Following in the Footsteps of Seve

People often ask who was your golfing hero when you were growing up and learning to play?

My golfing hero, like many others was Severiano Ballesteros. 

He was only 3 years older than me when he finished second in The Open in 1976 at Royal Birkdale. I can still remember watching it on the BBC, the only channel for golf in those days and feeling inspired to play and practice more during the school holidays that year.

Seve made it okay not to always be on the fairway and it was exciting watching him conjure up shots around, over and sometime under trees, bushes and cars…How many of you tried to find ways of escaping trouble after watching Seve do it?

46 years later, I still do……

Meeting Seve..(nearly)

The closest I ever got to meeting Seve was going to see him and Jack Nicklaus play an exhibition match at Ladybank Golf Club, Scotland in July 1983. I shared that experience with just 4,999 other fans who followed the two players around that day.

I was therefore delighted to be invited to visit Ballesteros country in the north west of Spain by Tony Fuller Melia of Costa Verde Golf.

I flew into to the airport in Santander, Spain, named after my hero Seve. It’s a small airport so cleared security and picked up my bags in less than 20 minutes. Tony was delighted that I had finally made it to the region, after 14 months in the planning and Covid lockdown delays.

Costa Verde Golf

As we chatted in the car, Tony explained his concept for Costa Verde Golf. Tony and his business partner, Jaime, offer hosted tours for golf groups, large or small, to the majority of courses in the region through individual hubs. Each hub is associated with 3 or 4 courses which makes it ideal for weekend or week long trips, or extended stay golf trips where you visit and stay at a number of the hubs. 

In total, there are 9 hubs offering golf at 15 different courses. There is a variety of accommodation available across the hubs, from self catering apartments to 5 star hotels, so something to suit all tastes and budgets.

Tony was passionate and proud of what he had put together, and over the next 7 days, I would find out what it’s like to stay at 3 of the Costa Verde Golf hubs, visit 9 of the courses, and go to a number of bars, restaurants and attractions that only someone who lives there and has that personal relationship with, can provide.

Seve, The Legend of Pedreña

Severiano Ballesteros was born on the 9th of April, 1957 in Pedreña, at that time a small village in Cantabria. He was the youngest son of a farm labourer. He was destined to become a professional golfer as 3 of his brothers had already pursued that dream.

Legend has it that he learned to hit golf shots on Somo Beach with a 3 iron and often skipped school to do so. In those days, he only dreamt of playing at the Real Club de Pedreña, an exclusive private golf club nearby. As a young boy, Seve would often search for golf balls under cover of darkness on the course.

Somo Beach

Before we got to Real Club de Pedreña, Tony had a surprise for us. He took us to Somo Beach so that we too could hit some shots with a long iron. It was a beautiful breezy day as we went onto the sand. A makeshift flag had been set up about 35 yards away from us. It was a challenge to open up the face of my 5 iron, the longest one in my bag, and try and hit shots to the flag but it was great fun. 

Magical Moment

An older couple strolled by and asked us what we were doing. Tony explained that we were recreating the shots that Seve used to do on the beach. It turned out that both of them were local, members at Pedreña and actually knew Seve. They talked to us for about 10 minutes and told us stories about Seve. It was magical and they both expressed delight that Costa Verde Golf was bringing visitors to the area and wished Tony and his team, every success.

Seve’s statue 

As we approached the course, we stopped at the Seve statue just before the entrance to the club. It was a photo opportunity not to be missed.

Real Club de Pedreña

Unfortunately for us, the main course at Pedreña was closed as it was carrying out its annual course aeration work. However, we were able to play the Seve designed 9 hole course and let me tell you, it was a challenge. 

The Seve Nine opened in 1992. The course is a par 31 and there are 6 par 3’s, 2 par 4’s and a par 5. Not one of these holes are easy. Built around the outside of the 18 hole course, there are a number of holes that run parallel to the Cubas estuary and offer stunning views.

The 2nd

My favourite holes were the 2nd, a downhill par 3 towards the estuary and the 5th, a par 4, which has a blind tee shot and a green located right next to the water.

5th green

On completion of our round, Tony and Jaime showed us around the clubhouse and we ordered lunch. We visited Seve’s salon where the club has some memorabilia and photos. 

Considering Seve’s global appeal and his legacy, the club’s tribute to him is very understated. To me, it is clear that the club do not wish to be defined and remembered only through Seve and in many ways, that’s okay. He was part of their history and that time has now passed. It was wonderful to finally visit the club where he practised and played, now it was time to visit and play some of the courses he designed.

At a Glance:

  • 18-hole championship course 
  • 9-hole Seve designed course 
  • Superior food and service
  • Excellent practice facilities
  • Extremely well-stocked pro shop 
  • Top-notch conditioning 
  • Wonderful views 
  • 20 minutes from Santander, 50 minutes from Comillas
Meaztegi Golf Club

Meaztegi (pronounced May-f-tegi) is located about an hour east of Santander. It’s a municipal course owned and run by the local Bizkaia principality. It feels and plays more like a resort course than a public course and is set amongst the rolling countryside that is a feature of this part of Spain.

View over the course from the 2nd green

Opened in 2005, it’s a par 72 of almost 6,900 yards from the tips with 4 par 3’s and 4 par 5’s, it’s most certainly a challenge and we would recommend playing from the tees that give you the best opportunity to enjoy your round.

A number of holes on this course are stunning. Seve seemed to love downhill par 3’s or maybe it’s the way the land is on many of the Costa Verde courses. 

The 3rd

Whatever the reason, the 3rd at Maeztegi is a cracker. With a drop of over 150 feet from the tee, picking the right club is essential as there is trouble short and beyond the green.

Water is also a feature on this layout with 7 holes having lakes or ponds adjacent to the fairways and around some greens.

The signature hole is probably the 12th, a downhill par 5 of almost 600 yards. From the tee, you hit through a narrow shut of trees to what looks like a very narrow fairway. Unless your drive is long, it’s a 3 shot hole as the fairway is split in two by a ditch that leads into a large pond that guards the green. Even hitting the second half of the fairway is a challenge as it’s protected by bunkers on the left and water on the right and it’s not a big landing area.

Map of the 12th

 

The 9th green and clubhouse

The clubhouse has fantastic views over the course and we had the Menu del Dia, the menu of the day, which was excellent and great value at 16 euros including a couple of glasses of wine.

At a Glance:

  • 18-hole championship course 
  • Excellent food, locally sourced 
  • Excellent practice facilities
  • One hour from Santander and 90 minutes from Comillas
Santa Marina

The clubhouse

Golf Santa Marina was one of the last courses that Seve designed and it was the last course I played on this trip to the Costa Verde. His 2.5-metre statue is a prominent feature situated just outside the pro shop and is larger in size and resembles Seve, much more than the one outside the club grounds at Pedrena.

With Santa Marina, Seve has definitely tipped his hat to Augusta National and the land the course is built on has similar elevation changes and sloping greens.

Although Seve designed the whole layout, the front nine is named after his uncle, Ramon Sota. It even has its own named Amen Corner, holes 4, 5 and 6.

Amen Corner

The 4th

The 4th is a short par 3 at under 140 yards with a hazard area in front of the small green. The green is completely surrounded by bushes and trees, shades of the 12th at Augusta perhaps.

The 5th is a 375-yard par 4 with a sharp dogleg left. It requires a medium iron off the tee for position, then a short iron to a green with a false front. Accuracy over length wins on this hole.

The 6th

The 6th is another par 3 at 160 yards. Again, there is a hazard in front of the green and it’s surrounded by trees. The green depth is narrow on the left side and then opens up a bit on the right. Distance control is paramount to get your par.

The daunting 2nd shot at the 9th

The front 9 ends with an uphill dogleg par 5 of 550 yards. If you play it as a 3 shot hole, it’s a straightforward par. Do not be tempted to cut the corner on your second shot, it’s a longer carry than it looks, trust me!!

The 2nd shot up the hill at 10

The Seve Ballesteros back 9 is longer and hilly. It starts with an uphill par 5 which will take 3 good shots to reach the small green. and ends with a downhill par 3. There are 2 more par 5’s on the back 9, the 13th and 16th holes and 3 par 3’s.

The 13th green

My favourite hole though was the 13th, a downhill tee shot is followed by a risk or reward shot with water on the right and a small green. Happy to report that my 5 iron 2nd shot found the putting surface and I made a birdie!!

Fantastic Food and Wine

A late lunch with great friends, a perfect end to a cracking day at Santa Marina

After our round, we again had the Menu del Dia. For 22 euros, we had 3 fantastic courses with unlimited wine. The food at Santa Marina was as good as we had on this trip. The local wine was exceptional, especially the Behetria de Cieza, a zesty white from Cantabria.

At a Glance:

  • 18-hole championship course 
  • Five-star food and service
  • Lovely traditional Clubhouse and locker rooms 
  • Excellent practice facilities
  • Extremely well-stocked pro shop 
  • Beautiful condition
Santander/Comillas Accommodation 

There are a number of accommodation options available through Costa Verde Golf. We stayed at the 4 star Abba Comillas Golf Apartments, on a Bed and Breakfast basis, in Comillas, which is a seaside town around 20 minutes west of Santander. There is also a 4 star boutique hotel option in Comillas.

The Gran Hotel

If you want 5 star, then there is the Gran Hotel in Sardinero, a suburb of Santander. Right next door is the Gran Casino and across the street in the main beach in Sardinero.

Whatever your budget, Tony at Costa Verde Golf can meet your needs for the perfect golf trip. He lives in the area so has the personal contacts required to make the perfect recommendations for bars and restaurants.

Costa Verde Golf is an emerging destination and we highly recommend the services and personal touch of Tony, Jaime and the rest of the team.

Coming soon, we visit Bilbao and play one of the most exclusive clubs in Spain.

 

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