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  • Writer's pictureGolf on Costa del Sol

Marbella Golf and Country Club – The Challenge Match

Updated: Feb 25

We arrived in the car park at Marbella Golf and Country Club an hour before our tee time. The covered parking area is a thoughtful touch as it makes your car less oven like when you return to it post golf! We used our time to have a coffee with Satu Kaariainen the Golf Manager at Marbella Golf and Country Club and learn more about the golf course and current events. It’s International ladies Golf Day. Marbella Golf and Country Club is hosting an event for Lady players. It is a delight to see so many young kids, some as young 6 through to the low handicap teenagers all working with the five teaching professionals on the outstanding practise facilities available here.

Coffees finished and we walked from the clubhouse across the putting green directly to the driving range. 30 Balls for 2 euros is a great way to get warmed up. You have the choice of practising from the grass or the mats. Hitting off grass is a rare treat. It’s so nice to have to clean the grooves after a practice session rather than to peel the green plastic off the sole of the club!

This morning I am oddly mobile. No groans as I bend over to tie my shoe laces, no creaks as I work my way through the irons and after a few lashes with the big stick I feel ready for today’s challenge.

This will be the 7th match in a series of challenge matches where John Walker and I pit our skills (golf and gambling) against a range of foes. We have only had one victory in the first 6 games, our confidence has taken a bashing, not to mention our wallets. Today the young lads are back and want some more. Mike Mariconda and Damien Murphy have challenged us again and are explicitly confident about giving us a bigger beating than last time! Callow youth!

John Walker is a master at negotiating the bet. After less than two minutes all of their protestations were swept aside, it was nine shots for JW, five for me, a five euro nassau played from the back tees. We had to throw them a crumb.

The first nine holes

Marbella Golf and Country Club – The Challenge – 1st Hole

Marbella Golf and Country Club review Golf Course Andalusia Costa del Sol

The boys won the toss and elected to go first. Good. I would have felt bad for them if they did not get the honour at all today.

Playing sharply uphill from the tee, this fairway looks tighter than it actually is. Going left is a disaster, the driving range (out of bounds) will make a dreadful start to your round. There is more room on the right. As is often the case here at Marbella Golf and Country Club, the tee shot is not the difficulty. It’s making sure that you are in a good enough position to be able to hit the green with your next one that counts. The greens are small and the surrounding rough perplexing.

Damo hit a drive onto the perfect spot level with the front of the green but on the right side of the fairway leaving one of his favourite length wedges into a difficult to access pin. Mike hit the sweetest 3 iron to a similar place.

Despite his years of golfing combat experience JW always looks a tad nervous following these goliath hitters from the tournament tees. With his loins girded and his game face on he managed a semi creaky poke up the middle leaving a wedge into the green.

Faced with trouble up the left I am doomed before the tee peg is in the ground. I aim at the left side of the green in defiance of my “over the top chop” swing and pray for the ball to fade. It didn’t, but it didn’t go as far left as usual either and a few seconds later my ball came to rest still in play deep in one of the bunkers guarding the front of the green.

Both Mike and Damien hit great shots, neither of which found the putting surface such is the miniscule dimensions of this green. JWs second shot was foiled by the elevation and held up in the fluffy clover blossomed rough on the steep banking in front of the green. My bladed bunker shot passed the green at Mach 1 before coming to rest on the steep bank above and behind the green. I played my 3rd chip from the bank, it just kept on running and accelerating as it gathered momentum running down the green and disappeared off the front. I retired from this hole and took a moment to appreciate the view. Mike and Damo hit good chips to record a pair of pars. A rare thing for JW, but he took 3 shots from the front edge to record a halve in net par. That was a hole we should have taken. As we drive to the next tee we both have that “deja vu” feeling!

Marbella Golf and Country Club – The Challenge – 2nd Hole

Marbella Golf and Country Club review Golf Course Andalusia Costa del Sol

The elevated tee sweeps away down a valley before the fairway begins to climb the mountain side. Its broad green stripes make for a view of majesty and highlight the elements of this drive that set the challenge.

The fairway runs straight from the tee with red staked banked rough on the side. At 280m the fairway turns sharply to the left forming a dogleg hole and runs uphill on its journey to the green.

It was Damien’s honour, he took the opportunity to lace one right up the middle of the fairway. We watched it climb and climb against the backdrop of the mountains, that ball just did not want to come down. Damien had carried over the fairway into the red staked rough beyond the outside corner of the dogleg. Having learned from Damos drive Mike took a line cutting the corner on the left, to my eye it looked to be an impossible carry. I was proved wrong, he hit a beautiful drive over the corner of the dogleg and put himself in a position to be able to reach with his second shot.

JW ruined his laser straight drive by topping his usually immaculate 5 wood 40m finishing directly behind the small oak tree on the right side of the fairway which served to indicate the line to the green.

My drive followed Damien’s over shooting the fairway. I chipped out of the hazard and felt confident that I could find the putting surface by hitting my long iron shot between the pair of small trees on the right edge of the fairway. With total focus I made one of the fastest backswings ever recorded and shanked my 4 iron deep into mountain flora on the right. My part in this hole was done!

Mike’s second shot, a 5 iron finished a few yards short and left of the green in the difficult first cut rough. A bladed chip shot saw him the same distance away after 3 shots. JW made it to the dance floor with his 4th stroke. From nowhere we salvaged a half!

Thus far the standard of golf was lamentable. Whilst contemplating the issue we were all having with our L.O.F.T some solace was taken in soaking up the astounding view across the Mediterranean Sea from this beautiful vantage point on the second green.

Marbella Golf and Country Club – The Challenge – 3rd Hole

Marbella Golf and Country Club review Golf Course Andalusia Costa del Sol

A pretty par 3 lay ahead of us, playing at 110m down to the green with a stiff breeze in our faces. A pond lies just 40m short of the green, it won’t come into play unless something terrible happens on the tee. Nonetheless the presence of water here is designed to make the player feel an extra frisson of tension.

JW hit a commercial iron shot to 7m below and right of the cup leaving himself the only straight putt on the green! I knocked mine onto the back tier leaving a helter skelter putt across swales downhill.

The enemy both found the green slightly long and left begetting themselves equally treacherous serpentine putts.

This putting green has character. It’s not a nice one, it’s dangerous, malevolent, sinister and will hurt you with no remorse! So evil is this green that not one of us looked anything like getting up and down to make par.

A miserable half in bogey!

Marbella Golf and Country Club – The Challenge – 4th Hole

Marbella Golf and Country Club review Golf Course Andalusia Costa del Sol

This is an interesting Par 4. Only 230m as the crow flies we all felt immediately excited about taking on the challenge and making birdie or better.

The safe line is to follow the fairway to the left and hit into an open lay up position. The tiger / danger line is to go directly to the green located on the other side of a deep barranca with a long iron or fairway wood.

Damien played first and hit a beautiful hybrid which flew a little too far and disappeared over the back. Mike’s 3 iron vanished similarly. I poked a 2 iron just left of the green and found the bole of a tree, I was scuppered. It was the steady hands of JW that saved the day for us. A 5 wood to the fairway and a simple wedge to the middle of the green.

The lads both found themselves 40m below the green at the bottom of an adjoining fairway with hellish pitches back up to green. Neither Mike, Damien or I managed to find the dance floor on this short par 4 in regulation figures! Fortunately for them Damo´s short game has an unearthly quality to it and chipped in to save a par and get a half with JW.

Marbella Golf and Country Club – The Challenge – 5th Hole

Marbella Golf and Country Club review Golf Course Andalusia Costa del Sol

We are (somehow) one up on the 5th tee as we study the ribbon lie fairway threading its way to the tiny green 308m away at the bottom of the incline.

Out of bounds on the left side make this an imposing tee shot. I am torn between steering a safe iron down the middle and playing a short iron into the flag or taking a brave pill and lashing a driver at the green. My mind is made up when I see both Mike and Damo waiting on the tee box with drivers in hand. Never able to resist peer pressure I follow suit.

JW hit his usual fairway finder and had around 90m left to the flag. Perfecto. I aim at the left greenside bunker and hit a cracker which finished in the first cut about 40m short of the target.

Mike had a similar result whilst Damo made an unusual error and pulled it into the hillside on the left and out of bounds.

JW found the right apron with his second. This is a very small hourglass shaped green and tough to hit. Mike and I both hit reasonable pitches to 3m, both made par to half another hole.

From the tee this hole is intimidating with its apparent narrowness. In reality it is not the drive that is the issue, it’s getting at the flag that is tough. A common theme here at Marbella Golf and Country Club. A clever method used by Trent Jones when creating this golf course to make sure that this shortish 18 hole layout defends itself without resorting to trickery.

Marbella Golf and Country Club – The Challenge – 6th Hole

Marbella Golf and Country Club review Golf Course Andalusia Costa del Sol

This is a tough par 5. There are several different ways to take on this challenge. It is important that you settle upon the optimum strategy from the tee and stick to it!

The fairway split in half. The lower level on the left and the higher level on the right. The optimum is to be on the high level.

The easiest target is the left but it blocks your view of the green with the next shot.

The next stage is to decide how long a shot you want for your third, or if the risk reward ratio makes an attempt on the green a feasible strategy.

There is a ravine, marked with red stakes that crosses the fairway twice. Once at 280m from the tee and again at 105m from the putting surface. 40m from the green the ravine flows into a large lake which guards the front access making the hole outlandishly tough.

I belted a drive on the lower left side of the fairway and stopped just short of the ravine, JW needless to say found the middle again. Damo and Mike each took a mighty lash hoping to find the right half of the fairway and a chance at getting home in 2.

Such bravado whilst commendable did not work out for them on this occasion. Marbella Golf and Country Club does not yield to physical force from mere mortals. This is a kick arse tough track.

Both missed the fairway on the right and settled into the thick, fuzzy grass which makes recovery shots and chip shots so difficult.

Mike dumped his second into the ravine at 130m short of the green. Damo managed to find some short grass with his recovery and went on to reach the putting surface in 3.

JW found the same ravine as Mike, took a penalty and hit the dance floor for 4 net three. I elected to go for the longest lay up option. No joy, my distance control was not good enough and my ball lost to the watery depths. Moments later it was joined by my next shot as I made a pigs ear of the 60m wedge into the green.

From the green JW gestured to me that his back was getting sore and that it would be good if I could contend on the occasional hole! Message received!!

The hole looks great. The green is so slender as to almost be delicate. Just 8m deep from front to back edge it is tough to hit. The frontal lake and densely flowered bank at the back make it a beautiful sight and add to the experience.

John drained a tough putt for a net birdie and took us 2 up. With such a dizzying margin I steadied myself momentarily against the buggy. Could this be our second win in the making!

Marbella Golf and Country Club – The Challenge – 7th Hole

Marbella Golf and Country Club review Golf Course Andalusia Costa del Sol

The best drive is to stay to the left of the tree that sits on the edge of the barranca and leave yourself a short wedge into another small hard to find green.

This is another tricky par 4. This hole whilst devilishly tricky is totally transparent and shows its challenges to you in full colour from the tee. Difficult but fair.

JW hit a corking drive on the perfect line coming to rest at the crest of the fairway with a view to the elusive green. My own shot ran beyond the crest of the fairway into the fluffy first cut . My view of the green impaired by the trees between my position and the green.

The lads, 2 down and worried, stripped a pair of 2 irons beyond the corner of the dogleg ready to attack the pin. The only thing is that this pin is designed to repel all attackers! Located 10m above our position in the fairway atop a steep bank this tiny target is hard to hit. Both JW and I missed short and right foiled by the slope. From our positions below the green in the fluffy clover and honey suckle rough we were not able to reach the green with our third shots. Mercifully JW salvaged a 5 to secure a half. This has been one of the most difficult par4 I can remember playing!

Marbella Golf and Country Club – The Challenge – 8th Hole

Marbella Golf and Country Club review Golf Course Andalusia Costa del Sol

A short straight par 4, 325m downhill which compared to previous holes appears to have a commodious fairway! We can see from the tee that trouble resides on either side of the fairway, but there’s enough room to breathe! The wide point of the fairway is close to the green. JW and I select drivers and dispatch good drives, fairway for JW, left rough just short of the greenside bunker for me. Mike hit a similar drive to mine whilst Damo hit a perfect layup point with a 2 iron. wedges into the green did not yield any birdies, another half!

Marbella Golf and Country Club – The Challenge – 9th Hole

Marbella Golf and Country Club review Golf Course Andalusia Costa del Sol

Two up as we stand on the ninth tee. Happy days. A certain gloom is lingering over the other buggy. They just do not have a solution for JW and his relentless fairway finding!

The view from this tee towards the green reveals a beautifully crafted par 3. A large bunker guards the front meaning that we need to hit enough club to fight the headwind and carry 165m to the centre of the double green shared with the 18th and positioned in front of the clubhouse terrace.

JW came up a little short, I managed to conjure up a pure strike and found the green centre about 7m beyond and above the flag. A dangerous putt awaits.

Damo and Mike hit a pair of outstanding iron shots both finishing within 4m of the cup. I gingerly lagged mine close, happy to walk off with a par. Both the lads found unusual and tragic ways of missing their birdies, horseshoe out, hit the rim of the cup and jump out, etc. Poor boys. It’s just not going their way today. Nothing doing.! We reach the turn 2 holes up!

Marbella Golf and Country Club – The Challenge – The Back Nine

Marbella Golf and Country Club – The Challenge – 10th Hole

Marbella Golf and Country Club review Golf Course Andalusia Costa del Sol

A technical par 4 that demands your best efforts from the tee. OOB all along the left, 200m carry to reach to the fairway and a small green all contrive to make this a tough start to the back nine.

JWs drive was not the most convincing of strikes. It struggled into the sky for a few moments before seeking the safety of the long grass at the bottom of the tree which marks the beginning of the fairway.

My random shot generating driver summoned a high draw for my effort up this hole. It was deep in the hazard less than a second after impact! Mike and Damo did not find their best blows, but at least they were both still in the hole!

JW was screwed with his 2nd shot, there was nowhere for him to go. That’s where he went, no where, well, 8m. His third missed the green a chip and putt saved a net par.

Mike’s drive left him with an 8 iron into the green which he despatched to within 5m. Damo, playing from the left rough, tugged his second long and left of the green and secured a 5.

As Mike viewed his putt and tried to figure out how to handle the large tier running across his line it became clear that he was not comfortable. A timid effort with the flat stick only covered half of the desired distance. As much as he paced back and forth trying to clear the red mist we all knew what would happen next. There was no way that putt was ever going to go in, not with all of that steam coming out of Mike’s ears! He missed it. They gave us a win. It is our day!

Marbella Golf and Country Club – The Challenge – 11th Hole

Marbella Golf and Country Club review Golf Course Andalusia Costa del Sol

This is a long slightly downhill par 3 sitting elegantly amongst the beautiful greenery of Marbella Golf and Country Club. Bunkers guard the right periphery of the green. Other than its length there is nothing here that will furrow the brow. The only enemy is mediocrity of strike.

We are 3 up with the most gentle hole that this back nine has to offer setting benignly in front of us. We relax. We are immediately punished. Two of the most mediocre strikes imaginable make no serious threat to reach the green. Seizing upon this glimmer of hope both Mike and Damien struck beautiful iron shots that arced through the sky and gave both strong birdie chances.

Chipping from around the greens here at Marbella Golf and Country Club is arduous because of the style of rough. It did not come as a surprise to us that we were both unable to save par. We surrendered the hole. Back to 2 up.

Marbella Golf and Country Club – The Challenge – 12th Hole

Marbella Golf and Country Club review Golf Course Andalusia Costa del Sol

This is a tough driving hole. A blind tee shot with a marker post giving an indication of where to go. We all studied the GPS devices to formulate a plan of attack. Marbella Golf and Country Club is that kind of golf course. It is better if you plan your way around.

After much deliberation JW hit another laser guided drive directly at the siting post which came to rest below the crest of the fairway. I hit a 3 wood left of the stick, nailed it, carried the ridge and came to rest in the rough over the left side of the fairway under the trees.

Mike and Damien chose 2 irons and each hit beautiful shots fractionally over the fairways crest , short of the nasty rough on a direct line to the green.

From JWs position he was unable to see the green due to the cresting fairway ahead of him. He hit a good iron shot on the wrong line and finished in the water hazard left of the green.

Both Mike and Damo hit short irons at the flag finishing just on the apron of the green either side of the hole whilst my escape shot from under the tree clawed its way to within 4m of the putting surface. I managed to find a good chip which yielded a par net birdie and took the hole much to the disbelief of Messers Mariconda and Murphy!

3 Up with 6 to play. Even for us it could be quite a challenge to mess this up!

Marbella Golf and Country Club – The Challenge – 13th Hole

Marbella Golf and Country Club review Golf Course Andalusia Costa del Sol

Damo lashed a drive down this ribbon like fairway which runs to the left forming a gentle dog leg.

With water a hazard all along the left side of the hole the line to take is on the fairway bunker on the right and hit a straight one, or if you are feeling extremely creative a little right to left shape will do very nicely!

Mike and JW followed Damos example and hit good drives while your correspondent blocked one out to the right. This is a difficult driving hole.

JW has 170m to go. The water runs along the left edge of the fairway all the way to the green making this shot excruciatingly difficult.

This short par five is best played as a three shot hole despite its diminutive dimensions.

Damo set the tone and played the hole perfectly. Glorious drive followed by a 7 iron layup and then a wedge to 3 feet! An easy birdie won the hole and brought the boys back to 2 down.

Marbella Golf and Country Club – The Challenge – 14th Hole

Marbella Golf and Country Club review Golf Course Andalusia Costa del Sol

The exposed tee box set on the hilltop looks down the broad sweeping fairway and reveals the only hazard your driver may have to contend with. A water hazard that crosses the fairway 280m from the tee.

The lads, recharged and buzzing, had the honor. Two golf balls were dispatched at great velocity down the right half of the fairway coming to rest within yards of the water hazard, both drives comfortably beyond the 300 yards.

JW, unfazed by the display of brute power, lasered the centre line of the fairway leaving himself 130m into the plateau green. Keen to keep up with the boys I loosened my belt, took my hat off and prepared for a “max attack” swipe at the golf ball. It worked, I got past them, albeit not on the fairway and with my view of the green blocked by the trees on the bank of the water hazard.

JW found the front edge of the green, the incline robbing him of some distance. The opposition from 90m unsurprisingly made easy work of their approach shots and both had birdie putts. I, on the other hand, after my mighty drive managed to miss the green for 80m by a significant distance and played no further part in the hole. I watched uncomfortably as JW face palmed in reaction to my dreadful wedge.

JW saved the day, two putts from the front edge gave him a net birdie which was enough to propel us to 3 up .

Marbella Golf and Country Club – The Challenge – 15th Hole

Marbella Golf and Country Club review Golf Course Andalusia Costa del Sol

With the honour restored to us we face the challenge of another difficult par 4.

A newly rebuilt and exceedingly pretty lake sits on the right side of the fairway, and unless sufficient firepower is at your disposal a line to the left of it is advisable.

Needless to say, JW drove the ball perfectly. Equally needless to say I did not. A pull hook left me on the extreme left edge of the golf course in ankle deep lush rough with a huge steep bank between the green and I.

In rising desperation the lads larruped a pair of drives well beyond the ornate lake that resides on the right half of the fairway and have less than 100m into the green.

The slope from the fairway up to the green is extreme making club selection exceedingly difficult. After a fews moments of consultation JW selected an iron that seemed grotesquely too big for the job. It delivered the perfect result, rising to the top of the hill, landing on the front of the green and then running to the back tier to settle just 2m from the cup. It was his shot of the day!

All four of us managed to deliver second shots on to the dance floor and all four of us secured par. John’s shot meant net birdie and a win for us.

The hurt expressed on those young faces was heart rending. How could we be so mean to those lovely lads? In total disbelief Mariconda and Murphy trudged back to their buggy, their spirits broken!!! Handshake. 4 & 3 to the old boys! Guile and cunning had overcome power and talent! Sometimes golf just is not fair! Whaddya do!

Marbella Golf and Country Club – The Challenge – 16th Hole

Marbella Golf and Country Club review Golf Course Andalusia Costa del Sol

With two thirds of the nassau won money was definitely heading our way. We are 2 up on the back nine and need to find another win to secure the full 15 euros!

Concentration time!

A long downhill par 3 with water over the back makes a daunting prospect. In fact only one of us hit the green. As unlikely as it sounds it was me! 3m from the stick which yielded a birdie and a firm handshake from the boys. We did it. The full 15 euros! JW and I finally got our 2nd win!

Marbella Golf and Country Club – The Challenge – The bye

The 17th at Marbella Golf and Country Club is a terrific par 5 and in my opinion is one of the best holes on the golf course. Both length and accuracy are rewarded with a chance to reach in two blows.

Mike and Damo both managed that. Mike’s eagle putt hit the pin and cruelly bounced out.

On the 18th, a tricky par 4, Damien dominated. A perfect drive on line with the 9th green (which is shared with the 18th) saw his ball finish on the right side of the fairway well away from the steeply inclined fairway on the left. His wedge into the green pitch directly in the cup leaving a crater sized pitch mark on the edge of the hole. Somehow the kinetic energy within the golf ball provided sufficient agitation to cause the ball to pop out and remain on the lip.

Marbella Golf and Country Club – The Challenge – Summary

In superb condition, the best I have ever seen it, Marbella Golf and Country Club makes a tough challenge requiring 100% of your mental and physical focus. Iron self discipline is needed to force yourself to take it one shot at a time and keep in the present. It would be easy to allow the golf course to beat you.

We had a great day here at Marbella Golf and Country Club. The clubhouse terrace is a delight and a perfect place for a beer and the post mortem.

The handicap allowance won the day for us, JW negotiated a great deal for us on the first tee. This golf course is so tough that birdies are hard to come by. JW made so many pars today with shots that the lads were truly up against it.

With a second round of beers coming we run the boys through the highlights of our win. It might be a while before we record another one. We are going to enjoy every moment of this one!

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