Europes Augusta National allows public tee times


Host of the European Tour's Andalucia Masters this week, some call Valderrama Golf Club on Spain's Costa Del Sol the 'Augusta of Europe.'

But beyond the course's prestige, they're not all that alike. Valderrama has bermuda greens and tight fairways in a cork forest, for starters. Under 7,000 yards, big tee shots aren't rewarded like at free-swinging Augusta, but the hole variety and demand on shot-making is second-to-none. (Read my review of Valderrama)

One major difference in Valderrama's favor is that while it's easily the most coveted play on Spain's south coast and perhaps all of continental Europe, the club offers blocks of public tee times almost daily. Charging €300-320, it helps fatten the club's pockets and also shows appreciation to the many who spread the club's lore when watching events on TV. Guests aren't allowed in certain areas of the club and are only allowed on the range 30 minutes before their tee time, but few complain about it.

The Costa Del Sol must love Valderrama's policy too, as it attracts luxury golf groups here to make it the focal point of their trip. Nearby semi-privates such as Finca Cortesin Golf Club, San Roque Club and La Reserva de Sotogrande all receive some spin-off.

I've said for a while that a nice gesture by Augusta National would be to set aside an hour of tee times every Monday and open them up to a lottery, sort of like St. Andrews – although announce results more in advance so groups can make travel plans. Members would hardly notice six hours of public intrusion out of the week, and it would show some appreciation to the millions who have drooled over the exclusive club for decades.