Malaga and Granada form the pulsing heart of Andalucia, home to bullfighting, white villages in the sierra and the densest concentration of golf resorts outside Florida. It takes nerves of steel to negotiate the racetrack coast road between Malaga and Gibraltar, but those locked into the pursuit of the little dimpled ball love the area for its rich variety. The favourite alternatives are lying on the beach (usually a fine golden strand with loungers stretching into the distance) or exploring the hinterland.
The jewels in the interior are headed by the Alhambra, in Granada, the fortified ‘crimson castle’ built by Emirs from the 13th century onwards on a defensive site established 400 years earlier. The huge complex is hauntingly beautiful, with elaborately tiled linked courtyards and exotic grounds. Relax in the gardens of the Generalife, a fairytale, 14th-century Moorish summer palace set among flowers and fountains.
Cordoba’s mosque-cathedral, built for Islam, now Catholicism, presents another side of Moorish culture, with distinctive red-and-white arches and courtyards filled with orange groves. As the movement to ban bullfighting spreads — it’s already forbidden in Catalunya — Andalucia stands firmly in its favour, and nowhere more so than Cordoba, home both to the legendary matador, Manolete and the Bullfighting Museum.
Don’t miss: the 18th-century Plaza de Toros in Ronda, a mountain-top town of two halves linked by a stone bridge across the vertiginous El Tajo gorge.
Real (Royal) Valderrama
Spain’s enduring love affair with Seve Ballesteros peaked in 1997 when he masterminded a home Ryder Cup victory at the first venue on the European mainland. The Robert Trent Jones Sr layout, financed in 1985 by Bolivian silver tycoon, Jaime Ortiz Patino, was worthy of the occasion. American golf architect Kyle Phillips has completed a major refurbishment in 2017, and there’s a second course in the pipeline.
As it celebrates its 10th anniversary, the best course in the Malaga area is an established top tournament venue. The fairways cut a swathe through a valley, with over 100 bunkers. Current Masters champion Sergio Garcia says, “The greens are impressive and have nothing to envy Augusta National”, so a serious challenge is guaranteed.
This golf resort 30, minutes from Gibraltar, centres on an estate once owned by the Domecq sherry family. Two courses wind through cork forests in the foothills of the Sierra Bermeja. The Old is traditionally British, with input from Tony Jacklin; the New an American design by Perry Dye. A round on each with buggy, £199.