Marbs, as certain raffish reality TV characters call it, occupies a prime location by the Med on southern Spain’s Sunshine Coast. Behind this famous tourist town rises the jagged Sierra Blanca mountain range. You can shop, swim, hike, or mountain-bike, but most visitors are here to play a round with their balls. Thanks to the region’s hundred or so courses, it’s also known as the Costa del Golf. Prepare to improve your handicap.
In 1954, the fantastically named German Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe-Langenburg opened the doors to his Marbella Club Hotel, then a modest, 18-roomed affair set amid tropical gardens that slope down to the beach. In the 60s, it played host to jet-set figures, Hollywood stars and royalty, from Brigitte Bardot to Cary Grant. Today, it has 121 rooms and suites, a spa, gym and wellness centre, and still draws the rich and famous, attracted by its serene atmosphere and impeccable service. While laid out like a traditional Spanish village, many of the rooms have been slickly renovated, in creams and whites with pops of turquoise or red. Outside, your own little patch of garden has sun-loungers and hammocks.
The hotel has three main restaurants, the most formal of which is the elegant, candle-lit Grill, which serves up expertly cooked cuts of locally sourced meat and fish. The MC Beach offers a delicious lunch buffet, from fresh lobster, to octopus, salmon, oysters and salads, with seafood and steak cooked to order, while the MC Café dishes up burgers and sushi in a relaxed atmosphere. But don’t miss a cocktail at the delightfully retro Champagne Room first.
Whatever your golf level, you’ll be impressed by the hotel’s Dave Thomas-designed 18 hole, par 72 course, which undulates over lush, green hills and valleys, often involving sending shots over small ravines. There’s also a smaller, 9 hole course nearby, El Higueral. Green fees for both are complimentary for guests. Practice your swing on the driving range, or book a refresher lesson from course pro Gary Vautier, who uses photo technology to correct – then improve – your stance. Under his expert, and very patient, guidance, this novice went from continuously missing the ball to whacking it a good 100 yards (hey, it’s a start). Golf, it turns out, is quite tiring, especially on the back, so a relaxing thalassotherapy massage at the spa afterwards was essential.
And after that:
The cobbled streets, tapas bars and churches of Marbella’s Old Town are a 20-minute stroll away, as are the designer boutiques and bars of Puerto Banus. If you have a car, plan some day trips; you can be in the historic, Moorish city of Ronda in just 45 minutes, while Gibraltar, with its rock and infamous Barbary macaque monkeys, can be reached in just over an hour.
Need to know:
The Marbella Club rooms start at €380 per night; book via marbellaclub.com or call +34 952 82 22 11. The hotel also has 15 finca-style villas; including the luxurious, 6,200 sqft, 6-bedroom Villa Del Mar, which will set you back a mere €84,000 per week. Well, if it’s good enough for Lady Gaga. British Airways flies regularly from Gatwick to Malaga from £79 return; book at ba.com or call 0844 493 0787