There has been lots written about golf to the west of Malaga on the Costa del Golf, but less is known about the opportunities to the east of Southern Spain. The main reason for this is that there are far fewer courses and there is a difference in the whole area, with far more residential properties than tourists. Tourism is still very important and many of the residents are only present for parts of the year, but it has a different feel nevertheless.
Baviera Golf is located on the spurs of Sierra de la Almijara, in a valley just 500 metres away from Caleta de Vélez, with its marina and magnificient beaches, which together with Nerja and Torre del Mar, are among the best on the Costa del Sol. The course has fabulous views both to the Mediterranean sea and the mountains. It is a very warm welcoming club and the course and surrounds are in tip-top condition.
The course, which was originally designed by José María Cañizares, one of Spain’s Ryder Cup stars, has an undulating and interesting layout of about 6300 yards. Not long by modern standards, but ideal for most golfers, and with the thoroughly irrigated fairways it plays longer than the card would show at first glance. The fit few can play with trolleys or with a light carry bag, but most golfers opt for buggies. There is a decent fleet of fairly new Yamaha buggies and they are priced reasonably at 24 euros; the opportunity to ramp up the fees via buggies is not often ignored, but, to the credit of Baviera, their charging is fair, good value and understandable.
The low season corresponds exactly with the high season in the UK, with green fees discounted substantially between May and September. On Tuesdays and Thursdays there is an expat roll-up, which attracts a really strong mix of Northern Europeans, particularly in the winter months, with around 70-80 regularly playing in this great mix of golfers. It is a friendly and very well run club, with a focus on custom care. Interestingly (and encouragingly) all players are treated equally, with very few members. The club is a pay and play operation and the management has resisted the calls to offer an all inclusive membership to the most frequent players. In Spain, as with most other genuinely warm locations, the grass grows all the year round and so the courses require total irrigation. The costs for running such a venue are at least twice - and often more than three times -the cost of operating a golf facility in the UK. The green-keeping team has to cut four times the amount of grass to an average UK course. The wear on machinery is greater and the heat can have a wilting effect on staff as well as grass, so it is not easy to operate in such climates.
The clubhouse is quite magnificent. And so it should be, for the owners of the course are into mainstream construction, which is easy to observe as you notice the detail that all the finishes have, both in and around the clubhouse, and also on the course. The buggy paths have been properly built, as have the pumped water features, which are beautifully constructed from local stone and pebbles. Internally, the clubhouse is a cross between modern lines with a twist of warehouse styling - it looks wonderful and often caters for big events on its impressive terracing and large restaurant. The food is great value, served promptly by attentive staff - just what is needed after a round of golf. The clubhouse is efficiently served by an air conditioning system, which comes into its own in the summer months, with the patios more popular when the weather is less radical.
The club is centred around the clubhouse on the main level, with the changing rooms, pros shop and caddy master all located on the lower floor. This idea has been copied by many in the UK, (the late Ron Noades of the Altonwood Group was a strong advocate), as it gives special events the opportunity to enjoy the superb clubhouse, with the running of the golf course undisturbed below. The views are also great from the upper terraces. This style of clubhouse often works well when the structure is built into a slope, as to introduce a false ramp to get customers to the higher level would be tedious. Either way, the clubhouse really works at Baviera.
Another success is the golf operation, which is centred around the pros shop and caddy master. Antonio who runs the shop stocks all of the latest equipment and plenty of great golfing clothing. He choice is outstanding and the service terrific - nothing is too much trouble. The hire clubs are the latest models and lead to good conversations on the custom fit service, which is another area of specialism. Also based in the pros shop is Manuel, a great guy who is determined that you will have a superb experience. There are also two experienced Spanish pros, who are kept busy on the range, with one specialising in German and the other in English. Combining these services together makes lots of sense, and there is clearly a great camaraderie working in the engine of the club. Other facilities may wish to copy this arrangement as the cost and space savings are genuine and the working environment so much more fun.
There are a few quirks to the course, one of which is that the water hazards are reservoirs and their water is used fully by the end of the summer, leaving the liners of the ponds quite visible in the summer, so many of the holes look much prettier in the winter when the hazards are covering the liners. A workable solution to this is hard to imagine, but this is a small price to pay for the beautifully groomed course. The buggy policy is firm and fair, with buggies only used on the cart paths. Anyone caught driving their buggy on the fairways or green surrounds is immediately turfed off, with no refund of their green fee. Perhaps strangely, I really like this as the course requires heavy irrigation to keep it in good nick and buggies running around all over the place would definitely spoil the really exceptional quality of the finish to the whole complex. For those of us in the golf business it is refreshing to have great service married to direct signage, which makes it explicitly clear that any abuse of the facility will not be tolerated.
The golf range is conveniently located between clubhouse and the first tee and there is another practice ground for special groups. The main range is long and slightly uphill with good quality mats and decent balls. It has an attractive outlook and provides a great place for visiting pros to teach their groups too.
Baviera is very keen to welcome new players and also clubs, visiting groups (with or without an attending professional) and it is a great area to visit, with much more to offer than endless bars and restaurants with picture menus, catering for the idiot tourists which are some common to the west of Malaga.
Málaga Airport is just 30 minutes from the club via exit (nº 274) from the Málaga-Granada-Almeria motorway, making it extremely convenient to get to the club. Moreover, it will only take 45 minutes drive from the golf course to Sierra Nevada Ski resort, a wonderful place to practise winter sports.
A trip to Baviera is always great fun and for more details visit the website: www.bavieragolf.com
Or better still, email the wonderful Aurora, who will help with all of your requirements and give you details of group rates, which we dare not print!