Campo de golf del Parador de El Saler pg.ii

Fourth hole, 190/170 yards; Arana liked to pull bunkers forward on one shot holes, so gaining depth perception is no mean feat. Here, the back third of the green swoops right to a high shallow plateau where it must be the dickens to get close. During the round the author became readily aware of how the difficulty of most holes could change based on the day’s hole location. This is especially true at El Saler given the size of many of the greens. Bernhard Langer’s record breaking round of 62 in 1984 during the Spanish Open is hard to fathom. Even though the conditions were soft and the wind down, the author would love to see the pin sheet to determine the mix of hard and easy hole locations employed that historic day.

The easiest hole location makes the 4th a cheerier proposition to tackle than when the hole is placed long back right, which forces the golfer to summon the courage to fly it a good ten yards beyond the right greenside bunker.

Fifth hole, 520/495 yards; The golf emerges from a treed environment into the open with the first time golfer unsure what he will find over the crest of a dune. Full kudos to Arana, who does a masterful job of incorporating a dune line that runs at an oblique angle to the shore into the next three holes.

Long right is the shortest route over the dune and provides the optimal angle into the fifth green, hence the two bunkers cut into the hillside.

Arana snuggled the 5th green into the base of the dune.

The back left pocket is particularly appealing.

Sixth hole, 445/425 yards; So far, the golf has been charming as opposed to ferocious but that changes with this brute. One of Europe’s grand holes, the sixth heads back over the same dune that the golfer crossed at the fifth. As opposed to a reachable three shotter, this one is a half par hole in the other direction, i.e. a daunting two shotter where par is dearly won. Playing the fifth and sixth in nine strokes is the goal but the author ventures to say that is as often accomplished by going 4-5 as the 5-4 suggested by the scorecard. Wind makes a big difference as they play in opposite directions but it is the polar opposite green complexes that fascinate. At the fifth, the green is at grade and balls scurry on from well back. The sixth is perched with a steep six foot ramp that be adroitly scaled. It sheds most shots while the saucer fifth green complex is gathering in nature. The pair are a fine example of holes that complement each other by posing complete questions to the golfer. Six is also a prime example of a world class hole, of the sort that you only need to face once or twice in a round. Numerous such holes on one course would overwhelm the vast majority of players. While the odds are stacked against the golfer, on the rare occasion when he hits the green, it becomes seared into his memory.

The second of three consecutive tee shots where the fairway is higher than the tee. Arana surely delighted in hitting a draw to the top and then …

… a fade from a most unreasonable distance of ~190 yards to this angled plateau green. Such a switch back hole allows the better player to showcase his talents. Most golfers will have to fashion a low runner that climbs the dramatic false front.

Seventh hole, 360/345 yards; The seventh parallels the two prior holes and is similar off the tee in the context of unsettling optics across rolling land. The 46 yard long green features another steep rise, the third hole to do so among the first seven. It is an unusual feature that puts short grass front and center. Remembering that El Saler was built in 1967, Arana’s use of tight, short grass and his desire to see balls swept away augured the short grass rage that took hold some four (!) decades later. Colt’s St. Germaine outside of Paris has a few steep banks and one can’t help but wonder the connection.

A pair of fairway bunkers guard the best angle into the long narrow green. The above photograph also captures one of the joys of a game at El Saler: the ever shifting and always appealing backdrops.

The golf bag highlights the steepness and magnitude of the ‘tongue’ in the 7th green.

Not only do a pair of bunkers pinch the front of the green, a pair of out-of-sight bunkers are found long. The effective hitting area of the top plateau is 26 yards deep, making it – appropriately – one of the day’s most exacting targets.

Eighth hole, 360/340 yards; A very well-conceived position hole has its fairway jog to the right away from the shoreline but in a design master stroke, Arana placed the green left of a tall dune and flush to the shoreline. The right half of the green is two feet higher than the left so that high right hole locations are tricky to find from anywhere other than the left half of the fairway.

Played along the shoreline, left of the fence is ‘fuera de limites’ and a golfer doesn’t need to speak Spanish to know what that means. Still, the closer one can play down the left side of the fairway, the easier the approach.

Looking back down the 8th, the challenge of finding the high right section is evident.

Ninth hole, 155/140 yards; The golfer turns his back to the sea and tackles the only one shotter that heads in a westerly direction. Played over broken ground, the green is well-situated in a hollow that is handsomely framed by indigenous plants. The shortest approach shots on the first nine fall on four of the most exposed holes (e.g. the fifth, seventh, eighth, and ninth), so the ability to flight down your short irons is a skill that is rewarded at El Saler.

A teaser of a one shotter concludes the first nine. A long bunker that hugs the left side of the green is obscured by the plant growth. Consequently, it is one of the most highly trafficked bunkers on the course!

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