Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands is not yet among the premier golfing destinations of the world, but that could be set to change, says Martin Vousden
One golf course does not make a golfing paradise and that, for a very limited time, is the drawback to opting for Fuerteventura as your destination the next time you're looking for golf in the sun. However, this small island has big plans to become a golfing mecca and now would be a good time to start planning that winter sojourn.
The one existing course on the island - called, not surprisingly, Fuerteventura - recently hosted the Canarias Open de Espana, won by Christian Cevaer but two other courses are under construction, the island will have seven in total within five years and is aiming to create 10 within 15 years. It's an ambitious plan but developers seem eager to invest in this archipelago that sits off the west coast of Africa.
If you're looking for golf, golf and more golf, either go somewhere else or wait for a year, by which at least two more courses will have been opened. But if you're interested in a family or sun, sea and sand holiday during which you might be allowed to squeeze in a couple of rounds during the week, it's the perfect destination. And whatever type of holiday you're planning, booking yourself into the golf course hotel - the five star Elba Palace that also serves as pro shop and clubhouse - would be a good place to start.
The Elba Palace (pictured) is only two stories high and is built around a central, open courtyard, dominated by mature palm trees. Rooms are large, comfortable and most have good views over the golf course. But even more important are the staff - who were, without exception during a four-night stay, friendly, efficient and helpful. It shouldn't be necessary to praise staff for doing their jobs well but anyone who regularly stays in hotels will know that service with a smile is by no means standard, even in the best-known establishments but at the Elba Palace it stands out and therefore merits particular praise.
The golf course attached to the hotel is perfect for holiday golf insofar that it is a good test but not overly-long or excessively punishing. The name Fuerteventura literally means 'strong wind' and there are only a few days a year when the Trade Wind does not blow anywhere between a light breeze and strong gale. The golf course designer has sensibly taken this into account in opting to make their course playable rather than brutal.
Fuerteventura was designed by Juan Catarimeau, who recognised what an important factor the almost ever-present wind would be. In consequence the course has large greens, wide fairways and, although there are many trees, they do not come into play too often. The rough is kept to a manageable length and the most obvious hazards come in the form of the large lakes (and ditches and water courses that connect them) that have been created to store the de-salinated water needed to maintain growth in summer temperatures that reach the 30s. First time out, off a 10 handicap, I was able to go round this par 71 layout with a score in the approximate mid-80s without too much difficulty (I was playing in a pro-am and picked up on one hole). The greens, while large, are in excellent condition but will test your ability to read a line because there's virtually not a flat putt to be had on them.
The course stretches to just over 6,000 metres but the key to scoring is the par threes, only one of which is less than 180 metres. Get through these in par or even a couple over and you will have every chance of posting a good score.
Fuerteventura sits to the east of the Canary Islands and is one of the largest seven in the archipelago - the others being Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Gomera, Hierro and La Palma. Unlike most of the others, however, it is not volcanic based and therefore the beaches, which are magnificent, are pure yellow sand, rather than the dark grey or charcoal seen elsewhere in the islands. The climate is extremely equable as temperatures between the seasons vary only by about 6: C, the monthly average temperatures are from 18: - 24: C (64,4 and 75,2:F). The result is that, while it's a perfect winter destination, summer temperatures may reach the 30s but rarely climb higher.
The island has a rugged, barren landscape that is almost impossible to farm so almost all the centres of population - none of which are larger than small UK towns - are on the coast. Goat farms prosper and a specialty of the island is the goat's cheese they produce. The islands are also easy to reach, with a non-stop flight from the UK taking about five hours with the Spanish carrier, Iberia, offering frequent daily services - although a significant number of them are non-direct and involve changing at Madrid.
But that's enough of the travelogue. In a nutshell, Fuerteventura offers a superb climate for a family holiday, and one good resort golf course that will soon be joined by several others. If you're looking for an attractive alternative golfing destination, now would be a good time to start planning.
Spanish Tourist Office
Tel: 020 7486 8077
24-hour brochure line: 09063 640630 (calls cost 60p a minute)
Website: www.tourspain.co.uk or www.spain.info
Hotel Elba Palace
Urbanizacion Fuerteventura Golf Club
Carretera de Jandia, km 11 Antigua
Tel: +34 928 160134
10 Hammersmith Broadway
Information Tel: 0845 6012854
Reservations Tel: 0845 6012854
|| 30 - APRIL 2004