By: Anita Draycott
In 1492 Christopher Columbus set sail from Huelva to discover The New World. Now it’s time for North Americans to discover this charming stretch of pristine golden beaches and pine forests near the border between Spain and Portugal. (It’s about 98 km from the Faro airport; 125 km from the Seville airport). Compared to the hustle and bustle of the Costa del Sol, Huelva is a tranquil string of whitewashed towns and fishing villages—no traffic jams here, but plenty of good courses at bargain prices. You can purchase a Golf Huelva la Luz passport in the various pro-shops. Total price: 240€, includes 8 double green fees (for two players), one green fee per golf course.
The area boasts about 300 days of sunshine a year, so you will probably not have to pack your rain gear. About a third of the province of Huelva are designated nature preserves, including the UNESCO Donana Biosphere Reserve so there are plenty of birdies to be found, both on and off the fairways.
Golf came to the region in early 1900s when English miners working at the Riotinto Mines built what is now called the Bellavista Club.
I suggest making your base the five-star El Rompido resort—a 36-hole facility with modern, spacious rooms, spa and a good restaurant.
Both courses take full advantage of the natural marsh area of Las Marismas del Rompido. Large greens, impeccable Bermuda grass fairways and a variety of unique holes will keep you on your toes.
Opened in 2003, the South Course borders the clubhouse and is divided into two distinct nines. Stands of pine and olive trees and meandering marshlands demand strategy and precision. The greens are reputed to be the fastest in Andalusia. The terrain is relatively flat so it’s a pleasant way to walk off the paella over the 6,148 metres.
The North Course, opened in 2006 and measuring 6,095 metres from the tips, boasts privileged views due to its hillside location. Its fairways, longer and wider than those in the South Course, put the player’s technique to the test. Blissfully both El Rompido tracks take full advantage of the natural surroundings and there’s not a real estate development in sight.
La Terraza, the clubhouse restaurant serves some Andalusian classics such as zesty gazpacho, paella and Manchego cheese.
Nearby, take a swing at Isla Canela Golf, measuring 6,248 metres and designed in 1992 by Juan Catarineu. Gentle slopes formed by dunes, plenty of streams and marshlands and fragrant eucalyptus, olive and orange trees make this a lovely walking course for both duffers and single-digit handicappers. And if you want to lower your handicap, take a lesson at the resort’s golf school, run by Juan Aguera.
You must also visit the Islantilla Golf Course, a 27-hole parkland layout near the beach between Isla Christina and La Antilla. Forgiving fairways and large greens offer lots of birdie opportunities. Opened in 1991 it was designed by Enrique Canales and Luis Recasens.
After your round, head over to the Beach Club where in additional to regional fare, they serve Japanese specialties. Sushi in Spain!
The Huelva region is famous for its cuisine, especially the black pigs whose diet of acorns makes the Iberian ham so delicious. Be sure to sample the succulent local white prawns, baby clams, sweet strawberries, good quality wines and Luis Felipe brandy, the preferred tipple of the Spanish royal family.
When not swinging, surfing or swimming, history buffs will want to visit La Rabida Monastery where Columbus stayed between 1491/92 while awaiting financial backing from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella before departing on his epic voyage.
Nearby, on the Río Tinto estuary, the Muelle de las Carabelas (Harbour of the Caravels) is a waterfront exhibition with life-size replicas of Columbus’s three ships: the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa María. The museum next door creates a historical reconstruction of the 15th century port, complete with inns, market stalls and navigational instruments.
Next time you’re pondering your next golf getaway, consider Huelva. Where else do you get award-winning golf at bargain prices, brilliant sunshine, sultry flamenco and a history lesson?
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