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Nicklaus designed courses have always been noted for the quality, and at times, quantity of their bunkering. At Hacienda Riquelme, full reign has been given to the Nicklaus designer's imagination! The award-winning, and championship, Hacienda Riquelme Golf Course is a cleverly structured Nicklaus Design 18 hole, par 72 links-styled parkland golf course with no two holes the same. The golf course has been built to international and championship standards - it features four sets of tees per hole - with shots made difficult by undulating fairways, deep bunkers, wild grasses, olive trees and water hazards. It has a range of elevations and uses the natural contours of the land to provide an exceptional golfing experience, presenting challenges to all levels of golfer. The golf course is 6416 metre long and covers an area of 71 hectares with a stunning mountain backdrop and panoramic views of the coast. The golf course is much longer than some others.
The course differs from the five others in the Nicklaus Golf Circuit (a group of six golf courses in the Región de Murcia, which make up Europe´s best golfing challenge). GNK Golf is a unique golfing experience, with the highest quality and design standards.
However, on Hacienda Riquelme, all of the residential properties are set back and further away from the course compared to some other golf complexes, giving a greater feeling of space. Hacienda Riquelme Golf offers ample fairways, combined with bunkers and hard to approach greens, all ready to complicate you game - this is a fun course that will bring the best shots out of every player. The course has been sculptured on land, which was once olive groves, and many mature trees have been retained in strategic positions. Whilst the fairways are quite expansive, the bunkering is prolific, capaciously cavernous with some almost 10 feet deep.
The golf course weaves its way through and around groves of olive trees, and five large lakes. Taking advantage of the site's larger scale, the course features wider-than-average fairways, allowing players plenty of room to play, whilst creating numerous strategic options.
The boldly contoured greens are sure to be the most talked about feature of the course. At first glance, the greens appear to be generously sized. However, many greens are multi-tiered, and broken into several sections, by strong elevation changes. Additionally, the greens also feature numerous subtle random contours and rolls, further complicating putting, making it crucial golfers play to the correct section of the green, in order to set up the easiest possible putt.
The unique bunkering creates a dramatic look, sure to set Hacienda Riquelme Golf apart from other courses. Many of these large rugged bunkers are very deep, with sand flashing, in places, up to three meters. The edges of the bunkers are cut in a jagged manner, further adding to their distinctiveness, whilst accenting the more rugged nature of the course.
In an interesting contrast to the other Nicklaus Golf Circuit courses, Hacienda Riquelme Golf's playing surfaces are grassed with the latest Paspalum varieties, decreasing the need for large amounts of fresh water. This leads the grass to stay in tip-top condition all year round, with less water usage.
All of these features combine to give Hacienda Riquelme Golf an older look and feel, establishing the resort as one of the most unique stops along the Nicklaus Golf Circuit.
Opening with a Par 4, of over 440 yards, requires you to be on your metal from the off. As if length is not enough of a challenge, you also need to negotiate a plethora of the Nicklaus, trademark bunkers, before reaching the putting surface. Enjoy, because this sets the scene for the rest of the round!
Another excellent example of Nicklaus’s strategic bunkering comes to the fore on the Par 5, 525 yards, 4th hole. A massive crater like bunker, which appears to be in the middle of the fairway, but is actually on the apex of the dog-leg, turns the tee shot into a classic risk and reward scenario. If you are brave enough to attempt the monumental carry over the trap, your ball will kick down the fairway, bringing the green within range for a well struck second shot. The conservative line to the right will almost certainly result in a conventional three shot strategy to reach the putting surface. You will be well satisfied to walk off the green having potted a par.
The front nine finishes with a flourish. A delightful dog-leg Par 4, the demanding drive is played over a lake (hopefully), which remains a constant companion down the right for the entirety of the hole. As a testament to the dramatic design of the course, there have already been a number of contenders for the title of “Signature Hole”.
The 11th is another hole with a strong claim. A Par 5, measuring 535 yards, the tee shot is not particularly punishing, providing the fairway bunkers are avoided. Assuming that a solid tee shot is executed efficiently into the fairway, you will be walking to your ball thinking that the hard part of playing the hole is over and that a birdie is now a distinct possibility. Imagine how your bravado will disappear as you sight the gargantuan glistening lake, which protects the last half of the hole to the left and alongside, which the green is precariously positioned. Two solidly struck shots of prodigious proportions are needed if you harbour aspirations of putting for eagle.
The course climaxes with a crescendo on the closing hole and despite the 4th and 11th holes being prime candidates for the accolade of “Signature Hole,” many will feel that the 18th pips them at the post. A Par 4, playing just under 450 yards from the Tiger tees, it epitomises the saying “keeping the best till last”. A daunting drive dispatched over water is required. Anything launched left will be consigned to a watery grave. Landing on terra firma only offers a modicum of respite, as you now need to negotiate the same lake with your second shot to reach the sanctuary of the green. Catch the ball a trifle heavy, drag it ever so slightly left, and you will be left muttering those immortal words “hacienda that!”
Although the course concludes with a hole dominated by water, the sheer beauty and quality of the bunkering will last long in your memory!
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