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GOLF GUIDE


Vineyards at Abalos, Rioja Alta


THE BASQUE COUNTRY AND BE YOND A


t the turn of the 20th century, before tanning was on anybody’s radar, wealthy Spaniards routinely headed


north to escape the torrid summer heat. Madrid’s climate has been described as three months of freeze and nine months of hell, so the vegetation of Cantabria and its adjacent Basque provinces was a powerful magnet. Likewise, the civilised ports of Santander, Bilbao and San Sebastian, with their diverse cultural and gastronomic traditions. In the age of mass tourism, the area now


known as Green Spain is the connoisseur’s choice. The stunning Cathedral of Santa Maria de Burgos, the nation’s former capital, offers a reduced entry fee to the many pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostella. The rolling hills of Rioja, Navarra and the Basque Country provide grapes for the Rioja trade, with wineries, many of them part of rural hotels, providing chances to sample the local nectar. On the


coast, regional chefs compete to do justice to superb Atlantic fish. Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum, designed by Canadian architect Frank Gehry, is a must for its futuristic exterior, although its display of monumental installations is not to everyone’s taste. Don’t miss: the Picos de Europa, a tight


mountain cluster of vertiginous rock faces, deep gorges and limestone cliffs behind Santander. Great opportunities for balcony hikes, rock climbing and siting in remote taverns admiring the view.


Negri Opened in 1911, but moved to its current site to the north west of Bilbao in 1961. Spanish master, Javier Arana, worked his magic on flat terrain to create a course of two halves. The front nine, on the edge of the cliffs, are exposed to prevailing north-easterlies, while the back have fairways lined with towering Atlantic pines. Expect no mercy on subtly tiered greens. rsgolfneguri.com


Alta Rioja A 21st-century newcomer that caters for golfers with a love of big red wines. The gently undulating landscape is serene, the holes laid out between two fault lines with half-a-dozen ponds to prevent complacency. The shot par-four dogleg 16th is memorable for its risk-reward and the welcome is exceptional. golfrioja.com


Real Golf de Pedrena A 1928 Harry Colt classic on a wooded peninsula overlooking the Bay of Santander. The game entered Basque consciousness in 1888 when the Biarritz Golf Club opened in France, but it took 30 years for it to take off south of the border. In the modern era, Pedrena is celebrated as Seve’s home club. The maestro won here as a 17-year-old and died in his home overlooking the course. realgolfdepedrena.com


138 ABTA Golf 2018


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