The Hacker: Heaven on earth as lack of pressure helps me to reign in Spain

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The Independent Online

After all the hell we suffer on earth there must be a heaven for hackers and I think I've just found it.

Imagine a stunningly beautiful course on a hot sunny day with a gentle breeze cooling the lush, rolling fairways high in the hills with distant glimpses of the Mediterranean. And not a soul in sight.

No one in front to hold you up and, more importantly, no clamour from those behind to get a move on.

A man could cock-up a shot and feel no need to look furtively around for mocking witnesses. It was the most relaxing, unhurried round of golf I've ever played and certainly one of the most pleasurable. Yet, I felt guilty. This happened last Sunday on a Bank Holiday weekend in which courses all over Europe were swarming with golfers.

In my selfless pursuit of experiences I can pass on to readers, I'd been invited by the Marbella Club Hotel and Golf Resort to sample some of their facilities and I couldn't believe their course was so deserted on the morning I'd played.

I expressed my concern to their sales and marketing director Carlos Quereda and he looked puzzled when I asked if the credit crunch was the cause. "But it is always like this," he said. "The course is open only to the hotel guests and the residents of the villas around the course. It is never crowded and that's why it is in such good condition."

The course was built in 1999 under the supervision of renowned designer Dave Thomas and was created out of the most unlikely terrain amid the rugged Benahavis hills. It added another dimension to the Marbella Club which from the 1950s helped to establish the Costa del Sol as a high-class playground.

Founded by Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe, the Marbella Club attracted the titled heads of Europe, deposed kings and other assorted aristocracy, playboys and top film stars from Bridget Bardot onward.

It has been under new management for 15 years but still retains the glamorous touch with three great restaurants, and two swimming pools and its accommodation ranges from luxury villas to apartments dotted around acres of mature gardens leading down to the sea.

The golf course is a 15-minute shuttle-bus ride up a precipitous road into the hills. There's another course further on called Monte Mayor which is also carved out of steep and rocky valleys but is a far more ferocious and less fair test. The Marbella Club course is no push-over, and it would take a Ranulph Fiennes to tackle it without a buggy, but with wide fairways meandering through the tree-lined slopes and with staggering views from elevated tees even the toughest holes are a delight.

I didn't do too badly and chipped in for a birdie at the 180-yard par-3 ninth. The total lack of pressure helped me to start hitting the ball well.

Afterwards, at the hotel's sumptuous Thalasso spa, I had been booked in for a relaxing massage by Raquel and what better after a round of golf than to lie back and reflect on all the shots you'd made.

Unfortunately, the massage lasted only an hour and I still had plenty of shots left to think about.