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The Miniature Continent of Gran Canaria

Carla HarveyBy Carla Harvey,

EL PUERTO DE SANTA MARIA -- As a visitor destination, Gran Canaria needs no hard-sell marketing. Basking in year round, spring-like sunshine, it revels in one of the finest and most moderate climates in the world and is nothing short of a cornucopia of dramatic landscape features. Canary Island characteristics are so dissimilar that the place has long been known as 'a small continent'. In the space of a single day, visitors are treated to lofty mountain peaks, dramatic volcanic craters, lush gardens flourishing with palm groves, seemingly bottomless ravines, laurel woods and the undulating golden dunes of the famed Maspalomas beach.

Leading a sporty life is as natural as breathing in this setting. Golf at six excellent clubs (more underway); diverse water activities, racket sports and horse riding are in plentiful supply. What comes as a pleasant surprise is the depth and variety of cultural activity available. Those who thrive on the enjoyment of music and other arts will find that Gran Canaria is impressively well endowed. Not limited to seasonal offerings, the island produces opera, pop-rock, jazz, cinema, theatre and dance festivals and the most important wintertime classical music festival in Europe.

Life after dark comprises cafés, casinos and nightclubs, many associated with the numerous hotels located here. Speaking of which, a wide variety of accommodation is available. Visitors can opt for the pleasant ambience found at places like the Bandana Golf & Country Hotel or Gran Hotel Residencia and those who favour five-star glitz will go for spots such as Hotel Gloria Palace, Gran Hotel Costa Meloneras and Steigenberger Hotel. The latter has added to its appeal by having its own thalassotherapy centre - 7,000 square metres of pools, algotherapy, beauty programmes, golf injuries treatment centre, etc.

Food deviates interestingly from traditional, Spanish cuisine: local fish include varieties like parrot fish, not found on the mainland, specialities such as new potatoes boiled in sea salt and served with a hot pepper sauce, watercress stews and out of the ordinary desserts. Among Canary Island's own culinary offerings are 20 local cheeses.

A specific look at existent golf facilities reveals half a dozen clubs: three on the northern part of the island and the others in the south. Each has its own traits, challenges and views. In common, they are all friendly clubs, welcoming a growing number of international visitors.

El Cortijo Club de Campo is actually part of a large finca, or farm and is located in three valleys redolent with palms - more than 600 palms trees are on the course, carefully integrated into the design by architects Blake Stirling and Marco Martín. El Cortijo is beautifully adapted to its natural surroundings while fulfilling another purpose as a suitable venue for prestigious international tournaments. Created to demand complete concentration by the professional players, there are up to six tees per hole, making enjoyment possible for every level of player. Additional attractions to the usual club facilities are paddle tennis, tennis courts, swimming pool and riding school.

On the same expansive estate, El Cortijo Golf Center boasts an 18 hole par 3 course rated by professional golfers as among the best in the world. It is a miniature version of a typical North American course. Bunkers proliferate throughout. The lake sidling along the 68 metre-long ninth hole denies easy access to the green and is known for sheer devilishness. Of course, the green would also slope towards the lake. The Golf Center is the only course on Gran Canaria that is illuminated to allow play during balmy evenings.

Situated on the leading tourist complex in Gran Canaria, Maspalomas Golf is surrounded by vast stretches of dunes that would do surrealist Salvador Dalí proud. Soft breezes are almost eerily omnipresent (it is difficult not to wonder what you have done to deserve this unending spring), and golfers are all but guaranteed ideal conditions for play. This is a well-matured club, having been inaugurated in the late '60s. Innovatory touches include a two-storey driving range (both with finely cultivated lawn surface). Maspalomas Golf hosted two International Opens in the late 1990s, attracting players such as Lee Westwood and Severiano Ballesteros.

Only a short distance (5 km) from Maspalomas and privy to the same outstanding surrounds is Salobre Golf, which will soon add a second 18 holes to its well-established club. The south course (called Sur) has lofty, contrasting views of sea and mountains: verdant green zones on one side of the course and sandy tones of the desert on the other. The first nine holes of the new north course will open later this year. Salobre is suitable for all levels of competence. Ongoing associated projects comprise the construction of a 5-star Sheraton Hotel, a property development consisting of nine spacious villas (Salobre Hills) and Residencial Los Lagos, a luxury complex with 40 apartments.

Real Club de Golf de Las Palmas shares honours with the Rio Tinto course in Huelva as being the first pioneers of golf in Spain. The Las Palmas course was moved to its present location in 1956. It is a spectacularly theatrical setting alongside a crater of an ancient volcano and surrounded by deep ravines. The course is a Mackensie and Ross design characterized by an abundance of par 4 holes and small greens. Number two is the flagship hole. The fairway follows a ravine from tee to green; the bunker-surrounded green lies on the slope of the Bandama volcano. This course encourages the use of all clubs, owing to its complex layout.

Anfi Tauro Golf has opened its first nine-hole course. Next year, the 18-hole course that will complement it will be open for play. Crystal-clear lakes and various indigenous plant species predominant the par 3 course which has both mountain and sea views. Aside from the virtues of fabulous views, Anfi would be worth playing for its ninth hole alone. Less than 100 metres in length, play requires water manoeuvres that try even the pros.

Gran Canaria offers visitors more than its spectacular setting. It provides the opportunity to relish the treasures of an interior where more than 30 nature reserves are rich with flora and fauna, many of which are protected species. The island people are proud of their rare and enviable location and there is nothing they enjoy more than sharing it with valued guests.

Golf Clubs

Real Club de Golf de Las Palmas
Crta. De Bandama s/n
Gran Canaria, Islas Canarias, Spain
Tel 34-928-350104
Fax 34-928-350110
e-mail rcglp@step.es

El Cortijo Club de Campo
Autopista del Sur G.C. 1, Km. 6.4
35218 Telde
Gran Canaria, Islas Canarias, Spain
Tel 34-928-711111
Fax 34-928-714905
e-mail clubcampo@elcortijo.es

Campo del Golf de Maspalomas
Avda. T.O. Neckermann
Gran Canaria, Islas Canarias, Spain
Tel 34-928-762581
Fax 34-928-768245
e-mail magolfsa@maspalomasgolf.net

Salobre Golf & Resort
Autopista Gran Canaria 1, Km. 53
Urbanización El Salobre
35100 Maspalomas
Gran Canaria, Islas Canarias, Spain
Tel 34-928-010103
Fax 34-928-010104
e-mail reservation@salobregolfresort.com

Anfi Tauro Golf
Barranco del Lechugal
Valle de Tauro
35130 Mogán
Gran Canaria, Islas Canarias, Spain
Tel 34-928-562336
Fax 34-928-562398
e-mail taurosales@anfi.es

Accommodation mentioned in text:

Bandama Golf & Country Hotel
Lugar de Bandama, s/n
Gran Canaria Islas Canarias, España
Tel 34-928-353354
Fax 34-928-351290
e-mail bandama@golfhotel.com

Gran Hotel Residencia
Avenida del Oasis, 32
35100 Maspalomas
Gran Canaria, Islas Canarias, Spain
Tel 34-928-723100
Fax 34-928-723108
e-mail residencia@a1web.es

Hotel Gloria Palace
Las Margaritas s/n - San Agustín
35100 Maspalomas
Gran Canaria, Islas Canarias, Spain
Tel 34-928-128500
Fax 34-928-767928
e-mail gloriapalace@hvsl.es

Steigenberger Hotels & Resorts
35120 Arguingeguin
Gran Canaria, Islas Canarias, Spain
Tel 34-928-150400
Fax 34-928-151003

Carla Harvey freelances for various magazines in Spain and abroad. Among them are Mediterranean Life, Essential, The Reporter and Lookout Magazine. She was the editor of Marbella Times for five years and WHERE Costa del Sol for two years.

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