In the swing of Finca CortesinBy Stuart White
October 26, 2009
The Volvo World Match Play Championships will tee off at Finca Cortesin on Thursday. STUART WHITE inspected the course and ultra-luxury hotel in the sunny south of Spain
The taxi driver knows the drill. On the rocky road – past desert cacti and under a circling vulture – towards Casares there is a spot where everybody stops.
Victorio didn’t speak English, didn’t even try, and my Spanish is tragic, but he knew we would want to take in the view and snap a picture for the archives.
There is even a decking area to get a few different angles without the fear of being mowed down by a Seat Ibiza or buzzy moped.
The view is of Casares, a striking white-washed Andalucian town which has a castle, two museums, four restaurants and a well. Legend says those who drink the fresh mountain water return to live here, so I was quick to quench my thirst in the unusually strong late October sun.
Most of the men who live in Casares helped build Finca Cortesin, 15 minutes down the road and on another planet. “Back to real life,” they would say when returning from a day’s work.
I was travelling in the opposite direction and, as stunning and enchanting as Casares is, I couldn’t wait to get back home.
Finca opened this time last year and next week is preparing for the world’s best golf players – except Tiger who demands big money to play outside of America.
The course is closed off this week to people like me for final preparations but I took a spin round and can report that everything is in order.
Major sporting events never fail to generate energy – I didn’t even mind the giant tent blocking part of the Mediterranean view from the balcony of my executive suite.
Nearly all the rooms at Finca Cortesin are suites, and in old money cost a lot of pesetas to rent. Make no mistake, this place is high-end, top dollar, not for the masses tourism. But it is perfect.
“People ask when was it restored?” said Melissa, who showed us around the enormous grounds. “But it was built from scratch in two years.”
The first year – the doors opened on October 1, 2008 – has been deemed a success despite the ill-timed credit crunch. They have achieved 100 per cent occupancy twice, but even then guests feared the worse. “It is so empty,” they said. No, Finca Cortesin is so big.
Attention to detail is off the scale. For 67 rooms you get three swimming pools for starters, and the smallest is 25 metres. The outdoor pools are 35 and 50 metres and I had the big one all to myself.
This is Spain, under an hour from Malaga airport, but rest assured you do not need to rise early to place a towel on a sunbed. Of course, you do not even need to pack a towel.
Well-kept gardens, including the ‘drunken tree’ imported from South America and spike-free grass from The States, link the outdoor zones where you will find Moroccan chill-out zones and waiters ready to take your order. I was here two nights and kept losing my bearings.
The reason people presume it is a restoration is the development has incorporated wonderful character pieces that blend seamlessly with the new.
For example, the door to our room – which was bigger than my West Reading Victorian terrace – was from a monastery.
And then there is the food. The showpiece restaurant is Schilo; hungry for a Michelin Star (which it will surely get at the next round of grading) and with a menu packed full of the finest Asian and European flavours.
I was lucky to see the popular chef at work in the open kitchen. Lucky because they made an exception to my dark jeans and short shirt sleeves – dress code says both are banned at Schilo.
The more informal Spanish restaurant El Jardin, where you are served breakfast-superior, was less exclusive but maintained the high standards you start to get used to.
I was told to try the bull’s tail, so I did – so rich, and perfect with a glass of Rioja. The fish is also outstanding.
If you are still struggling to hit relaxation there is the spa, where you can get a massage or sit in the sauna or just lounge by the pool and take in the mountain/sea view. Am I selling this to you?
Finca Cortesin is quickly emerging as one of Europe’s top travel destinations.
Check it out on Sky Sports next week during live coverage of the golf, visit the website – and get saving. It would be impossible to be disappointed.
Stuart stayed at Finca Cortesin, Casares, Andalucia – for more information and best booking rates visit www.fincacortesin.com
Aer Lingus currently operate double daily flights from London Gatwick to Malaga for free – just pay taxes and charges. Book by Tuesday, October 27, for travel between November 11, 2009 and March 24, 2010. For more information on fares and schedules, and to book visit www.aerlingus.com