Greater Madrid: Spanish passion with a generous helping of golf
By Peter Ellegard
Greater Madrid is one of Europe’s greatest regions, blending stunning architecture, cultural riches, glorious gastronomy, and vivacious nightlife with a passionate spirit that captivates your heart and lifts your soul.
It is also the highest European capital at almost 700 metres, its altitude and proximity to mountains giving it one of Europe’s most variable climates for a capital but also making it one of its sunniest cities.
The home of Spain’s royal family and seat of the country’s government, Madrid’s cultural treasures include two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the city centre added in July 2021, augmenting four other existing sites in its environs.
Madrid also makes the perfect golf city break, as it is blessed with more golf courses within a 25km radius than any other European capital.
Getting there is easy, too. Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport is just 12km from Madrid and is served by direct flights from across Europe and many other parts of the world, while you can be in the city in 20 minutes by train, metro, taxi, express bus or rental car.
Madrid is the epicentre of Spain’s extensive road and highways network and has fast train connections with cities throughout the country as well as with neighbouring France and Portugal.
Once in Madrid, its excellent public transportation and roads make it easy to combine a few days of golf on top-notch layouts with exploring this beguiling city and experiencing some of the best it has to offer visitors.
At the end of your break you will leave with a huge smile on your face while wanting to return as soon as possible to do it all again.
MADRID GOLF COURSES
The Madrid Golf Courses Association (Asociacion Campos de Golf de Madrid) has almost 20 golf venue members, all close to the heart of the Spanish capital and all welcoming visiting golfers.
They include several top-drawer courses, with the likes of Robert von Hagge, Rees Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Spain’s Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal among designers to have left their mark on them.
Founded in 2014, the non-profit association promotes Madrid as a golf destination nationally and internationally as well as promoting the golf courses in the Community of Madrid, its golf industry and the region’s tourist attractions.
Among member courses, Centro Nacional de Golf (National Golf Centre) was created by the Royal Spanish Golf Federation with input from golfing legend Seve Ballesteros to promote and facilitate the learning and playing of golf. It is regarded as the home of Spanish golf and is less than 15 minutes from the city centre with metro and bus stops right on its doorstep.
The 18-hole links-style course, designed by Dave Thomas and opened in 2005, suits all abilities. It has hosted top tournaments including the Spanish Open and Madrid Masters. Facilities at the centre include a golf school, Toptracer range and a short game area.
Club de Campo Villa de Madrid, near the centre of Madrid, is one of the city’s most historic sports clubs and one of Europe’s largest, covering 250 hectares.
It offers two 18-hole golf courses, a nine-hole par 3 course and extensive practice facilities.
The club’s original 1932 golf course was badly damaged in the Spanish Civil War, being replaced by the Black course by Javier Arana that opened with 18 holes in 1956. One of Spain’s most prestigious courses, it has hosted nine Spanish Opens and nine Madrid Opens.
The second nine holes of the yellow course were designed by Seve Ballesteros.
The club also incorporates an equestrian centre, hockey pitches, 35 tennis courts, ice skating rinks, Olympic-sized swimming pool and squash among its amenities.
The 18-hole course at Club de Golf Lomas Bosque was designed by Robert Dean Puttman and inaugurated in 1973. The undulating front nine weaves between pines, oaks and ravines while the flat back nine holes are laid out round a large lake.
The many tournaments it has hosted include the Ibergolf Trophy won by Gary Player in 1975 and the Madrid Open championship the same year. The club has a nine-hole pitch and putt course, and its clubhouse has views over the course, the lake and the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains.
Thirty minutes north of Madrid, Club de Golf Retamares is a family sports club that was founded in 1993 and enjoys spectacular views of mountains and the capital.
Its championship course is the only one in Madrid to have been designed by Spanish star golfer and golf course architect Jose Maria Olazabal.
The course has undergone recent renovations including the addition of five lakes to give it a total of eight, the planting of 1,200 trees, improved landscaping, watering and drainage improvements and a new network of buggy paths.
Practice facilities include a large, reversible driving range while the club also has a golf school, golf training for youngsters and family sports and social facilities.
Just 20 minutes from the centre of Madrid and close to the historic town of Alcala de Henares – birthplace of the author of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes – Club El Encin Golf Hotel has an 18-hole, 72-hole course designed by renowned Robert van Hagge from design firm Hagge, Smelek and Baril that opened in 2011.
El Encin has its own golf school using the latest Swing analysis systems and one of the largest driving ranges in Spain, with 100 bays. It also has an on-site, four-star hotel, the Sercotel Encin Golf Hotel, offering 39 rooms. The golf course is noted for having some of the best-value green fees in and around Madrid.
The El Robledal Golf course is set amidst nature in the municipality of Villalbilla, 15km from Alcala de Henares in the eastern part of Greater Madrid. A par 72 layout, it opened in 1975 and features fairways lined by holm oak trees and bushes as well as water hazards.
El Robledal offers golfers who want to sharpen up their game a golf school, called the Bestswing School, a driving range, and a practice bunker and putting green.
First-time visitors to the club are given specially reduced green fees, available throughout the week including weekends and holidays.
La Finca Golf Los Lagos is a new 18-hole championship course on a 75-hectare site just 15 minutes from the centre of Madrid, featuring wide fairways, large greens, and a series of lakes. It has between three and five tee positions per hole and distances range from 4,569 metres to 6,480 metres.
The course is complemented by a modern and innovative clubhouse while practice facilities include a 300-metre driving range, short game practice area and putting green, all floodlit.
The Madrid Golf Federation School (Escuela de Golf de la Federacion de Madrid) was inaugurated in 2004 and is situated in Parque deportivo Puerta de Hierro close to the city centre.
The training facility is equipped with a 56-bay driving range, a pitch and putt course and short game practice areas. It is aimed at all levels of golfer.
Golf La Dehesa is located in the municipality of Villanueva de La Canada, in the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama, 28km from the centre of Madrid.
Its 6,022-metre, par 72 golf course was designed by Manuel Pinero, its front nine following the course of the Aulencia River with the back nine presenting a more technical challenge. There is a golf school and a driving range. The club is a family-orientated sports and leisure centre that offers facilities including tennis, squash and paddle-tennis courts besides a gym, saunas and swimming pools.
Designed by former Ryder Cup player and 1984 world champion Jose Rivero together with Jose Marin, Golf Olivar de la Hinojosa has 27 holes of golf comprising a par 72 18-hole championship course and a nine-hole one with a par of 29. Precision is key on the championship course as the small greens are protected by bunkers or by water.
The club was founded in 1995 and includes a golf school with a Toptracer range among other facilities such as tennis and paddle-tennis.
Golf Park Madrid, which opened in 1998 is 10km northeast of the city centre, has a nine-hole pitch and putt golf course suitable for both beginners and accomplished players.
Its driving range has 110 covered bays on two floors and is floodlit at night. It also has a golf academy with video swing analysis and a short game area.
Created in 2005 by the banking giant for visiting golfers, Golf Santander’s spectacular course 16km from Madrid is one of Europe’s longest and serves up a tough test for high and low handicappers alike. Water is ever present, flowing in a closed circuit through a series of lakes and rivers that cross much of the course.
The course was designed by Rees Jones and is supplemented by some of Europe’s best golf training facilities. They include the first Jim McLean golf school in Europe, one of just six TaylorMade Performance Labs in Europe and a five-hole short game area designed by Seve Ballesteros.
The Real Automovil Club de Espana (RACE) is a motoring club formed in 1903 that owns the famous Jarama racing circuit. In 1967, the RACE sports complex was inaugurated on the outskirts of Madrid in the foothills of the Sierra Norte mountains with an 18-hole golf course by Javier Arana.
The complex has continued to expand since then. Among golf facilities are a nine-hole pitch and putt course, a golf school that uses the latest technology and a driving range, while other sport and leisure amenities include tennis and paddle-tennis courts, football pitches, an equestrian centre, a swimming pool and a gym.
The historic Real Club de la Puerta de Hierro is one of Spain’s oldest and most traditional golf clubs, dating back to 1904, besides being one of its most exclusive.
The club has hosted the Madrid Open on numerous occasions as well as the Spanish Open and has two 18-hole courses. The Arriba, or Upper course, is a 2000 renovation by Robert Trent Jones Jr and Kyle Phillips of the original course that featured the handiwork of Harry Colt and Tom Simpson.
The Abajo (Lower) course opened in 1966 with a design by Robert Trent Jones Sr and John Harris before being remodelled by RTJ II in 1998.
The Real Club de Golf Las Rozas de Madrid, renamed after being conferred the Real title on reaching its 50th anniversary in May 2022, has an 18-hole, par 70 golf course set on a 76-hectare estate in the municipal district of Las Rozas northwest of Madrid’s centre.
The club has a golf academy and driving range, and recently added a fleet of electric buggies. There are also tennis and paddle-tennis courts.
Golfers can hone their games in multiple ways at Palacio del Negralejo. It has the only 18-hole pitch and putt course in Madrid as well as a short course with nine par 3 holes and a long course comprising seven par 3s and two par 4s, which can be combined to give 18 holes. In addition, it has a golf school with a Toptracer range.
Enjoying possibly Spain’s most magnificent and certainly most historic setting, Real Club de Golf la Herreria has long been associated with royalty and was called “the club of kings and the king of clubs” by US President Gerald Ford.
It lies surrounded by oak trees and at the foot of a mountain within the Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the monumental 16th century monastery alongside the club which was long the residence of Spain’s royal family and where most of its sovereigns were buried.
The club’s 18-hole golf course opened in 1966 and was remodelled in 2000 by Jose Gancedo. It is complemented by a golf school, driving range and short game zone besides other sport and leisure facilities.
Although the Real Sociedad Hipica Espanola Club de Campo has only been on its existing site since the 1990s, its beginnings date right back to 1901 when it was established as the Real Sociedad Hipica (Royal Horse Society), merging in 1942 with the Sociedad Deportiva Club de Campo (Country Club Sports Society) to form the RSHECC as it is today.
Its first 18 holes on the current site opened in 1997, with a second course again designed by Robert von Hagge, added later. They are augmented by a par 3 course, a driving range and approach area and practice putting greens, while the club also has an equestrian centre, croquet, tennis and paddle-tennis, a gym and swimming pools.
Four Jack Nicklaus courses, two of them signature designs, make Real Club la Moraleja Madrid’s largest golf venue and one of Spain’s top private clubs. The first course opened in 1976, followed in 1990 by the second course, the other two opening on a nearby site in 2012.
The quartet have seen some of the world’s top golfers compete in prestigious events including the Spanish Open, Madrid Open and the World Cup of Golf over the years.
The club was a pioneer of paddle-tennis in Spain and has 12 courts, five of them covered, along with eight tennis courts, squash courts, a gym and indoor and outdoor pools.
Join the throng of tourists along the city’s Gran Via thoroughfare to browse the shops and admire the buildings, then stop for a refreshing drink at one of the street-side bars.
A visit to Madrid’s so-called Art Triangle is a must, to take in the grand, colonnaded Museo del Prado. The national art museum of Spain, it is lauded as one of the world’s finest art institutions and houses a vast collection of Spanish and European artworks spanning seven centuries, many by some of the greatest artists. You can gaze at more masterpieces at the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.
The museum lies along the impressive, tree-lined Paseo del Prado, one of Europe’s most famous streets and one of two newly-recognised UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the capital, the other being the adjoining Retiro Park with its neo-classical monuments and boating lake.
Other top sites include the Royal Palace, the Spanish Royal Family’s official residence, and adjacent Catedral de la Almudena, as well as the bustling Plaza Mayor square and historic Puerta de Alcala gateway, which is lit up after sunset.
Grab a selfie with El Oso y el Madrono, the bronze sculpture of a bear and a strawberry tree in the very heart of the city in the Puerta del Sol square that is Madrid’s symbol. It is just a short stroll from Plaza Mayor.
Eating is a passion bordering on religion in Spain, and in Madrid you can feast on regional cuisines from all over the country and beyond.
Once the sun goes down, hit one of Madrid’s bars – it is said to have more than any other city in the world – and savour the city’s fun nighttime atmosphere, from clubs to traditional flamenco performances.
If you’re a football fan, try and catch a Real Madrid game – you can also take a tour of their famous Bernabeu stadium – or go and watch their archrivals and neighbours, Atletico Madrid. On home match days, you will find their fans celebrating in city squares.
Beyond the city, there are many more delights to discover in the Madrid region.
Former royal summer residence San Lorenzo de El Escorial lies in the heart of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains 60km northwest of central Madrid. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, it is a magnet for visitors today for its many stately monuments and its cultural and leisure opportunities.
Cervantes’ hometown Alcala de Henares, to the northeast, is another UNESCO site full of history dating right back to Roman times and incorporating Renaissance highlights including the University of Alcala and the Corral de Comedias. Take a guided tour through its history at the Regional Archaeological Museum.
South of Madrid, Aranjuez has been a royal site for over 500 years and the gardens of its ornate palace are also UNESCO-listed, together with the natural environment surrounding the municipality.
You can take historic trains to visit all three sites, with characters from history on board bringing their stories to life and local strawberries to sample on the Strawberry Train to Aranjuez.
The impressive fortifications of Buitrago del Lozoya fortress, to Madrid’s north, have protected the town since the 14th century, becoming the residence of the Marquis of Santillana and the dukes of Infantado.
The best-preserved castle in the Madrid region is the turreted Castillo de Manzanares El Real, in the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park – one of Spain’s largest national parks. Its history goes back to Spain’s reconquest.
The castle lies close to monumental granite formation La Pedriza, in an area of the park rich in flora and fauna with species such as griffon vultures abundant there.
The Villas de Madrid is a group of 11 towns and villages spread throughout the Madrid region that are recognised for their cultural heritage and have kept their rural authenticity while offering visitors first-class facilities food and wines in settings as diverse as high mountain landscapes, moors and rolling countryside.
Among them are the charming village of Patones de Arriba with its cobbled streets, architectural heritage and excellent gastronomy; historic Chinchon, surrounded by vineyards and olive trees, with the glorious Plaza Mayor at its heart; grandiose Nuevo Baztan, where its city-centre palace, streets and squares have seen classic Hollywood movies filmed there; and San Martin de Valdeiglesias, a must for its medieval castle, botanical garden and horticultural sculptures and the opportunity to taste wines from vineyards in the area.
WEB LINKS TO MADRID GOLF COURSES ASSOCIATION MEMBERS:
Centro Nacional de Golf – www.centronacionalgolf.com
Club de Campo Villa de Madrid – www.ccvm.es
Club de Golf Lomas Bosque – www.lomas-bosque.com
Club de Golf Retamares – www.golfretamares.com
Club El Encin Golf Hotel – https://encin.golf
El Robledal Golf – https://robledalgolf.com
LaFinca Golf Los Lagos – https://lafincagolf.es
Escuela de Golf de la Federacion de Madrid – https://fedgolfmadrid.com
Golf La Dehesa – www.golfladehesa.es
Golf Olivar de la Hinojosa – http://olivar.golf
Golf Park Madrid – www.golfpark.es
Golf Santander – www.golfsantander.es
Real Automovil Club de Espana RACE – https://complejodeportivo.race.es
Real Club de la Puerta de Hierro – www.rcphierro.com
Real Club de Golf Las Rozas de Madrid – https://rcgolflasrozas.es
Palacio del Negralejo – www.golfnegralejo.com
Real Club de Golf la Herreria – https://golfmadridlaherreria.com
Real Sociedad Hipica Espanola Club de Campo – https://rshecc.es
Real Club la Moraleja – www.realclublamoraleja.com
MADRID GOLF COURSES ASSOCIATION WEB LINK
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS
Instagram – @golfingreatermadrid
Facebook – Golf in Greater Madrid
LinkedIn – Golf in Greater Madrid
TOURIST BOARD WEB LINK
Madrid Destino – https://turismomadrid.es