I’ve done this trip several times before. Once you get passed the village of Santiago del Tiede, it’s all downhill, a wild, snake-ride on tight, hairpin bends equal to any along the Amalfi Coast.
On the island of Tenerife, the majority of golf courses are in the arid south, but here in the more luxuriant north there is one that makes this trip essential. On past visits, I’d drive past the lunar landscape that surrounds Mount Tiede to play Seve Ballesteros’ Buenavista Golf Club, to my mind the best course on the island and possibly the best in the Canaries. The problem was getting back again! I’d make the journey in the morning, spend the day, stay too long enjoying dinner at El Burgado, a cliffside cafe where the sunset rarely fails - then negotiate that twisty, scary-mad road - in the dark!
Now I don’t have to! I can relax and saunter from the 1st tee to the serenity of a first-class, 5-star hotel overlooking the golf course. The Melia Hacienda Del Conde Hotel & Spa offers all the creature comforts and pampering you could desire within two minutes of Buenavista’s 1st tee. It’s an Adults-Only escape, perfect if you want a quiet, romantic, restful few days with less of the bustle you tend to encounter in the south.
Melia Resorts took over both the hotel and golf operation just over a year ago and are, according to local golfers doing a remarkable job. “The course condition has improved dramatically,” Alan told me, a full-time émigré in his sing-song, sonorous Welsh accent. The hotel did exist previously but no one seemed to know about it. I certainly didn’t! Now, directly overlooking the golf course and the Atlantic Ocean, it’s the place to stay and sample Seve’s masterpiece. You could spend a night at Melia Hacienda Del Conde Hotel & Spa to facilitate a round on Buenavista but with such superb accommodation, service, food and golf, I could happily spend a week.
Melia seem to be driving both the hotel and golf course towards their apogee with top-class quality service and attention. The food, both in the buffet with its outside, airy courtyard or the more secluded à la carte restaurant was superb - Mediterranean leanings with indigenous touches such as those delectable Tenerife potatoes (papas arugardas) that I just can’t get enough of. The wine you have to be a little more careful with! I tried a local red and it was a bit musty. I quizzed the Italian sommelier and he produced a far superior, heavy red from Extremadura. All was as it should be...
THE GOLF COURSE
They refer to Buenavista as a ‘links’ golf course but that’s a rather loose reading of the genre. It’s certainly ‘by-the-sea’ and the Atlantic exerts its influence with steady coastal winds that can transform this so-called ‘links’ into a lion. By the way, there’s a marvellous little infinity swimming pool below the golf course down by the rocks but it was OOB when I was there due to particularly vigorous weather the week before. Next time, in better weather, that’s where you’ll find me.
Dramatic, cliffside topography predominates the back-9 with azure spray splashing over the black, volcanic crags. It’s dramatic and visually inspiring but the tang of the ocean is where Buenavista’s links characteristics end. The course’s turf and topography are akin to most modern courses; I presume Paspalum grass to cope with the salty air. And Paspalum is a far cry from sandy, linksy loam and topsoil. This is most noticeable on the greens which are soft and receptive. Putting on them is not so easy… “They ain’t got a thing if they ain’t got that swing,” Allan piped as I remarked how much the greens swayed and sloped. The course is not easy off the tee and into the greens but it’s doubly difficult to achieve much-needed two-putts.
Opened in 2009, Buenavista is the last course that Seve designed and saw through to its opening. For that reason alone you should visit. There’s a large S-shaped bunker guarding the 10th as a reminder of who’s ground we tread upon. Most of the tee boxes are elevated and that’s always fun. It’s a great airy arena with at least a dozen remarkable holes from the visual perspective. There is a neat symmetry to the place with 6 Par 3’s, 6 Par 4’s and 6 almighty Par 5’s. And you notice them. The back-9 really is the stand-out side due to its proximity to the sea and cliffs but also by the sheer variety of holes.
THE VILLAGE OF GARACHICO
Taking a break from the hotel & golf course, the community of Garachico is a 10-minute drive along the coast. Once the island’s principal harbour, ships trading between Europe and the New World dropped anchor in its deep, protected harbour and the little town grew prosperous. Then, in May 1706 the nearby volcano, Montaña Negra erupted sending rivers of molten lava towards the town, choking its harbour and thereby destroying forever its main source of wealth. You can still see those lava streams today and feel for the horrified residents. During a guided tour we also learned about the Guanches, the aboriginal people of these islands, descendants of the Berber tribes of North Africa. When the Spanish Conquistadors arrived to claim these islands in the late 1400’s , it took them many years to subjugate the tall, athletic, indigenous rock-climbers who peppered the small-statured Spanish invaders, mostly farming stock pressed into service for the Spanish army, from on high.
TENERIFE IN GENERAL
Tenerife, about 600 miles west of Morocco in the Atlantic Ocean is a great golf destination with no less than 7 outstanding golf courses. Tenerife’s temperatures are perfect throughout the year, never too hot and rarely reaching below 20 degrees even through the winter months.
As far as the optimum time to visit Buenavista, September seems to be when the sun shines, the winds are light and fairways quiet. November marks the beginning of the High Season when the golfing migrants come in search of sun and sumptuous golf conditions.
It’s tempting to stay in the south of Tenerife because of the plethora of golf courses and hotels. But if you want to play the best course on the island, and who wouldn’t, head for Hacienda Del Conde. You can fly into Tenerife North from Gatwick or just as easy, fly into Tenerife Sur, spend a few nights playing Adeje, Golf del Sur, and Los Americas then drive north for 2 hours either on the motorway or the mountain goat road and sample the serenity of Melia Hacienda Del Conde Hotel & Spa and the magnificent Buenavista Golf Club.