course began to show its teeth. After a benign start over the opening 3 holes the 4th comes as a shock. This is a tough par 3.


The views from La Cala Golf, particularly the America course must be amongst the very best along the Costa del Sol. The mountain vantage point means that the entire Costa del Sol lies like a sparkling blanket covering the ground below nestling against the Mediterranean Sea.


There are no mountain peaks above us, at eye level around the rim the valley stands the red hued mountains that surround Coin to the right is the familiar sight of Mijas Pueblo clinging precariously to the Sierra de Mijas.

We are on top of the world!


The good guys take an early lead!

My partner stoically stood firm and put us one up with a great par. The 5th and 6th are outstanding looking holes and provide a real test of strategy. Both went our way, with a birdie and then a nett birdie we found ourselves 3up. Surreptitiously I grab a score card and start penning my acceptance speech, “Great game lads, you played well, we were too strong for you today — that will be a tenner please!”


Damien and Mike had other ideas. With decades more experience and oodles more talent than us, they began the show.


Three quick birdies on the 7th, 8th and 9th squared the game at the halfway point. We were reeling, the momentum was theirs.


La Cala Golf America Course golf course review Costa del Sol Mijas Andalusia Spain
Hole 2

The good, the bad and the ugly


The front nine holes at La Cala Golf America is a blend of the good, bad and the ugly! To be clear none of the holes were bad or ugly, other than if judged by the damage they can do to your score card!


The terrain with its plunging valleys and twisting fairways is amazing. I found myself on each of those tees feeling intimidated by the prospect of the tee shot. Each tee shot requires you to pick a line and hit it. The fairways are wide, it’s just that they don’t look wide compared with the depth of the valley next to it!

The run of holes from the 4th to the 9th are tremendous. I did not acquit myself well, but nonetheless they are beautifully judged holes and test every part of your game.


The back nine


It’s a long drive to the tenth tee, a good opportunity to learn a little more about my opponent, Damien Murphy.


La Cala Golf America Course golf course review Costa del Sol Mijas Andalusia Spain
Hole 3

Damien’s background

Raised in Spain since early childhood Damien was a junior at La Cala and Mijas Golf. He says “I quickly fell in love with golf and all that it stands for , I knew then that I would be connected to the golf industry, whether it’s working in a pro-shop, working for an external company, teaching, managing clubs, playing. I’m always gonna be involved in the golf industry one way or another. This is what I love.”

Damien turned pro at 18 having spent a couple of years working as a greenkeeper, cleaning buggies and generally getting a foot on the ladder.


During his tenure at Santa Clara Golf Damien had progressed through the ranks and was working with tour operators, marketing and administration tasks. At this point he furthered his education by completing his Degree in Golf Management.

The next decade saw Damien’s career take off. Four years at the Grove in the UK. with Troon Management led to an opportunity in Barcelona which gave Damien the chance to manage a group of 3 courses around Tarragona. “… you know that was a bit of a pinnacle for me, it was fun to be involved in organising such a big project, I loved it.”


“I wanted a change, I am from here, Andalucia, and I felt the need to go “home”.

Damien took a position at the prestigious Aloha Golf Club near Marbella. “It was so different working in a members club compared to my background working and promoting commercial golf courses”.


“After a year I decided to quit and put all my energy into playing.”


Playing career


La Cala Golf America Course golf course review Costa del Sol Mijas Andalusia Spain
Hole 4

A brave decision for a man in his mid thirties with an established career in golf management. The good news is that Damien is finding success in the Q School for the Alps Tour earning his ticket for 2020.


“The season’s been alright except for Covid. We were reduced from 20 events down to nine compacted into a month and a half so it was really stressful. It was a hell of an experience. I’d love to do it again although it is very expensive.”

“ My objective now is to work and save up as much money as I can. I’m teaching four different clubs at the moment: Santa Clara, Marbella, Guadalhorce and Greenlife.”


The 10th Hole at La Cala America is a tricky par 4 that appears short but plays uphill to such an extent that its easy to leave your shot into the green alarmingly short. Both JW and I did just that! This green like pretty much all of them La Cala Golf America is small making our recovery pitch shots very difficult. It’s a great par 4, really makes you think. However the best we could manage was a bogey which saw us go 1 behind the Professionals.


John gets a back ache


La Cala Golf America Course golf course review Costa del Sol Mijas Andalusia Spain
Hole 6

The next 3 holes were all halved in par thanks to my partner JW, although at this point he complained of a sore back, he said that I was quite a dead weight to have carried for 13 holes!! Cheers John!


On the 14th, another testing and very high quality par 3 of 160 m , we were dealt a cruel blow by Mike Roberts. His unfailing metronomic swing produced an iron shot which we thought he had holed from the tee.


Mike had stiffed it. In despair I hit another pull hook into the monstrous bunker that guards the left of this green. With firm resolve JW found the green 10m from the cup . Not that it made any difference. Mikes putt was a “gimmie” Damien sunk a 15m putt for birdie, I had about gazillion swipes in the sand and JWs birdie effort was a forlorn four feet short. 2 Down.


Things were looking bleak for us. Seasoned match players we might be, but the Professionals has the measure of us.


The “Come-back Kids”

The par 5 fifteenth hole is the stroke 1 hole at La Cala Golf America. The most difficult on the course. What a tremendous hole. 500m from back tees it requires a well struck and accurate drive to have any chance of making par. You can read our playing review of La Cala Golf America to get a taste of what the course is like to play. I can promise you this – you will have a great days golf at La Cala Golf.


The plan for the tee is to carry a set of fairway bunkers on the left edge of the fairway more or less on the corner of the dogleg. Too far left leaves you in the rough on a hillside, too far right is out of bounds. Damien nailed his tee shot comfortably over the obstacles leaving him a chance of reaching in two. By some miracle I too carried the bunker leaving myself 250m to the green. JW made it very clear to me that I would be laying up and not attempting to larrap a 3 wood into the great beyond. My 5 iron found the widest point of the fairway 70m short of the green sitting pretty for 2 nett 1.


Damien had no choice other than to play aggressively. A well stuck 3 wood fizzed towards the green and curved to the left finishing pin high but in some thick rough 25m left of the green.


My 5 nett 4 was enough to win the hole and get back in the game!

The 16th Hole is considered to be the signature hole here, a short and very tricky par 3 defended by a huge lake on the right with huge bunkers on the left. The lads all hit the green. Not me. I hit the bunker and then a few moments later I hit the water. Par halved the hole.


We are one down with 2 to play.


La Cala Golf – America – An outstanding track




The layout at La Cala America is tremendous. It is most enjoyable to play. The first 3 holes are quite gentle and offer a comfortable start. From the 4th onwards the fireworks begin.


Each hole has been crafted like chapters from a Wilbur Smith novel. Each hole presents you a separate story offering adventure, heroism and if you play it properly a happy ending!


Handshake


The seventeenth is a short par 4 which demands your utmost attention. Red staked hazard on the right of the fairway is almost on a direct line to the green making the drive the most critical shot.


All 4 of us hit great drives, all with 135m to go. Damien played first and struck the most beautiful iron shot which fizzed on a low flight towards the green. We watched the ball dance around the base of the pin and come to rest 20cm from the cup. His 5th birdie of the day.


Both JW and I hit great shots into the green (it’s all relative!), but to no avail. Our birdie putts would not drop. It was handshake on the 17th green. My cherished ten euro note was going home with someone new.


Two challenge matches played, two challenge matches lost. If you are playing golf on the Costa del Sol and you fancy beating us too please drop us a line! We are always ready for a challenge!



The 19th


Back in the clubhouse over a very welcome San Miguel JW asked Mike about his experiences in Golf on the Costa del Sol and how Sunshine Golf is faring in these difficult times.


Over the last 14 years Mike and Mandy Roberts have built Sunshine Golf into the Costa del Sol’s leading tour operator organising travel and green fees for their ever growing customer base.


JW – “How has the golf industry changed over the 14 years that you have been running Sunshine Golf?”


MR – “Firstly there are more golf courses on the Costa del Sol now. The quality and service offered by all of the Costa del Sols golf courses has improved hugely too. There is no doubt in my mind that Spain, particularly along the Costa del Sol, is the best golfing destination in Europe if not the world. The quality of the golf course, the infrastructure and value available to visitors here is second to none.”

“That is a key reason why until this rather extraordinary year our annual sales figures have risen year in year.”


JW – “How has Covid affected Sunshine Golf and in turn the golf courses along the Costa del Sol?”


MR – “Clearly it has been an awful year. However, almost none of our bookings have cancelled, the vast majority are simply waiting for the green light and are eager to come and enjoy some great golf. The golf courses have been very pragmatic, in general they have used this as an opportunity to invest time and resources into improving the quality of their courses. I can tell you that I have never seen so many of the golf courses on the Costa del Sol in such great condition.”


In my opinion the golf industry on the Costa del Sol is brighter than ever, better courses in pristine condition are waiting to delight golfers from all over the world!”

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