Review Alcadeisa Heathland golf, Costa del Sol ($)

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The Alcadeisa Club

The Alcadeisa club has two courses - Links and Heathland. It sits about 5 kilometers East of Gibraltar and occupies a wonderful location at the bottom of a shallow valley that sweeps down to the sea. At the sea-shore there is a gently curving crescent-shaped beach several kilometers long. The whole development is about 20 years old, and was clearly intended to be large - effectively a small town. The property boom/bust put a partial stop to that development, so property surrounding the courses is not intrusive. The properties themselves are quite modest e.g. moderate-sized apartments and townhouses in 2-storey blocks. The clubhouse is large with simple modern design. The club has several hundred members, mostly British and German. Probably a 'local club' for people working in nearby Gibraltar. The golf itself is not expensive, particularly for visiting golfers. The food/drinks prices are moderately expensive, but nothing like the prices you can expect to pay at the super-premium courses nearby.

The Alcadeisa Heathland course

This course is quite long but not really difficult. There are accurate wooden hole maps on each tee box – although now fairly weathered. There is a simple but usable course map on the back of the scorecard.

The greens are the easiest feature. Medium-sized, soft, flat with only mild slopes. The grass on them is very good and they are slow. Once you get the speed, it is really not difficult to be down in 2 putts from anywhere on the green. Only a few greens are raised and then not by very much. The green surrounds up to 5 meters off the green are also soft and lush – very easy to pitch off. Basically, they water the greens and surrounds a lot.

However away from the greens the watering stops and you get a completely different golf course. The grass on fairways is 90% good quality, with 10% spiky grass invasion that they are tackling via spraying where it really matters. But all this grass is very dry – 30% green spots, the remaining 70% brown and dusty. It is certainly possible to take a divot, but I think it better to try to clip the ball off grass like this. Most players can achieve that for longer fairway shots, but trying to nip the ball off the fairway is a lot harder IMHO for shorter approach shots. So the dryness of the course away from the greens is definitely a factor in how you play the course. It is also a factor in that the ball can roll a long way. Sometimes this works in your favour e.g. you get an 'extra 20 meters' roll on a drive. Sometimes this works against you e.g. the ball skitters off into a fairway bunker or – on the only steep hole on the course – you can hit a 180 meter tee-shot and have the ball roll back down the fairway 80 meters.

The bunkers here are also quite easy. Good quality sand. Not many of them, placed in predictable places. There is one lake on the course that is in play on a few holes, and a stream along another hole. But overall water hazards, like the bunkers, are not particularly difficult. The fairways are medium width and offer plenty of target. I took a driver on every par 4 and 5. There is no significant carry off any tee apart from the 14th hole over the lake (165 meters long). So golfers not long off the tee do not have much to worry about – there is plenty of fairway out there they can aim for.

The course has mixed holes in term of elevation (up/down towards the green). About half the holes are flat, the other half having mostly gentle elevation. Ditto for slope (left/right across the fairway).

So where does the 'Heath' aspect come in ? The answer is simple – not at all. If you were expecting short-growth clumps of heather, forget it. There are some typical bits of Mediterranean bush, but very little. In fact the most remarkable feature of the course is how little of anything apart from grass they allow to grow there. For example between two parallel fairways there might be only a small ridge with slightly long grass. No trees, no bushes – nothing. So visually this course looks more like a Links course than an Upland course – dry gently undulating fairways, no trees or bushes. Maybe this in your view is what Heathland looks like. Definitely not in my view though.

This is a good course for high-handicap players. Everything is simple enough that they can bash the ball up the fairways safely towards the green. And once near the green, they can nudge the ball onto the green if they do not fancy a proper chip or pitch. I do not really recommend this course to players with handicap under 10. Really not enough challenge on any hole for them. That leaves the mid-handicap players like me. Personally I thought the course a bit dull. Perhaps 6 holes (mostly around the turn) were interesting, the rest I was just 'going through the motions'. I also find the course unattractive to look at. If they are deliberately trying to get this course to look like some model course elsewhere on the planet, I for one do not know what they are aiming for. To me the course just looks barren. There are plenty of attractive trees/bushes perfectly adapted to the generally dry Mediterranean climate. Why they refuse to plant any is beyond me. This is like a course "..And no birds sing... ".

A strange course. Neither one thing, nor the other. Not a true inland course. Not a true parkland course. Not a true Links course although it looks and plays a bit like one. The Alcadeisa location is unique being so close to the sea. I reckon in the Heathland course they have simply not figured out the best way to take advantage of that special location and natural environment. A pity. Naturally in pure golfing terms, it is only the next shot that really matters. For a simple golfing experience, Alcadeisa Heathland is fine. What matters to me may not matter to you. Personally, this is not a course I rate highly.

Review last updated: January 2014. Number of times played: 1.

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Alcadeisa length/difficulty

Each dot represents a golf course on the Costa del Sol - when played off the Mens Yellow tees. Every course has two measures - length in meters (the X-axis) and difficulty (the Y-axis).

The Alcadeisa Heathland course is represented by the yellow dot, the Alcadeisa Links course is represented by the brown dot. The Heathland course is significantly longer i.e. 'top 10' in length of all courses on the Costa. By contrast the Links course is slightly less than the average length of courses on the Costa. Both are about average in terms of difficulty. An 18-handicap player going around the Alcadeisa Links course should do so in 18 over par, whereas on the Alcadeisa Heathland course they should go around in 19-20 over par.

The graph shows you 'at-a-glance' the approximate length and difficulty of each course relative to other courses on the Costa del Sol. The graphs are explained in more detail here.

Costa del Sol golf courses map 

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