Valderrama II – La Zagaleta Group’s grand project

Interview with Jacobo Cestino, CEO of La Zagaleta Group

Cestino & Doak- Valderrama II

La Zagaleta has appointed prestigious golf-course architect Tom Doak to design the golf element at its Sotogrande area development which has been known up to now as Valderrama II. The project, which is scoped to have 18 or 36 holes, already has all permits in place to start construction as soon as Tom Doak’s designs are ready.

Valderrama 07, a subsidiary of La Zagaleta Group, is working with the name MAJARAMBUZ for its entire golf development. It is committed to this project becoming one of the most exclusive golf clubs in continental Europe. We spoke to Jacobo Cestino, CEO of La Zagaleta Group, about the main aspects of what will be a point of reference for both tourism and sport in Andalucía.


La Zagaleta Group began to scope out the project back in 2016 and it will now finally come to fruition with the creation of an all-round resort. Tell us more about what it will feature?

At the end of 2016, ZAGALETA launched an ambitious expansion plan in the area of Sotogrande with the acquisition of the group of companies Valderrama, with included the iconic Real Club de Valderrama and the plots of land where the new private resort with its own identity will be located. This area was known as Valderrama II, created by Mr. Jaime Ortiz-Patiño 15 years ago.

The starting point for La Zagaleta was to create an exclusive destination of worldwide reputation in Castellar de la Frontera that will attract a wide range of guests and families.

First thing we did is adapting the original Project to the future. We have maintained the vision that was originally conceived by Jaime Ortiz-Patiño, but adding the values and philosophy of La Zagaleta to the projected resort, which essentially was a championship golf course that paid little attention to the rest of the resort.

In principle, the Resort has been planned with four different components: The residential, the hospitality, the golf and other leisure and nature-connected features.

The residential will comprise a total number of 62 single villas and another 40 units of luxury condominiums, hospitality component will consist in a 120-150 keys luxury boutique hotel plus around 120 branded residences in sale & leaseback operation. The golf side will include a World Championship golf course of 18 or 36 holes which will be unique in Europe, designed by Mr. Tom Doak. The resort will also contain equestrian facilities, a comercial area and bio facilities for the enjoyments of the families and the community in general.

The project vision is to create a world-renowned, exclusive destination in Castellar de la Frontera surrounded by land protected for its great natural beauty. What is the setting like? 

The land on which this exclusive development will be located is in the municipality of Castellar de la Frontera, with a total area of almost 220 hectares of privileged South oriented surroundings, next to the north side of Sotogrande. Considered as the most interesting land bank in the area, it consists of a meadow of exceptional national beauty with preservation of wildlife; at the same time, it is very near to the famous luxurious meeting place at the beach, golf and equestrian facilities.

It is no secret that Sotogrande and its area of influence is one of the most consolidated quality tourist destinations in Europe and the world. If we add to that, the solidity of the destination and the recognition of the Valderrama-Jaime Ortiz-Patiño brands, we come to the conclusion that, our commitment to the Project and the municipality is genuine and long-term.

The brand and development strategy of Sotogrande were created by the American Joseph Mc Miking and the Filipino Enrique Zobel in 1962. Today, Sotogrande is one of the top tourist and residential destinations in the world. The design of its avenues and the configuration of its residential, tourist, sports and social areas give it a unique mark that has transformed the brand into a destination that brings together several municipalities. Golf is closely linked to the development of Sotogrande and Valderrama, establishing itself worldwide with the celebration of the Ryder Cup in 1997. The epicentre in Spain for Horse riding and specially Polo, is in Sotogrande, thanks to the prestigious Ayala, and Santa María Polo Club, which since 1971 have organized one of the world’s largest polo tournaments, such as the Sotogrande Golf Cup

The La Zagaleta project in Castellar is a great commitment towards the natural environment, promoting inland tourism, complemented by the practice of activities related to nature and sports, which breaks the high seasonality of sun and beach of the majority of other tourism projects in Andalusia.

To achieve this, it was necessary to broaden the scope and content of the original project of the Patiño family, giving the current project its own substantivity to sports activities, expanding the scope and content of all activities.

In addition, the area of influence, including the Campo de Gibraltar, has excellent communications with the rest of Andalusia and has a wide variety of services, schools, medical centres, sports facilities, restaurants, etc.

The target of this project is wealthy foreigners, international businessmen, and it is appreciated for its discreet and relaxed atmosphere, closely related to activities such as horse riding, golf and polo. Although it attracts the attention and interest of much of the world, the prevailing atmosphere is, in fact, familiar and calm.

Besides, the Sotogrande harbour with capacity for 1,382 berths and its marina add a specific value to the area thanks to its excellent commercial, restaurant and leisure facilities.

La Zagaleta is known as one of the most exclusive residential estates in Europe. Has this new project been conceived in the image and likeness of La Zagaleta? What will be its distinguishing features?

Both inland municipalities (Benahavís y Castellar) start from a similar situation in terms of surface area and population and both are neighbour of municipalities with greater historical development, such as Marbella and San Roque. The addition of Zagaleta to the surroundings of Castellar de la Frontera will help the transformation and growth of the wealth of the municipality of Castellar and that of its inhabitants.

The implementation of a rational model with gradual growth over the years will produce, in the same was as in Behanavís, an exponential increase in the level of quality of life and well-being of its population, avoiding migration to other municipalities.

Our model includes, within corporate social responsibility, the link between the development we pursue with the leadership of public initiative projects for the promotion of housing, and environmental improvement projects within the municipality of Castellar de la Frontera

A couple of years after our takeover, in 2018, la Zagaleta Group commissioned a world leader in its class, -WATG- a UK based global multi-disciplinary design firm specializing in Strategy, Master Planning, Architecture and Landscaping, to work and conceive the Valderrama II Master Plan.

After delivering the final draft of the Master-Plan, the main conclusion that transpires from the endless hours of work in the Word of WATG principals is that “Valderama II will deliver a truly world-class golf course, establishing a new standard for Continental Europe and for Southern Spain. The estate will be anchored by a stunning hotel and exclusive residential community”

The principles values, which will permeate the resort will be: Experiential: basement screening rooms, rooftop gardens, edible landscapes, resort recreational parks, party pools, ‘pop-up’ restaurants, eclectic artwork. Socialisation: encouragement of local ‘community’ use of facilities and amenities to generate revenues, loyalty and sense of animation. Greater innovation in the design of resort villages and community energy centres. Efficiency: compact but animated public areas, shrinking bedrooms, shower ‘n’ go bathrooms, efficient back of house -focus on return per sqm. Flexibility:  chameleon spaces that are designed to change character and are revenue generating by day and by night. Informality: fun and casual food & beverage and MICE spaces, “grab ‘n’ go” cafés, less austere reception areas and focus on friendly and informal service.

In that sense, our primary objective is creating sense of community. Do not forget that many master planned communities lack a cohesive “energy centre” where residents and visitors can socialise, people watch and spend money. The best examples are those that mesh together artisan, convenience and lifestyle retail alongside ‘experiential’ components and public open spaces. The best resort villages are sized to the resident community and showcase the environs in which they are located.

On another subject, we are considering a very interesting trend, which is known as “edible resorts”, growth in farm-to-table and ocean-to-plate experiences are a priority on travellers’wish list. People are fatigued with decision making and pretension, which is why menu -free dining and ultra-minimalistic restaurants are now part of the F&B culture.

We are studying and implementing edible landscape strategies like “Kitchen gardens”, which will meet optimally the families wishes. This definitely transforms unattractive spaces into an edible landscape feature.

Al lot of this lies on some ‘Luxury Link’ surveys of high-end global travellers indicating that 40% of consumers want a holiday that is ‘foodie focussed’ with local cuisine / cooking classes.

An innovative, authentic and fun approach to the destination’s food and beverage strategy is essential to luxury and exclusive resorts.

For all these reasons WATG has foccused the masterplan on a connected community, with local food growing and green corridor with outdoor activities for the family.

The resort will have first-class sports facilities, in particular a golf course which will be the first in Spain designed by prestigious architect Tom Doak and only the second in continental Europe. Why did you choose Tom Doak?

As everybody knows, we were very committed with golf to be an essential element of the project, for that reason and after a thouroghly study of the world best golf courses, we were absolutely convinced that we had to appoint the best posible golf architect in the world who were also available to do the job.

Many times I have been asked why in an area such as Sotogrande, with nine golf courses, would a new golf club or a new golf course be necessary. If you’re going to develop an average golf club, there will probably be no demand for it. The key is to build and design a top golf course. This applies to any other sector in the world. Always aim for the top.

You need to have a superb golf design and superb golf club and a history behind. If your development is new, like ours, then you must have a big name behind. That’s precisely why we appointed Mr. Tom Doak.  We knew from the start that we had to have one of the top architects: Coore & Crenshaw, Tom Doak, Gil Hanse o Dana Fry.

The world of golf knows very well Tom Doak. He has 6 courses ranked among the top 100 in the world according to the “Top 100 Courses in the World” March 2021 list compiled by Golf Magazine. These include Pacific Dunes in Oregon, Ballyneal in Colorado, Barnbougle Dunes in Tasmania and Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand.

Doak is a “minimalist” designer. Minimalism is a school of golf design that focuses on concentrating the design of a golf hole (or routing) around the natural features of the land. His most successful courses have been built on sand dunes, taking advantage of the sandy soil for drainage and also allowing for the reuse of native elements.

We are completely sure that Doak’s design will be a key milestone in continental Europe, and specially in Spain. Bear in mind that Majarambuz will be his first design in Spain and second in Continental Europe. It will definitely enhance the level of the golf offer in the Costa del Sol and Sotogrande, and will put our area in the focus of the best golf pasionates and travellers in the world.

The name of the golf development will be Majarambuz and you have recently stated that “it is going to be considered one of the most challenging golf resorts in the world”. What will the course be like?

We have already received the preliminary routings of the 36 holes from Tom Doak. We are now studying and assessing its effect over the resort. What we can say right now is that the layouts are very exciting. competitive and will last for a long time in the present golf environment where distance seems to be one of the main threats for many good golf courses around the world.

It is still very premature to disclose the appearance of the golf courses, but knowing Tom Doak as we know him, the outcome will be very much integrated in the nature, respecting the environment as much as possible.

With regards to the Majarambuz Golf Club it will be considered one of Continental Europe’s most exclusive golf clubs. Membership will be strictly by invitation, and becoming a member will be notoriously difficult. The club will have a limited membership of approximately 300, and there will likely be a multi-year waiting list to join.

One of the reasons for Majarambuz’s exclusivity will be the outstanding design by Tom Doak and his team and, of course, the immaculate maintenance conditions of the top-notch golf facilities themselves. Majarambuz will widely be regarded as one of the most challenging courses in the world. As such, the club will require guests to have a low-mid handicap to play the course, further cementing its status as a particular aim for serious golfers.

Another factor that will contribute to Majarambuz’s exclusivity will be its location. The club will be situated in a secluded area of Castellar/Sotogrande, and access to the course will be limited to members, their guests, and users of the Hotel and Branded Residences of the Resort. Nonetheless, access to the Club House will be strictly for Club Members and their guests. This privacy will add to the mystique of Majarambuz Club and enhance its reputation as a select destination for golfers.

The process of becoming a member will be notoriously strict and challenging. These factors combine to make Majarambuz Club a truly unique golf refuge.


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