Golf and wine in Rioja: A review

Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu March 28, 2018 05:49

Rioja in Spain is famous for the wines the region produces, but it also has several outstanding golf courses. Sarah Forrest visited three of them – here’s her feedback on how they play

A good Rioja – almost a standard British reply by some when trying to find a nice bottle of red for dinner. People know the Rioja name and know it is generally a good wine.

But what of the region itself? Located in the north of Spain, not too far from the French border, sits Logroño, the capital of the Rioja region. A busy but not insignificant town which comes to life after dark as the tapas and wine bars flow with locals and wine alike. A relaxed bohemian lifestyle which suits people of all ages as they mingle with ease, chatting loudly with each other. However, despite its hustle and bustle there is a certain calmness and restfulness about the place, one where I could wander around at night and feel safe walking back to my hotel, the Carlton Rioja, in the dark long after hours as the time had once again slipped away that evening.

Golf marketing is relatively new and the locals are keen to attract the golfing visitors to the region to not only show them the beauty of the landscapes but to share their extensive knowledge and encourage you to play some great golf a short distance from Logroño.

Club de Golf Sojuela is one of the most beautiful layouts with stunning views across vineyards towards mountainous ranges sharing their rocks with the vines. Sojuela is just 16km from Logroño.

A short course measuring just 5,200 off the yellows and 4,500 yards off the reds, enticing you to go for the green each time can lead you into some dangerous spots on the, in places, narrow fairways, but play it simply and the course will let you into the elusive birdie club.

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With major plans afoot for the Sojuela complex as a whole, it is surely going to become one of Spain’s great plays in the future.

Rioja Alta Golf Club is only slightly longer at 5,400 off the yellows and 4,800 yards off the reds; large greens taunt the inexperienced and experienced golfers alike.

Tree-lined with centuries’ old oak trees and lakes as the large greens pale into insignificance when confronted with some of the other natural obstacles; again keep it straight and so long as you’re not playing in autumn when the acorns are down leading to uneven, moving ground that feels like you’re playing off bubble wrap! A good golf course to suit all abilities.

The final in the trio, El Campo De Logroño, has a healthy local membership. This municipal golf course is almost certainly one not to be sniffed at – you will be surprised by its condition and layout, coupled with the clubhouse serving food that wins foodie titles all over the region. But it doesn’t stop there, a two-tiered utilitarian driving range and practice facilities dominate the landscape until you get out into the heart of the course where the steel structure is quickly and easily replaced with less harsh natural vistas.

The main challenge for the men is the length of the golf course measuring 5,400 yards from the yellows and a measly 4,500 from the reds, but the beauty of this course is the options to play a variety of tees to suit your ability. Wide open fairways and big greens are a good test of golf for all, bunkers played well being a grainy consistency, which allowed good drainage. Shots over ravines mean reaching for the driver off the tee on a few holes – this might not be the best club of choice.

Back in Logroño, an option is to take a guided walk around the city, a guide can enlighten you with such gems about the underground network of cellars where road carts were banned in the 16th century for fear of spoiling the wines underneath through their rattling and creaking above. And for something completely different engage with a wine guide, one who can show you how to marry the correct wine with the correct tapas – be prepared to be surprised how the wine changes its taste with the food it is paired with and some unexpected parings as the expert imparts his well researched knowledge. Learn how to look for younger and older wines and how to make some taste better! You will never be able to just pour out a glass of wine again without giving it deeper thought.

Sarah can be emailed via sarah@golfgurugroup.com

 

Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu March 28, 2018 05:49
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2 Comments

  1. wayne March 29, 10:59

    The combination of the Rioja wine region and southwest France is fantastic for golf, wine, gastronomy and more. Highly recommended and I have been there including a private tour of a Rioja winery.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Ruthie March 29, 16:27

    We have travelled to this region many times with Brittany Ferries Golf and I must say it is outstanding.

    Reply to this comment
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