La Manga was established in 1972 by the American entrepreneur Gregory Peters. His vision was to create a golf complex along the lines of the best resorts in America, where real estate sales underpinned a gorgeous facility. Diversity and rental incomes came from other visitors and guests and the business he founded nearly fifty years ago has far exceeded even his most ambitious dreams.
There have been several bumps along the way, as a business of this scale was not able to weather some of worst economic downturns imaginable over the last few decades.
For those lucky enough to own property, you can enjoy the excellent climate and three great courses at relatively low cost. The properties themselves are sold at comfortably above market rates and the La Manga property arm is a very polished machine. Values for the main part hold up as the access to the ‘sporting rights’ gives owners a discount of up to 70% on annual fees and daily green fees.
The site includes a fabulous five star hotel, which dominates the 18th greens of both North and South courses. It has great views of the finishing stretch and beyond and has all the trimmings and pampering you’d expect of such a place.
The slightly worrying side of the resort is the time share element, which dominates the La Quinta Club complex. A good idea on the face of it, but some black hearted accountant in collusion with a pitiless lawyer wrote the rules and many of the now elderly members of this section find themselves having to pay resident fees of up to £700 per week, which means they cannot sell or pass their alleged investment on to future generations. The ‘kind’ timeshare management have forgiven some of this obligation, but most of those we spoke to loved the resort, but resented the chains of the timeshare agreement that they have had to endure. Perhaps it is time for La Manga to act with even more generosity to these wonderful customers who,despite years of custom, are left feeling ‘done’ by the process. Goodwill is worth a lot of money to most businesses and La Manga has a glaring gap here. Perhaps most worryingly, La Manga is still pushing the timeshare method of involvement and anyone renting one of the fabulous apartments at La Quinta will be offered timeshare sales details. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Other than that you cannot fault the resort on quality. It is wonderful and it is first class throughout. It is also very expensive to play unless you are a sporting rights holder, but the Murcia region offers lots of other clubs and courses, some of which, it could be argued, have a bit more soul.
There is a spectacular tennis academy at La Manga and as a visiting resident you can hire a court for €29 per hour with another €12 for a couple of hire rackets. Perhaps the wealthy don’t mind this, but once again this is at the high end of what is acceptable and ensures that La Manga points towards regular usage only as full members, and visitors get a touch over-stung.
The cricket academy has all the latest equipment to ensure it attracts serious professional interest from the best teams and squads in the UK and beyond.
Bowls fans can also get a fix of their favourite sport at La Manga. The Bowls Centre has about eighty members and is close to the tennis complex. It provides a great opportunity for bowls fans to play friendly and competitive bowls in the warmth of the Spanish sun. Many of the residents start as multi-sport users, but bowls is as easy to play into old age as any sport, so remains very popular with the silver community.
Football has also been a great addition and has a number of full sized pitches and with indoor facilities and all the specialist back up possible, it is no wonder that it attracts national squads including England.
The golf academy at La Manga extends across the old cricket pitch and nestles between the clubhouse and the hotel. There are covered bays and open bays all benefitting from excellent artificial tee turf and there are a number of practice greens with a very good short game area, and the teaching staff are expert and highly professional.
The clubhouse, which was originally housed in the building now taken over by the hotel, is now run from the Old cricket pavilion, which was also Lords night club in years gone by. Extended and refined over the years, if offers good facilities for the member and visitor, but it is a shame that its previous grandstand views have been taken by the hotel.
In the early days, the Ballesteros family were strongly linked to the resort, with Seve regularly attending. His elder brother Manuel was the club professional for many years. The venue played host to the Spanish Open from 1973-77 and the European Tour School was held here for many years in the 1980’s ensuring that pain and joy are etched in the memories of the those that won and lost at this stern test. [2 fails and one success for Golf Features editor Colin Jenkins].
The toughest course historically was always the South and it was a little longer that the North, but the North is so much prettier on the eye and more fun to play too. The West Course also has its admirers and is a good challenge.
Big business is very important to venues such as La Manga and major corporate clients flock to book, ensuring that their best clients and key staff are treated to best entertainment and sporting excellence in the whole of Spain. Last year, to mark the clubs 45th anniversary, the club was given the Royal approval, so is now known as: Real Golf Club La Manga. This is quite fitting as the superb hotel - The Hotel Principe Felipe - is named after Spain’s current King. The Royal assent is only given to golf clubs of the very highest order and everyone at La Manga can be proud of the accreditation.
For more details visit: www.lamangaclub.com