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Europe Travel

La Hacienda Alcaidesa Links Golf Resort – the new highlight on Andalusia’s Costa del Sol

Ambitious for the future

The US Millenium Hospitality Group has big goals. With La Hacienda Alcaidesa Links Golf Resort, it wants to become one of the leading and most luxurious golf resorts in Spain. It has entrusted this task to the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts Group, which is one of the most renowned luxury hotel brands worldwide.

The first steps have already been taken. The golf course, previously known as ‘Alcaidesa’, was rebuilt at a multi-million dollar cost and shines in a complete new splendour. The new, stylish clubhouse with its cool restaurant and the extraordinary beach club are already in place. The same goes for the huge driving range with new grass tees and the large putting, pitching and chipping area. Added to this is the already existing 18-hole Heathland Golf Course, so that the resort has two completely different golf courses.

By Easter 2024, a five-star hotel complex comprising 153 exclusive rooms and 51 villas is to be built on an area of 400 hectares.  Several more villas, all with private pools, will be available for purchase. Various restaurants and bars will be part of the complex as well as swimming pools, a spa and fitness centre and event facilities. A halfway house is under construction on the newly designed links course.

Millenium’s plan to become the flagship in Southern Europe with the resort seems to be working, because they have already been accepted as a member of the European Tour Destinations and are happy about this seal of quality.

All in white

As soon as you enter the white clubhouse of La Hacienda Alcaidesa Links Golf Resort, shining in the sun, you sense something special. The arc of tension is slowly built up, starting on the steps to the entrance. It continues as you cross the huge entrance hall and ends in front of an infinity pool with a view of the Mediterranean.

Unique: infinity pool at the clubhouse Terrasse (Photo: La Hacienda Alcaidesa Links Golf Resort)

The modern pro shop offers everything you need on a round. The rental clubs are of the best quality. The first tees of the two courses are in opposite directions. We first play the Heathland Course, which leads into the hinterland.

The Heathland Course

The 18-hole Heathland Course was designed by former Ryder Cup player Dave Thomas. The par-72 layout has a length of 6,373 m from the back tees and features different landscapes. While holes 1 to 5 and 17 and 18 are located on a plateau and resemble a heath landscape, the other courses wind their way down into the valley with magnificent views of the Mediterranean Sea, where several water hazards await.

This is also the case at the 13th, a par-5, where the tee shot has to be hit well in order not to land in the water hazard crossing the course head-on.

Challenging Par-5 on the Heathland Course (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Due to the sometimes considerable distances between the individual holes and the considerable differences in altitude, a buggy is highly recommended. Some of these are brand new and of course equipped with GPS.

Unique Links Golf Course

The next day we played the only links course in southern Spain. The origin of the course dates back to 1992 and was designed by Peter Alliss and Clive Clark. Its current redesign is due to the US-American Kurtis Bowman, who redesigned all greens and added several bunkers. The course was only opened this summer but is already in great condition.

The par-72 course has a sensational layout and is suitable for all handicappers. The course is teed off from four tees. Players with a handicap of less than nine are recommended to use the white tees. The course then has a length of 5,841 m. At the moment, there is no table of playing conditions. I play off the yellows and am looking forward to the 5.5 km journey ahead of me. I know of no other course in Spain that offers such sensational views. The Rock of Gibraltar, which is clearly visible on a clear day, keeps attracting attention on various courses and distracts from the game. We are lucky with the weather and after a short initial rainfall, we enjoy the sunshine on the rest of the round.

Tee off to enjoy (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The varied courses, the constant ups and downs and the great views over the course make the round of golf an unforgettable experience. Everything is extremely well-maintained and also perfectly matched visually.

The water hazards are impressively designed and interrupt the different shades of green of tees, fairways and greens with their brilliant blue. The course is not only great to play, but also meets the highest aesthetic standards. Some holes run directly along the sea.

Everything at its best (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Development is already encroaching on some of the holes. This will increase further with the Fairmont Hotel La Hacienda, which is being built in terraces level with the back end of the beach with the best views across the course to the sea.

Directly along the beach (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The palate will also be pampered

What could be better than finishing off a successful round of golf with a great meal and special drinks? The fact that this is possible at the resort is thanks to the Azotea Group. Behind it are the journalist Cristina Lasvignes and her husband José Manuel García. Among other things, they have founded various restaurants and bars in Spain under the Sal Verde brand that meet the highest standards.

Attractive location above the golf course (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

These include the Clubhouse Restaurant as well as the Arena Bar in the Beach Club, which is located directly below the golf course. Both combine a great ambience, the highest quality and outstanding creativity.

Arena bar at the beach club (Photo: Azalea)

Exceptional dishes and creative cocktails are created by the Michelin-starred Executive Chef Manuel Berganza and the renowned mixologist Luca Anastasio. The latter plays a special role in Sal Verde’s concept, because high-quality cocktails play an essential role in Sal Verde’s gastronomy concept.

Spectacular from the air as well (Photo: James Hogg)

Those who have a choice are spoilt for choice. Either you choose the Spicy Moscow Mule, the Senorita Margarita, the Amalfi Ten Tonic, the Galan or Paloma, or you try them all. With one exception, they were all new to me and impressed me as much as the menus of the latest Spanish star chef. The tuna tartare, popular in Andalusia, served here with truffles and spring onion dressing, melted in my mouth just as much as the mussels au gratin with spicy tomato sauce, to name just two of the various delicacies tasted.

As the Fairmont accommodation is still under construction, we are staying at the Aldiana Club near the golf courses while we get to know the new resort.

Adiós Aldiana Andalusia

The sun still rises every morning over the Aldiana Club Costa del Sol in Alcaidesa. But this will come to an end on 21 November 2022, because the resort will soon change hands. After the planned renovation, it will be called Sun Club Costa del Sol from next year and will continue as a four-star hotel under a new flag.

Sunrise at Aldiana Alcaidesa (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The current all-inclusive concept will then be replaced by an offer that includes a choice of breakfast, half board or full board. It remains to be seen whether the great barbecue in the beach restaurant, which is still part of the club, will be offered.

I enjoyed the freshly prepared Andalusian specialities and especially the extremely spicy chorizo sausages. These remain in my positive memory as well as the varied and high-quality offer in the entire club. The well-maintained facilities and the friendliness and attentiveness of all the staff contributed in equal measure to my feeling of well-being during my stay. Not to forget the bright and clean room with the extremely comfortable bed.

Spicy and extremely delicious (Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

I am convinced that the Millenium/Fairmont concept will work out and that their guests will be delighted with the high-quality offer. I already am and look forward to another round on one of the most impressive golf courses in southern Europe. Hasta luego. 

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Travel

Golf tradition meets modern art in the Belgian seaside resort of Knokke

The beginnings of today’s Royal Zoute Golf Club date back to 1899, when golf was first played in Knocke-sur-Mer (French name). The Flemish name of the place is Knokke-Heist. At first, it was part of the golf and sports club in nearby Bruges but then in 1909, the clubs parted ways and the Knocke Golf Club was founded.
From the beginning, the club was strongly influenced by the English. Both its first captains and its course architect came from the British Isles whilst in 1907, it was redesigned by the famous Brit Harry Colt, who at the beginning of the 20th century designed not only some world-famous golf
courses in England, but also in continental Europe. In Germany, too, he has left his mark on several clubs: the Hamburger Golf Club Falkenstein is just as much a part of this as the Frankfurter Golf Club and the Golf- & Landclub Berlin-Wannsee.
After the First World War, when the Germans used the course as a military site, it became necessary to build a new course which was given its present name Zoute Golf Club.
Subsequently, in 1925, it was made a ‘Royal’ by the Belgian King. After the Second World War when the course was occupied by the Germans, the course had to be renovated. The English Lieutenant Colonel Allen designed the layout for two 18-hole links courses, which resulted in today’s par 64 Executive Course and the par 72 Championship Course.
The club hosted a total of six Belgian Opens between 1912 and 2000 when winners included Miguel Angel Jimenez, Darren Clarke, Nick Faldo and Lee Westwood, who won twice (1998 and 2000).

It couldn’t be more central

Entrance to the club buildings (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The various imposing club buildings are placed around a circular courtyard which boasts a huge steel figure sculpture created by one of the most renowned sculptors and conceptual artists of our time, Frenchman Bernar Venet, who is highly acclaimed internationally.

Imposing sculpture in the courtyard (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The complex includes a hotel with ten modern, well-equipped rooms and certainly, the spacious junior suite where we are housed is extremely comfortable. From the balcony, we enjoy the wide view over the restaurant terrace, to the starter’s cottage behind it, the first tees of the two courses and the driving range in the background.

Best view from the hotel room (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)


The hotel interior is extremely elegant with dark wood that harmoniously complements the modern tiles on the walls and floor that also feature at the reception. The electronic scoreboard provides information on tee times and players on both courses whilst the bar is reminiscent of a traditional English club.

Representative hotel and restaurant entrance (l) Clubhouse bar in traditional style (r) (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Before we turn our attention to the golf courses, we would like to get to know the city. Of course, this includes a walk along the long sandy beach and a stop at one of the numerous beach clubs. In the shopping streets of Zoute, the northernmost district of the seaside resort, we come across numerous boutiques of the finest designer labels and art on virtually every corner. More than 60 galleries alone offer art lovers a rich selection. In addition, there are huge sculptures scattered all over the city.

Objects of art permeate the entire town (Photo: Juergen Linnebuerger)

In case the shopping bags get too heavy, a large electric golf cart is available to chauffeur shoppers through the city’s shopping streets silently and free of charge.

An attractive offer in the centre of Knokke-Heist (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

We round off the first day with a delicious dinner on the clubhouse terrace. The menu is varied and the dishes extremely tasty. The recommended prawn croquettes impress us just as much as the baked sole.

Links and parkland course elements combined

The club is embedded in an untouched, slightly overgrown landscape with pines, hawthorn hedges, birches and poplars. The two pure links courses have been turned into a combination of links and parkland courses due to plantings after the Second World War. Heathland course elements can also be found here, though the courses run largely through flat terrain and light dune landscape.
We start with a round on the 18-hole par 64 ‘Intérieur’ – or Executive – Course. It is a perfect opportunity to practice one’s short game under real conditions.

With its eight par 3 and ten par 4 holes, it has a length of 3,564 meters from yellow tees and 3,261 meters from red tees. The longest hole is 286 meter long whilst the greens are well guarded and have it all. We particularly like hole four, where a group of trees has to be taken on in order to hit the green. Unlike its big brother, this course is also open to non-members at weekends.

Charming fourth hole of the Executive Course (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The Championship Course

The next day, the par 72 “Extérieur” – or Championship – Course, awaits us. From the Championship tees, it has a length of 6,241m so we play from yellow and red tees that give us 5,880 metres and 4,795 metres respectively in front of us. With four exceptions, the holes run along the outer left edge of the terrain. They are lined by old trees, which are repeatedly interrupted by the neighbouring residential houses.

First tee of the Championship Course (Photo: Juergen Linnebuerger)


The first tee offers plenty of space on both sides whilst the next holes are also mentally moderate. The course becomes more attractive from the fifth hole onwards and from there, develops its charm and more and more its links elements come into play. You can see St. Margaret’s Church on
several holes, such as the sixth, the most difficult hole. The par 4 with a length of 363 metres (yellow) is laid out as a dogleg and ends with an ondulated green that rises sharply towards the back.

Challenging green of hole six (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)


From the ninth, the links character of the course comes into its own. It does not end at the clubhouse, but in the middle of the course.

Links Feeling on hole nine (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)


Behind the green, the two courses intersect at the unique halfway station. The thatched cottage and its inviting decoration is just as extraordinary as the delicious, freshly prepared snacks. We liked the avocado mousse with shrimps and the pasta salad with cashews. Anyone who passes by here without stopping in is missing out.

This makes the break a pleasure (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)


Relaxed and refreshed, we set off from one of the various elevated tee boxes for the second nine holes. From the green of the tenth, you can see the typical adjacent development, with the tee box of the 11th, an attractive par 3, directly behind it. Its green is well guarded by no less than five bunkers.

Greens and bunkers in perfect condition (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)


The course also has pot bunkers, such as on 16, a slightly downhill par 3 with a length of 145 metres from the yellow tee. Two huge ones await on the left and on the opposite side, it is protected by an even steeper monster.

Pot bunkers at its best (Photo: Juergen Linnebuerger)

The 18th tee is then another challenge. It has to be played from an elevated tee through a narrow alley into the fairway. The course then opens up and ends with a large green in front of the starter’s cottage.
The Championship Course does not have a dull hole and water hazards do not come into play. We like its varied layout and the absolute tranquillity.

Knokke convinces

We enjoyed the trip to the Belgian coast with golf, shopping and art. Two rounds in the best weather on the different courses of the Royal Zoute Golf Club were worth the trip alone. We will gladly repeat them when the course has recovered from the drought of the past months and presents itself in a greener state. Then its real character will certainly come to the fore even more; the quality of the greens and bunkers already convinced us during our first visit.
We are already looking forward to this, as well as to the overnight stay in the beautiful clubhouse, to the great gastronomic offering and to the warm friendliness which we received in all areas in one of the leading Belgian golf clubs. Le Zoute – we will be happy to come back.

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Europe

Madeira: Palheiro Golf Club – The funky course

The first time you are amazed is before you have even really arrived at the Palheiro Golf Club. From a height of 500 metres, you look down steep cliffs in front of the clubhouse to Funchal, the capital of the Madeira archipelago. Behind the clubhouse, you are immediately amazed again, because the course goes steep uphill to the first green. There are a few surprises in the course of the round. The 18-hole course cannot be pigeonholed.

There are too many very different holes for that. The fairways are mostly relatively wide, but on some of them the landing zones from the tee are still very small due to the slopes. On others, you can only guess where to hit without knowing the course. Wooden stakes do help with orientation, but if you keep your ball within sight with an iron off the tee, you are certainly not at a disadvantage compared to driving into the unknown. At least not on the first round at Palheiro Golf Club.

Many different challenges

With improved course knowledge, you can approach the par-72 course quite differently. The first time, however, you need to make smart decisions. The length of the course is not a difficulty for any skill level. But those who miss fairways or greens will run into problems. This is not least due to the nature of the terrain. Cliffs, steep slopes and deep valleys are just waiting for a ball to miss the target – even if it is only half a metre.

However, the Cabell B. Robinson design is never unfair. Rather, the challenge is to adapt to the ever-changing challenges. On one of the high plateaus it can be very windy, on the next hole you need a good feeling for the length of your shots for the height difference between tee and green. In some other places, strategically placed trees form the biggest obstacle. Some greens are surrounded by bunkers. You never know exactly what’s coming next. But even on the greens you are not safe. Partially heavily ondulated and difficult to read, the putting surface sells for as much as the rest of the course.

At the moment, one still looks in vain for a driving range at the Palheiro Golf Club. While a short game training facility and practice greens are already in place, the range is still under construction. In general, a lot is happening at the club in the south of Madeira. All greens were renovated during the Corona pandemic. The first roughs have already been changed to a more water-efficient type of grass. More are to follow to make the entire club even more sustainable. However, irrigation is already done exclusively with rainwater.

Palheiro Golf Club (Photo: Azalea Group)

Unconventional and a dream for the eye

Unconventional is probably the simplest description of the Palheiro Golf Club. In positive terms, you could call it varied. Those who don’t enjoy it would probably criticise the lack of a clear line in the layout. However, no one will complain about the wide views over the sea that open up again and again. The fantastic view down to Funchal is also offered in several places on the course. Thanks to the subtropical vegetation, for which Madeira is famous, you get a real holiday feeling. But since everything here has its contrast, you also play your way past the island’s prison in the course of the round.

The topography of the course almost “screams” for a cart, but the terrain can also be mastered with a trolley. Only those who are absolutely physically fit should carry their bag. If you opt for a buggy (45 euros), this will spare your muscles, but you should keep your concentration on the sometimes rutted cart paths.

Palheiro Golf Club (Photo: Azalea Group)

One of the most beautiful spots in Madeira

On the club’s terrace, you can enjoy the excellent cuisine and the view over Funchal and the sea. Mediterranean dishes “with an oriental touch” are served by the neighbouring Hotel Casa Velha do Palheiro, which runs the restaurant. Fish and seafood here are fresh and regional. Around a dozen desserts sweeten the memory, especially the Pastéis de Nata, for which Portugal is world-famous, should not be missed. The club terrace is definitely one of the most beautiful spots in Madeira.

The clubs terrace and its stunning view across Funchal. (Photo: Azalea Group)

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Europe Travel

Madeira: The flower island becomes a golf island

Many golfers know that a golfing paradise lies off the west coast of Africa. Too few, however, know that Madeira is one of them. The archipelago, which lies about 500 kilometres north of the Canary Islands, is only just learning to understand itself as a golf destination. Yet the autonomous region of Portugal has no need to hide at all. The climate is pleasant all year round (although it can be hot in summer), the vegetation is impressive and with three golf courses there is enough variety for a golf holiday. Especially as each of the three clubs has its own characteristics. There are also hotels to suit every taste and standard. Tourists of other sports have been here for many years. Bikers, surfers and hikers have long since discovered the main island of Madeira for themselves. On the golf courses, on the other hand, there are still many free tee times. This is probably one of the reasons why you play more relaxed rounds at Palheiro Golf Club, Santo da Serra Golf or Porto Santo Golf on the neighbouring island than further south.

Fulfil all five senses

In terms of landscape and vegetation, a comparison with the Spanish neighbours is also obvious. And here, only the northern half of Gran Canaria comes close. On Madeira, “something” is always in bloom; it’s no coincidence that it’s also called the flower island. The rugged volcanic rocks that stretch like fans from the centre of the island to the coast are also covered with lush green vegetation in many places on the southern slopes. While it often rains in the north, from which the south of the island also benefits in a sustainable way thanks to the irrigation canals, the weather situation on the two golf courses in the west is usually very stable.

Santo de Serra Golf – The sporting flagship

Santo da Serra Golf is located directly above the airport, which bears the name of the island’s most famous son – Christiano Ronaldo. The 27-hole course with over 80 years of tradition is the sporting flagship. Between 1993 and 2008 and later from 2012 to 2015, the Madeira Island Open on the European Tour took place here. It is not only the tour players who enjoy the spectacular panoramas of the green slopes opposite, across deep valleys and the views of the open sea at Santo de Serra Golf. Of course, given the topographical conditions, there are certain differences in altitude to be overcome on the course. At the Palheiro Golf Club, only a few kilometres away, the slopes are much steeper. The holes of the Santo de Serra Golf Club, on the other hand, are relatively level. The large, open clubhouse is a great place to enjoy traditional Portuguese and Madeiran food and drinks after your round.

Palheiro Golf Club – The Unconventional One

The clubhouse terrace of the Palheiro Golf Club is also an absolute must when on holiday in Madeira. It is located around 500 metres above the city of Funchal and offers an unobstructed view of it. On the unconventionally designed par 72 course, you also have a breathtaking view of the capital of the archipelago at some points. On the course, however, it’s better to concentrate on the essentials due to many blind shots and partly rutted cart paths. If you play carefully and precisely on the not too long course, you will have a lot of fun. Sometimes wide, sometimes narrow, challenging greens, large differences in elevation – you are constantly confronted with changing tasks.

Porto Santo Golf Course – “Seves” Legacy

The course on the neighbouring island of Porto Santo, designed by Severiano Ballesteros, is completely different. It is not situated on the slopes of the steep lava cliffs like the other two clubs, but at sea level at the foot of the surrounding mountains. The course stretches almost the entire length of the small island from the dunes in the south to the basalt cliffs in the north. Thus, the course also divides into very different halves. While the northern nine shows off the coastline and sea views, the southern loop of the Porto Santo Golf Club is reminiscent of American parkland golf. There are many water hazards in play here and long hitters usually have a considerable advantage. Porto Santo is wonderfully suited for a day trip. It takes only 20 minutes by plane from Madeira. But it’s also worth taking the ferry at least one way. A maritime dinner on the ship makes a wonderful end to the trip.

Hotels are ready for golfers

With the Madeira Golf Pass you can play three or five rounds on the three courses for a fixed price, which is much cheaper than booking a green fee each. The number of rounds you play on one of the courses is freely selectable. In the course of the expansion of golf tourism on Madeira, some hotels now also have a golf consierge available to assist with booking tee times and organising transfers. These hotels include the Galo Resort (5 stars), a spa and wellness hotel that claims to be climate neutral. The standard rooms are quite small, but the suites are all the larger. The location of the bar and restaurant, which are built directly on the steep cliffs, is outstanding. Here you can enjoy drinks and food with an unobstructed view of the ocean, whether indoors or on one of the terraces. The Galo Resort (Photo: Azalea Group)

Bright and colourful

Also right on the coast is the Melia Madeira Mare Resort (5 stars). Here, too, sea views are standard and the hotel is geared towards golfers. Even if the hotel has perhaps one star too many, you can spend relaxing hours here. In addition to golf, many holidaymakers oganise numerous other sporting activities. Both hotels are only about 15 minutes away from the island’s capital Funchal and thus invite you to make excursions to the coastal city. Besides the colourful flora, the brightly painted doors of many residential houses are a particular tourist magnet. One of the best places to get to know the extent of the island’s diverse vegetation is the Palheiro Garden, which borders directly on the golf course. The oldest trees have been here for almost 200 years. Thanks to the subtropical climate, there are different flowers to admire in every season. Palheiro Gardens (Photo: Azalea Group)