The Old Course at Real Club de Golf Sotogrande, which opened more than a decade prior to Valderrama, was the first course designed in Europe by Robert Trent Jones and one of the few on the continent that he was personally involved with. Although the standard of shaping and course grooming is a tier below its now famous sibling and the site is a little less consistently dramatic, there are similarities here, notably its established cork, pine and oak forest setting.
First impressions of Sotogrande are not great, as your round starts and finishes on fairly dull ground, but things improve from the 4th which is the start of a nice stretch through to the 11th where Trent Jones used elevation changes and built up greens to create a number of exciting golf holes. Long valley par threes at the 4th and 8th are particularly effective as are approach shots into plateau greens such as the 10th and 11th, the ledge green on the 5th and the narrow 7th wedged between a pond and a mound. From the 12th the course moves onto some strangely bland water holes and although the 15th is very good it is not enough to save a pretty disappointing finish.
In its heart there are solid golf holes here but the course is inconsistent and its extremities lack interesting undulation and inspired design. This is a significant club in Spain, however, as it popularized the now heavily developed Costa del Sol region. While Sotogrande is now a rung below the coast’s best, it is still a rung above the rest.