PGAs of Europe

La Manga Club – Fit at Forty

Despite turning 40, the Spanish resort of La Manga Club is not showing signs of its age. On the contrary – readers of a golf magazine have voted it the best resort in Spain for a third successive year. Adrian Milledge finds out why.

“Taxi for Gordon Strachan” was a familiar chant from Coventry City fans at the turn of the century when he was manager and the club was dropping out of football’s top flight.

Similar cries when he lands in Spain en route for La Manga Club, however, are music to his ears.

And with good reason. Having owned a property at the complex for more than 25 years, Strachan, the dark days of the Sky Blues demise long behind him as he breathes life into Scotland’s national team, is a regular visitor.

Located 75 miles from Alicante airport, all that’s needed to get there is a taxi. Similarly, with the resort boasting more than 20 bars and restaurants, a five-star hotel, health club and fitness centre plus extensive facilities for golfers, footballers and tennis players within its confines, a hire car is not necessary.

Eight international-size football pitches, complementary training facilities and an average annual daytime high temperature of 22c make La Manga Club a warm weather training Mecca for Strachan’s teams and those from such clubs as Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Liverpool.

The facilities for tennis are similarly extensive. However, the biggest attraction for the pint-sized Scotsman, who was a by-word for perpetual motion in his playing days, is the golfing menu on offer at La Manga Club; as it is for many golfers from the UK and northern Europe in the chillier months.

And, as in the case of the footballers, they are spoiled for choice when it comes to honing their games.

La Manga Club delivered another exciting chapter in its prestigious history in September following the official opening of the resort’s €1 million redevelopment of its teaching and practice centre including a new Leadbetter Golf Academy – the only one of its kind in mainland Spain.

The centrepiece of the renovation is the creation of a bespoke Leadbetter Academy building – described by David Leadbetter as “comparable with anything I have seen worldwide” – complete with two tuition studios, both equipped with the latest technology including Trackman, SAM PuttLab and K-VEST.

The Leadbetter Academy is directly adjacent to the remodelled range, and features two 36-metre Huxley grass tees, three extra mat teeing areas and a 150-metre wide, 35-metre deep grass tee area. The range itself has been extended to 300 metres with additional target greens, trees and bunkers added for increased definition.

When it comes to putting all this practice to the test then, again, the golfer is spoiled for choice as La Manga Club has not one but three courses: the South, North and West.

Although unimaginatively named, when it comes to design they are anything but, especially the West Course. Accuracy here is paramount as it winds its way through La Manga Club’s pine woodland.

Fairways are tight and the trees all-too-willing to send an errant ball even further off course. Indeed, such is the demand for accuracy that drivers, unless wielded by skilled and accurate owners, can be under-employed. A long-awaited chance to give the driver an airing, however, presents itself at the 18th where, with the tee a couple of hundred feet above the fairway and seemingly the whole of Murcia to aim at, the temptation to grip it and rip it is irresistible.

By contrast, the South and North courses are more open. Not that means they are any easier, especially the former which stages championships and, originally designed by Robert Putman and modified by Arnold Palmer, has undergone a complete refurbishment over the last couple of years.

These include the addition of water hazards and trees as well as green alterations. Just shy of 7,000 yards, the South is the longest of the trio, a statistic borne out by two par threes each measuring more than 215 yards.

The North is shorter than its two siblings but, in contrast to the South, has tighter fairways and larger greens. One of these – at the par three second, comprises three tiers. All of which is a recipe for a four putt or worse. Given the practice facilities at La Manga Club, though, there are no excuses for not going back to the drawing board.

Find out more at www.lamangaclub.com.

FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELTS

Monarch, the scheduled leisure airline, operates year round flights to Alicante from Birmingham, London Gatwick, London Luton and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, starting from £29.99 one way (£60.98 return) (lead fares for winter 14).

For further information or to book Monarch flights, Monarch Holidays or Monarch Hotels, please visit www.monarch.co.uk.