El Paraiso Golf Club 50 years of history

Gary Player left his mark in the same way on the beautiful area of land known as Paraiso Valley, where he created what is considered to be one of the best designed golf courses in Andalucía, El Paraíso Golf.

David James Photography

Opened in 1973, El Paraiso Golf Club has the distinction of being Gary Player designed. As a designer, Gary Player has been involved in the construction of more than 400 golf courses in 35 countries, all with the same philosophy: courses designed to be suitable for both professionals and amateurs. Gary Player left his mark in the same way on the beautiful area of land known as Paraiso Valley, where he created what is considered to be one of the best designed golf courses in Andalucía.

Since 1973, El Paraiso has been at the centre of 50 years of golfing stories, stories of difficulties, but also of successes; the stories of people who had a vision and carried it through, and of those who have continued to develop it; of the members who love golf, but also a club that has united them throughout their lives; in short, the stories of the people who have made this anniversary possible.

Casa Club vintage-El Paraiso Golf


In 1960, when Belgium allowed the Republic of Congo to become an independent country, many Belgian families had to flee, one of them being the Mols family, who settled in southern Spain. In 1968, Bruno Mols and Fernando Gillis, his partner, bought 200 hectares of the Paraiso Valley, the land where the El Paraiso golf course would later be built.

In 1984, the course was sold to businessmen Alan James and Jorgan Mostrup, who became president and vice-chairman respectively. Alan James’ company, Bena Golf, began to organise competitions at El Paraiso, along with other golf tour operators, which really helped to boost the club’s reputation.

In the mid 80’s, construction firm Wimpey became interested in investing in the area as a marketing vehicle for its properties and all homebuyers were offered the opportunity to acquire full membership of the club. Hugh Maloney, as representative of Wimpey, attended the 1986 AGM of the club and subsequently the company decided to buy El Paraiso Golf Club. Maloney, as the link between the club and Wimpey, became the club’s chairman.

Perhaps the most significant part of the history of El Paraiso Golf Club was the members’ buyout. The majority owner of the club was Wimpey, but it had made a commercial decision to concentrate its interests in the UK and relinquish ownership of the course. Hugh Maloney managed to convince Wimpey’s directors that the members could finance the purchase. So the committee, with more than the required 50% approval, moved forward with the purchase.

Tuesday, 21st May 1996 was the big day for the members. After more than a year of negotiation, they were successful in buying the clubhouse and golf course from Wimpey, turning it into one of the few member-owned golf courses on the Costa del Sol. As such, all profits are invested into the club and course improvements.


The Members

From the outset, El Paraiso Golf Club was a magnet for British and Irish golfers coming to the Costa del Sol. By 1993 the club had over 400 members and, apart from golf, offered a very active social life. Today the club’s membership is made up of more than 23 nationalities and it has become an international club with an extensive calendar of events.

Throughout these 50 years, and possibly more so since the members bought the club, the history of El Paraiso has been linked to the stories of its members. Examples of these include the ladies’ collection to refurbish their changing rooms and the donation ‘in memoriam’ of the bridge between the 12th and 18th holes or for the purchase of trees for the course. There have also been donations of items for the dining room and old club heads dating from the 19th century and several course benches purchased by members, often in memory of deceased loved ones.

But perhaps the most valuable thing that members give to the club is their time. From the board to the club committee, to the many committees required for social activities, handicaps and the organisation of other events. A lot of it is unseen but it is the mainstay of the club and its ethos.

VINTAGE-El Paraiso Golf-43

The European Tour comes to El Paraiso

It was a real coup for the first owners of El Paraiso when the European Tour chose to come to the course in 1974 for an inaugural tournament of the PGA Tour. The tournament had a prize purse of three million pesetas and 156 national and international players took part. The competition was won by Peter Oosterhuis, a former British amateur champion who became a successful professional golfer and member of the Ryder Cup team. Among the Spanish players were names such as Piñero, Gallardo, Barrios and a very young Seve Ballesteros at the age of 16, and among the international players, Townsend, Barnes, Jacklin, Coles and De Vicenzo.



The Course 2010 – 2018

The course started out with only seven holes, the first of which was on the current 4th hole. It soon became nine holes at the end of 1973 and finally 18 holes. In those 50 years the course has been updated, especially in recent years as part of meeting the goals of saving water and sustainability, for which the club has undertaken reforms and investment in facilities and machinery.

Some minor changes were also made to the design and aesthetics of the course. Although funds were not available for major works, the greens’ chairman encouraged members to make private donations for trees, plants and bridges and, between 2010 and 2018, 334 new trees and large shrubs were planted.

Between 2014 and 2019, a lot of work was done to increase the visual appeal of the course, particularly with the laying out of new tees and more bridges. 27,000 euros were raised from private donations from members to enable the bridges on the 9th, 12th and 18th holes to be rebuilt in Casares stone.

Casares stone was also used to build walls and flowerbeds to enhance the entrance to the driving range. In 2015, the appearance of the course was further improved by the planting of a pair of rare trees whose Latin name is Tetraclinis Articulata, and which are now a protected species.

At that time the main priority was the replacement of the greens, which were by then more than forty years old. The first was a simple replacement of the existing one, followed by the 2nd and 12th. At that stage, the board decided that it would be desirable to have consistency in the redesign of the remaining greens, and an approach was made to Gary Player Design (GPD). Its vice-president Steven MacFarlane, a Scottish architect, agreed to prepare the designs and oversee the construction of the remaining fifteen greens, and also many of the course bunkers. These drawings were received in February 2014 and, since then, the board has worked with GPD to improve the overall character, functionality and playability of the course.


The course today 

All new greens were built to USGA specifications, as was the new enlarged putting green in front of the clubhouse and the new short-game practice area and green next to the 10th tee.

The practice ground also received attention. An improved artificial surface was provided for the shaded practice area and a members-only grass area was identified.

Surtec produced a comprehensive technical report highlighting what was needed to take the course to a sustainable next level. Areas for improvement were identified and procedures, costs, staffing levels and closure times were quantified. In addition, a major investment in machinery and technology was made at the time.

Following this report, it was agreed to create ‘naturalised’ areas to reduce maintenance and improve appearance, kikuyu grass contamination was eradicated from fairways, tees and rough and a comprehensive review of greens and collars was carried out to measure consistency of performance. As a result, all collars were renewed in 2020 and work began to fix an inner collar to prevent contamination of the greens. General work on the course continued through 2021 and 2022 with improvements to the paths, tee surrounds and drainage.


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