Golf Time In Tenerife

by M. James Ward 

Travelling in the 21st century is often focused on a range of elements - the allure of a desired location, the range of the offerings, the fascination with the people who inhabit the area are just a few of the usual items of central interest.
But, while it might seem obvious - the key item that sets the programme for all that follows comes down to one simple but ever important item - the ease in getting from point “A” to “B”.
And therein lies the key for a location such as the Canary Islands - that Spanish archipelago of islands off the coast of Africa - and its easy wherewithal bringing plenty of visitors from a range of multiple European locations on nonstop flights.
As an American, there would be little need to make the extended journey there - the length of flight time, the necessity in changing planes becomes irksome. I can more easily hitch a plane ride from the New York area - where I call home - and head three hours south to just about any magnificent site in the turquoise coloured waters of the Caribbean.
But, if one is located in any major European city, a quick getaway from the daily gray skies and damp chills of the winter can be just the ticket to rejuvenate body and soul.
My visit to Tenerife - the largest of the chain of islands - started with a simple non-stop three-hour flight from Barcelona. Once you land the airport is very easy to navigate and begin your detachment from the outside world.
Golf exists in a big time way in Tenerife. There are a number of courses - most of them situated near to one another on the southern portion of the island so there is little time wasted in getting about. The weather is ideal year round and the costs to play are reasonable, with only a few courses charging a premium amount.
Ritz-Carlton - Abama
18-hole course by Dave Smith
6,858 Yards / Par-72
73.6 CR / 136 SL
Opened: 2005
Abama leads the way for golf in Tenerife. Abama provides a complete golf facility and the servicing has customers front and centre at all times - courtesy of the Ritz Carlton affiliation. There is a steady elevation climb for the first third of the course before encountering a major descent through the middle of the round. 
Architect Dave Smith did a fine job in dealing with a site that features major grade changes - nearly 300 feet. Abama does feature a number of holes with turning points in the drive zone, whether right or left. Getting your tee ball in the right position is central here: sometimes laying-up short of the major trouble is the better option. There are 22 lakes and several waterfalls, so paying attention is a must to avoid making your own personal donation to the Abama ball fund.
When you get to the highest points on the property, the views of the Ritz Carlton and the Atlantic Ocean and the nearby island of La Gomera is stunning. Abama can only be played by golfers of a sufficient skill level, because the property undulates continually. Get behind the wrong group and you may need extra sunscreen because of the wait. Buggies are de rigueur when playing and fees to play are not cheap - especially in high season - but a visit to Tenerife that does not include Abama is the equivalent of going to dinner and skipping the main entrée.   
18-hole course by Seve Ballesteros
6,582 Yards / Par-72
71.4 CR / 127 SL
Opened: 2003
Buenavista requires a bit of a drive to reach the facility as it is tucked away in the northwest reaches of the island, but it is well worth the hike. The layout uses the hilly property smartly in slotting fairways in a side-hill manner. You do not take on the abruptness of the property directly - save for the uphill par-4 11th hole - which requires two herculean shots to get to the putting surface. 
Buenavista is blessed with superlative views of the adjoining Atlantic Ocean and the turf quality is generally good, although the fairways can be firmer to enhance the relationship between air and ground games. The real downside of Buenavista is the desire to have an equal number of par-5, par-4 and par-3 holes - six each. I have played other courses attempting this and frankly it often fails because getting the holes to balance out and provide consistency is no small feat. Buenavista would benefit immensely from eliminating two of the par-5 holes that are most impacted by the drop in elevation and play as a par-70. The late great Seve Ballesteros designed Buena Vista and it is fun to play in a number of spots. A bit of rethinking could make the course even more compelling.  
Real Club de Golf Tenerife
18-hole course by Antonio Lucena, Andres Alberto, Joaquin Laynez and Aureliano Yanes
6,219 Yards / Par-71
70.4 CR / 130 SL 
Opened: 1932
Similar to Buenavista - you need to make a bit of an effort to get to the location on the northern side of Tenerife, roughly 90 minutes by car from the more visited southern areas. Real Club de Golf Tenerife is private but does permit outside play. The course is located on terrain just under 2,000 feet above sea level. As the second oldest golf course in the Canaries and 11th oldest in Spain, Real Club de Golf Tenerife encounters a slightly different weather pattern when compared to the southern area of Tenerife. Moisture is more prevalent and it is not unusual for fog to play a role as well.
What is striking about the property is how narrow the boundaries of the property are: on the outward half the first few holes go uphill. The course requires straight driving, because the fairways are not crafted for resort play. The par-4 4th is listed as being just under 400 yards, but it demands a healthy marriage between length and accuracy and the green is angled perfectly - the more the pin is placed to the right the greater the precision is needed. A superb hole.
The rest of the course slides back and forth and the terrain is always an issue - for those who have played previously there is a major advantage in knowing how to adapt accordingly - especially for club selection.Real Club de Golf Tenerife is a fine layout that shows you do not need massive length to make players hit quality shots. Be sure to book a round there when visiting.    
Golf Costa Adeje
18-holes with 9-hole executive course adjoining - designed by Jose Gancedo
6,781 Yards / Par-72
72.2 CR / 128 SL
Opened 1998
Golf Costa Adeje is well structured as a resort facility. All of the key items are in place from the moment you arrive with customer service front and centre. Turf quality was very good during my time there and while the course is not at the same consistent level as Abama, Buenavista and Real Club de Golf Tenerife, it clearly shows much more character than the base level resort type courses that often constitute resort golf. The terrain has some movement to it so it is far from being just deadly dull. Wind is certainly a factor because of the close proximity to the ocean and the skill level you need to demonstrate is certainly beyond the realm of low level shotmaking. In summary, satisfactory for what the facility seeks to do.
18-hole course by Donald Steele
6,645 Yards / Par-72
72.6 CR / 129 SL
Opened: 1989
Located next door to Golf del Sur - Amarilla has a good layout providing a better range of hole differentiation than others in the area. The issue is about the overall presentation of the product; a bit more detailing could really add to the time here. The course does work towards the water for two par-3 holes - one on each side - that go in opposite directions and require a slight carry. Steele did not overload the course with extras and it would be interesting to see what could be done to upgrade what is there, because the combination of holes near the water and those set back from it can make for a most interesting layout.
Golf del Sur
27-holes - North & South designed by Pepe Gancedo.
Links redesigned by Manuel Pinero
North 3,183 yards / Par-36
South 3,265 yards / Par-36
Links 3,120 yards / Par-36
Opened: 1987
Golf del Sur provides a consistent mix with three distinct nines. The terrain is more varied and the shotmaking challenges are within the realm of most golfers. In summary, Golf del Sur is a functional resort satisfying the immediate needs of those on holiday to play the game. However, memorability is not high on the list.
Las Americas
18-holes by John Jacobs 
6,617 Yards / Par-72
72.5 CR / 134 SL
Opened: 1998
The outward nine is the better of the two - better hole variety and superior terrain. There is more than enough width and the challenges are akin to what one would find on the bunny slopes of a ski facility. In simple terms - vanilla golf.  
Generally, the Tenerife golf product is geared towards resort play – that is code speak for fairly basic golf, with postcard views - less concern for stimulating architecture. Abama, Buenavista and Golf Real Club lead the way, but none can tag the words “world class” next to their names. That does not mean to say the golf, at those respective courses, is a yawn. Far from it.
The close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean means varying wind velocities play a meaningful role and often change the nature of a given hole/course from day-to-day. The golf, generally, is more functional than fantastic. Tenerife is a vacation getaway, so it attempts to have a golf connection that serves a broader general need. Golf connoisseurs will likely leave underwhelmed, save for a few moments at the aforementioned courses. There are certainly possibilities for the architecture to be updated and provide a clear distinction beyond what is present now. 
Renovations can often mean a reassessment that adds to the nature of the golf. Clearly, some of the facilities are a bit pedestrian in the menu options, so updating offerings can really be the ticket in having golfers play more than one time. But that is more hope than what is happening presently.  
Candidly, golf in Tenerife is on the same page with many global island destinations I have visited - Hawaii is a good comparable example. There is plenty of outdoor fun things to do when in Tenerife and golf is simply part of the overall menu – it is just not the ultimate headliner. 
Over 5 million visits to the island each year so interest is quite keen and for good reason. Make sufficient time in taking the scenic route and drive to the base of Mount Teide - the highest peak in Spain at just over 12,000 feet and the world’s third largest volcano. It is an amazing ride as you climb away from the coastal area and pass through wooded sections before eventually reaching a stretch of desolate land with Teide dominating the landscape. One can hike to the top but you will need to get a bit of prior paperwork completed and clearance prior to doing so.
Total rounds played exceed 300,000 over the total of nine facilities. It helps considerably when you have a yearly average temperature of 73 degrees. With 110,000+ golf tourists, the role of golf is clearly an item of interest and money generated. Working on a few renovations/ upgrades could mean an ever better golf product - one going a good bit beyond that stirs the passion to play.
Tenerife has a range of lodging options - from five star to those that are fairly ordinary. If you want to be in the heart of Costa Adeje where much of the nightlife occurs then staying at the Hotel Javier Tropical - - works very well. Inspired by architecture from the Arab world the facility provides all the necessary creature comforts and places customer service at the top of the pecking order from the moment you arrive.
If you trek to Buenavista it is best to stay overnight and make your stay a bit more convenient. Adjacent to the course is the Melia Hacienda del Conde - nicely situated from the hustle and bustle. Be sure to check out the glimmering stars at night - the absence of background clutter makes it so spectacular.  
For those seeking optimum comfort and pampering - a stay at the Ritz-Carlton Abama will clearly exceed your needs. The architecture takes on a Moorish theme and the array of amenities and offerings is second to none. The Ritz-Carlton sets the bar for others to follow.
photos courtesy of Turismo de Tenerife.