“Key to the entire layout was the tremendous variety”

  • Stirling & Martin
    Stirling & Martin

    Large greens at Altaona allow for plenty of variety in positions

  • Stirling & Martin
    Stirling & Martin

    The routing provides for plenty of space between the golf holes and surrounding high-end real estate

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

GCA spoke with golf course architects Blake Stirling and Marco Martin about their 27-hole project at Altaona Golf in the southeast of Spain.

How did the project come about?

MM: The client – Mark Shaw and his Edinburgh-based firm, Hazledene Group – was looking for a piece of land to develop a new multipurpose golf and residential community. After many trips to southern Europe, the client found the perfect location… with 340 days of sunshine, good communication links, close to a historical city, and close to the Mediterranean coast.

Altaona Golf is also located just eight miles away from the modern and recently opened Región de Murcia International Airport. The location allows any northern European golfer to escape from the cold weather and be playing golf in shorts in December with temperatures of 70 degrees [21C]!

What was the brief given to you by the client?

MM: The main target was to transform an abandoned and eroded, dry landscape into a safe community where golfers, residents, and joggers can enjoy their activities at the same time.

The full master plan of 300 hectares of residential and leisure will have the use of a 27-hole resort golf course, a golf academy and an extra nine-hole pitch-and-putt course.

BS: They wanted commanding, outstanding views on the golf course. We worked backwards, running holes in various directions, utilising the topography, adapting to existing vegetation, boundaries, and very strict environmental regulations.

Because of the high-end real estate, golf holes were located to maximise views and beauty from the home sites. With an emphasis on safety and stunning beauty, the layout evolved. Like a great book or movie, the beginning chapters – the opening three holes – immediately capture excitement for the golfers, drawing them in. In addition, the seventh, eighth and ninth holes on the front, and holes fifteen through eighteen on the back offer unequalled thrills and enjoyment for all levels of players and for spectators as well.

What are the highlights of your design?

MM: With holes going in different directions, the key to the entire layout was the tremendous variety, so that golfers are offered 18 unique and distinct experiences. Memorability of each hole is the foundation for the final layout.

Our design has a generous amount of width, challenging golfers to approach greens from various angles. In addition, the generally larger greens have plenty of variety of pin positions, creating different ways to attack holes depending on the day.

Secondly, we wanted to produce a fun, playable golf course that was enjoyable and full of distinct experiences. As golf architects, we want to make golf fun and help the game grow in popularity. Safety also played a key part in the strategy, as ample distance between holes and spacious room and views for spectators were considered.

Circulation during the round played a major role as views, distances, and beauty were taken into account.

The environmental aspect was also crucial. The course’s irrigation, the urban treated wastewater, and seeding with Pure Dynasty – from Pure Seed and Atlas Turf International – have all helped to create a natural landscape with autochthonous species.

The first nine opened in 2019, the second nine will be fully seeded by May 2021, with work to continue on the third nine afterwards.

This article first appeared in the January 2021 issue of Golf Course Architecture. For a printed subscription or free digital edition, please visit our subscriptions page.