The jewel of Spain's Costa Del Sol, Valderrama Golf Club is the region's most prestigious golf club and dubbed the "Augusta National of Europe." A bold assertion, but one with some backing. In 1997 it became the first golf course in continental Europe to host the Ryder Cup Matches, and it is a host to the European Tour's Volvo Masters and World Golf Championships as well. Valderrama features course conditions as good as it gets, with fairways like carpet and aprons smooth as glass.
Valderrama is an interesting story in that it was originally built in 1974 as "Sotogrande New" by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and associate Cabell Robinson, but after Jaime Ortiz-Patino purchased additional property, it opened the opportunity to create an even more remarkable course. Jones had an "open-ended budget" according to the biography, A Difficult Par by James R. Hansen. Valderrama was reborn in 1985 and maintains its place as Europe's best parkland course.
Today the course is defended by its tiny, lightening fast greens and narrow fairways framed by cork trees. The par-5 17th hole may be the course's most infamous, a result of Tiger's ire - but the signature is the par-5 fourth hole, "La Cascada," for its rocky waterfall tumbling off the tiny, elevated green. It is said to be the most engineered and expensive hole of Jones Sr.'s career.
For the traveling golfer, Valderrama has one advantage to Augusta: The club offers limited public play between noon and 2 p.m. daily for 350-370 euros. This grants you access to the club and practice grounds 45 minutes prior to your tee time. Caddies and buddies are available and an additional cost.