Sotogrande: The creation of the resort
The creation of the Sotogrande area within the borough of San Roque came about through a series of fortunate circumstances in 1962. A marketing director for the airline Swissair decided to give away free tickets to a few loyal customers. One of these lucky individuals was Fredy Melian, an executive of the Ayala Corporation in Manila, Philippines, who decided to make the most of this opportunity by visiting Spain, the country of his forefathers.
By chance, his boss Joseph McMicking called him the night before his departure to entrust to him an important task: to find a plot of land in the Mediterranean basin for the construction of a luxury resort. Although this meant that Fredy's holidays were over, it was a crucial step towards the creation of the globally renowned residential area of Sotogrande and one that would see Fredy soon rewarded with the leadership of the company.
The goal was to find a large estate with at least one kilometre of coastline, as well as abundant water reserves and easy accessibility. The first option identified by Melian was to purchase almost the entirety of Isla Formentera in the Balearic archipelago. However, he decided to travel the length of Spain's Mediterranean coast by motorbike and he collected the proposals that he would take back with him to the Philippines.
After meticulously studying the different options, Joseph McMicking and his nephews Jaime and Enrique Zobel decided to buy the Paniagua estate, situated in the borough of San Roque, very near to the Rock of Gibraltar. In this location there was enough water available thanks to the Guadiaro river, a nearby airport in the British Overseas Territory and the option to buy the adjacent estates: Sotogrande, Conchudo and Valderrama.
The authorities of the Franco regime didn't hinder McMicking's plans for Sotogrande, despite this being an era when foreigners were not permitted to buy land without the consent of the armed forces. Also, the location of the resort within a sensitive area miltiarily - if you consider the proximity to Gibraltar and Morocco - would've suggested a different attitude to the development but fortunately this wasn't the case.
Royal Sotogrande Golf Club:
A Championship course
La Playa polo field:
In 1964, McMicking had already employed the world's foremost golf architect, Robert Trent Jones, and given him his choice of the estate's land for the first golf course. The resort would then be built around it.
The first road in Sotogrande would become, what is now known as, the Paseo del Parque, the most emblematic avenue of the resort, This access route paved the way for the construction of the first bungalows on the fringes of the Royal Sotogrande Golf Club.
The visionary McMicking opted to have underground electrical wiring and piping and designed the streets to match plans of American highways.
The first polo field in Sotogrande was built in 1965. The mythical La Playa polo field was situated next to Real Club de Golf Sotogrande and El Cucurucho Beach Club. In 1971, teams competed for the inaugural edition of the famous Sotogrande Gold Cup.
Since the 1960’s Santa María Polo Club has become one of the most important polo clubs in Europe, where this equestrian sport can be enjoyed 365 days of the year. It is also the only polo club in the world to hold two ranking events on the international circuit every year: the Silver Cup and the Gold Cup.
Tennis Hotel Sotogrande:
The first accommodation
A journey to exclusivity
This fabulous hotel was opened in 1965 in the early days of the celebrated resort of Sotogrande. It was built by Sotogrande S.A on the orders of its founder Joseph McMicking.
The planning on the initial project was taken on by the reputed Madrid architect José Antonio Corrales Gutiérrez, nephew of another important architect, Gutiérrez Soto, who designed the club house of the Real Club de Gold Sotogrande and the first bungalows in Sotogrande. His work was declared as a point of cultural interest of the historical heritage of Andalusia.
The project to create a marina was being planned from the very beginning of the resort, however it would only be opened in July 1987. Adminsitrative concessions from the state were requested in order to create the Sotogrande Port Supervisory Body and construct the first buildings and moorings. Juan Miguel Villar Mir (ex Finance and Public administration minister of the first post-Franco democratic government of Spain) and the head engineer, José Cano, spearheaded the project. Currently the director of Puerto Sotogrande S.A. is Ramiro Fernández Gonzaléz-
From the early days of Sotogrande, the idea of building a "Mini Venice" - a marina with artificial islands - was being discussed and it was with this goal that Sotogrande S.A purchased the suitable land on the left bank of the Guadiaro estuary. In the early 1990s the decision was taken to build a small lakeside town with luxury apartments nestled on islands and riverbanks, which is what can now be appreciated in the Marina area.
Valderrama and the 97 Ryder Cup:
Recognition of a world-class destination *****
When we talk about world-leading golf clubs, a select few courses come to mind: Saint Andrews, Augusta, The Belfry and without doubt, Valderrama.
This San Roque course can be proud, not only of being the number one golf course in Continental Europe every year since 1989, but also of being one of the best worldwide according to top professionals and golf journalists.
The tournaments Valderrama has been hosted are impressive: host of the 1997 Ryder Cup, host of the Volvo Masters (1986-1996 and 2002-2008), venue for the WGC American Express Championship (1999-2000) and the Andalucía Masters (2010-2011).
It is a unique natural enclave that is, for many, the masterpiece of the prestigious US golf architect Robert Trent Jones. Built in 1974, the course was originally called New Sotogrande and later, in 1981, it was called Las Aves (The Birds).
In 1984, Jaime Ortiz Patiño purchased the course to turn it into a professional course capable of hosting golf events of the highest level. Robert Trent Jones was asked to come back and redesign the original layout. Mr Patiño also decided to change the name of the club to Valderrama after the old country estate that was situated here previously.
The result is a course that would provide a testing challenge for any golfer. The fairways pass through an area containing over three thousand cork-oaks, two thousand stone pines and some five hundred olive trees, Two lakes were created and almost ten million hectares of land for construction was added around the playing area.
The fairways, greens and holes of Valderrama are silent testaments to a series of golf events that for some time have formed part of the history of professional golf in the modern age.
The perfect tourist destination of today and tomorrow.
Nowadays Sotogrande has 4 of the 9 golf courses in the borough of San Roque: Valderrama (number one in continental Europe), Royal Sotogrande Golf Course (number 7 in continental Europe), Almenara Golf and La Reserva Golf Club.
In addition, 6 of the 9 polo fields of Santa María Polo Club are situated in this residential area.
That's not to forget the other top class sport facilities nearby such as the Sotogrande Marina, which is perfect for those that love sailing and nautical sports, and includes the Real Cub Marítimo de Sotogrande amongst it's state of the art facilities.
There are also tennis and padel clubs: Sotogrande Racquet Center and El Octógono, an equestrian centre, Centro Hípico Sotogrande, and two beach clubs, El Cucurucho and El Octógono.
Furthermore, Sotogrande is home to some of the most luxurious hotels in the borough of San Roque: Hotel Almenara ****, Hotel Sotogrande **** and Hotel Club Marítimo Sotogrande ****. Almenara also has its own spa and wellness centre: Sotogrande Health Resort
Finally, in a commerical sense, Sotogrande and the surrounding Guadiaro Valley area has a range of shops and other businesses for tourists and residents in the following locations: Puerto Sotogrande, Supercor/ Sotomarket shopping centre, Paniagua shopping centre/ Plaza Blanca, Mar y Sol shopping centre and in Pueblo Nuevo the Sotovila shopping centre.
Sotogrande has undoubtedly become a model resort for residential tourism and a paradise for those that are looking for a holiday destination synonymous with quality and tranquility, far away from mass tourism and the consant flashing of cameras.
Information Centre and Sotogarnde S.A. Reservations
Hotel Almenara Tel: 902 181 836
Sotogrande estate agency: 956 790 224
Official Sotogrande web page
San Roque borough tourist office
Tel: +34 956 694 005
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, from 8.00am until 3.00pm (8.00am to 2.00pm from July 15th - September 15th)