When the vagaries of an English summer conspire to keep golfers indoors on a squally August afternoon, the brochures which portray the white sand beaches of verdant tropical islands become even more tempting.
And so when the Canary Islands Tourist Board set out in 2008 to proclaim year round average temperatures of 23C and stunning golf courses in a spectacular volcanic setting with Atlantic Ocean backdrops, their target audience was ready and waiting.
The premise was simple: A golf tournament among seven hand-picked golf courses of England and Ireland, where the winners of each category from those clubs would then be flown to The Canary Islands to compete against each other in the grand final. The message equally simple: “Come and see what we have to offer in La Islas Canarias.”
Three categories were declared: Men’s 1st (handicap 0 – 14.4), Men’s 2nd (handicap 14.5 – 28) and Women’s (handicap 0 – 28), and by the afternoon of the 13th July, the first three winners at Oulton Hall, near Leeds, were presented with their respective trophies and placed on the list for the finals in the Canaries in November.
Through July and August the tournament rolled on and an Islas Canarias branded van, replete with Canarian golf scenery wrapped around its high sides, toured the length and breadth of England and Ireland, visiting courses from Carden Park Chester, in the north, to The Royal Eastbourne in the south; and from Prince’s Sandwich, in the far south-east, to Citiwest Dublin, across the Irish Sea.
The weather across the seven weeks and seven tournaments presented a true reflection on the highs and lows of playing golf in the UK.
Citiwest Dublin came close to being postponed, with the course under water up until just two days before the big day. Proceedings at The Royal Eastbourne started out wet and windy and finished off marginally drier, with heavy skies. And Prince’s Club in Sandwich, Kent, faired only a little better, with a stiff breeze blowing throughout most of the day, and drizzle mixing with spindrift from the shoreline just meters away from the excellent links course. The Robin Hood Club in Solihull, and Lambourne Club in Burnham both had the best of the sunshine, but The Canary Islands Tourist Board’s position on their golfing conditions was a good point well made.
November arrived and 21 players with their respective partners touched down on the spectacular volcanic island of Lanzarote. No expense was spared and the new arrivals were shuttled to the lavish Princessa Yaiza suite hotel at Playa Blanca, where they settled in and made themselves comfortable prior to the commencement of the final competition. The more astute squeezed in a quick round within hours of arriving.
The new Lanzarote Golf course just outside of Playa Del Carmen in the south of the island is still in its infancy, with most of the planted tree lines yet to establish themselves. Regardless, the sea view panoramas to the south and the barren volcanic skyline to the north are remarkable and set this links course in stark contrast to the familiar, rural courses at home.
A new clubhouse is near to completion, and will command stunning views down the 1st fairway and out to sea when it opens in the new year. Year on year, we expect Lanzarote Golf to improve to become a fantastic course in a remarkable landscape.
After three days on Lanzarote the entourage moved on to the greener island of Tenerife. Canarian airline, Binter, handled the carriage of players and their equipment to Tenerife North, whereupon everyone was transported to the opulent Hotel Las Madrigueras, with its attached par72 course, Golf Las Americas.
This 6,607yd course is a superb, mature 18 holes, set among lush green gardens, with fiendish water hazards and scores of bunkers. The impressive clubhouse sits against the backdrop of a towering sand-coloured mountain that reflects the fiery light of early morning and is an omnipresent reminder that this otherwise familiar feeling course is not in middle England.
With no lava fields to worry about, the finalists got down to the serious business of chasing the grand prize: Full-board for a week in a villa in La Gomera, the Canary Island that boasts its own UNESCO World Heritage rainforest. And by the end of day four, the scores were in and an extravagant, six-course, gala dinner laid on at The Madrigueras.
The triumphant three were Men’s 1st category winner, Peter Barford from Lambourne Club (Buckinghamshire) with a winning score of 63; Men’s 2nd category winner, Soyeb Yousef from Oulton Hall (Leeds) club, with a winning score of 68, and Women’s category winner, Cath Rowthorne from Carden Park, with a winning score of 62.
Before flying home from Tenerife South on day five, some of the visitors grabbed the opportunity for one last round, whilst others accepted the generous offer of a whale and dolphin-watching trip aboard a large catamaran out on the waters between Tenerife and La Gomera. In one last show of Canarian compliance, a pod of pilot whales, and hundreds of dolphins turned up to wish the UK finalists bon voyage.
Canary Islands www.islascanariasgolftour.com