Felipe Ortiz Patiño, president of Valderrama, continental Europe’s top-ranked course, has confirmed to GCA that he expects work on Castellar Golf, the long-awaited ‘second Valderrama’ to start in the near future. Roger Rulewich’s practice will design the course – Rulewich, while working for Robert Trent Jones Sr, was the principal architect of Valderrama.
Patiño said: “Since the mid 1980s, very few courses have been built in this region that could be considered among the best in Europe. At Castellar, our objective is to have a project that could be considered among the best in the world.” The site of the new course is at Castellar de la Frontera, only a few kilometres inland from Valderrama. Of the 101 hectares, 25 hectares is designated a conservation area. Patiño told GCA: “During the planning process, the Spanish law covering golf course development was changed. The new law is very severe and difficult to comply with – it requires lots of land and lots of distance between the elements of the course. But this project complied with the new decree even before it was passed. To ensure compliance, we looked for a site with soils that would enable a golf course to be built without too much land movement. And we will include lakes with a total capacity of 400,000 cu m. No golf course in Andalusia has the capacity to house so much water.”
GCA recently visited the Castellar site. Undulating, populated with cork oaks and long views to the Andalusian mountains, the feel is much more of ‘real Spain’ than the developments on the Costa del Sol, despite being only a short distance away from the coast.
“The first thing we did was to say that if we have a new site, we would like some of the features to be the same as on the old course. We wanted there to be a little something of Valderrama to be there. So Roger was quite an obvious candidate,” said Patiño. “A lot of the courses on the coast are built on sites that are not really ideal. The difference here is that we know the land around us. What we didn’t know is that we could buy the site. When we were looking, I saw a lot of sites in Andalusia, but this one was not really for sale at that time. But when it became available, you didn’t need to know too much to realise it was a good site for a golf course.”
The Patiño family is busy at the moment, as the old Valderrama course is going through a renovation/restoration project under the auspices of Kyle Phillips. “We started the process two years ago,” said Patiño. “We are adding some length, changing some angles, but also restoring features and shapes of greens. A golf course changes more quickly than one might expect, so we need to adapt. We have to adapt the golf course to the fact that our trees grow. You don’t cut down a 300 year old cork oak as you would a ten year old pine tree, for example.”
This mix of renovation and restoration is being pursued across the course. “We have completely changed the sixteenth hole. The angle of the hole is different and it’s longer,” said Patiño. “On the eighth hole, by contrast, the tee changed so the hole plays to the original angle, and we recovered a front pin position that had disappeared during the earlier refurbishment. The first and thirteenth have been lengthened, and the first green redesigned. We found an old design that showed the green was much bigger than we now had, and the tree guarding the front has grown to an extent that meant we had no front pin positions. So we worked with Kyle to redo that green.”
Mounds that were added in advance of the 1997 Ryder Cup are being removed or softened. “We chose Kyle because he could take an objective view of the course, but who understood the Jones style,” said Patiño. “We have a three-four year rolling plan, to remain the number one course in Europe. We have to have a complete look at the place, with new eyes. I know he can do what we want.”