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IMAGINE a stranger invites you in to their new home - and you proceed to walk all over their recently-laid carpets in your outdoor shoes.

That is how it felt to be traversing the magnificently manicured greens of the Abama course in Tenerife just seven days after it opened.

The natural inclination might be to associate the island with those looking for a bar rather than those looking to save par, but Tenerife is gaining deserved recognition as a highly desirable golfing destination.

Abama is the latest jewel to be set in the island's golfing crown and certainly goes out of its way to bedazzle with its lush, palm-tree lined fairways, its championship-standard greens - more than a hint of Augusta here with scarcely a flat putt to be found - and state of the art buggies. These, essential for all but the most robust player on a course which climbs high into the local hills, are equipped with GPS, a high-tech aid to club selection. A monitor in front of the passenger seat displays a graphic of the hole being played, showing yardages (or rather distances in metres) to every part of the hole from wherever the buggy is brought to rest.

The feeling of being at the birth of a golfing adventure was somewhat surreally enforced at the fifth hole where our group was dive-bombed by a stork, which may have mistaken our golf balls for eggs.

Tenerife golf seems to have placed a special emphasis on working with the environment and its inhabitants, and this is particularly so at Tecina, still in its infancy at two years old, but which has bedded in amazingly well on the hillside just above the fishing village of Playa Santiago on La Gomera, an adjacent island just a brief ferry-ride away. Now it is my turn to let my imagination take flight and my destination would be Kew Gardens, for a round at Tecina is not unlike playing in a botanical garden. A desalination plant was constructed to ensure the course could support all the terrain's native flora and fauna.

The eye thus becomes captivated by the colour of plants such as geraniums, bougainvillea and gazanias, as well as the breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and Mount Teide. A tiered, terraced display of flowers between the fifth tee and sixth green is particularly stunning.

Don't let yourself be too distracted, however. The holes on this par-71 course - designed by renowned architect Donald Steel - cascade horizontally back and forth from the first to the 18th, a drop of 175 metres, and although most present the golfer with a flat lie, the course demands thought on placement of both the drive and approach shot.

Recent visitors to the Costa Adeje course back on the mainland who may have been immune to the visual charms of their surroundings because they were so focused on their game were Europe's top women golfers, for this layout is home to the Ladies European Tour's Tenerife Open. Here stones abound on almost every fairway - without threatening to damage your golf club heads. Fifty thousand square metres of dry stone walls are a legacy of the land's former use as a banana plantation.

Their retention is very pleasing on the eye, as is the view on reaching the fifth tee from where cliffs plunge down to a bay which, on my visit, housed both a modern multi-million pound motor launch and a replica galleon; a sight that will linger much longer in the memory than my tee shot to this 135-yard hole, which found a greenside bunker.

Costa Adeje's fairways are generous, but its bunkers - filled with black volcanic dust - are tricky for the first-time visitor and are used on many holes as a substitute for rough.

Curiously, it appears easier to play long distance shots from this dry, flat surface than from 100 yards in to the green.

Appropriately the fourth and last course played during the trip, Las Americas, was visited on a Saturday for the feel of this charming and friendly club is of weekend golf here in England. While water encroaches on a handful of holes, this is parkland golf - not too long, but challenging and a course which could be played every day during a week's holiday without becoming boring. It is relatively flat, with just one climb to be tackled to reach holes five to eight, the last of which is an enticing 175-yard par 3.

The curved walls of neighbouring gardens, flowers beautifully in bloom, hug the area between tee and green like spooning lovers, hiding the flag and demanding a tee shot which carries the out of bounds area for those intent on the chance of a birdie. A classic combination of testing golf and tantalising scenery.

After the round, a waiter offered the opinion:  "You English, always too many chips". He might have been passing comment on my short game, but was in fact advising us not to order a portion of fries each, insisting the helpings were generous enough for us to split three between the five of us.

Such friendliness extended to the secretary trusting our handicaps were genuine without requesting proof. However, be advised that more and more courses abroad do require a handicap certificate to be shown. This is to the genuine golfer's benefit ensuring those who take to the course are aware of their obligations to follow the game's etiquette, especially playing without delay.

If you haven't got golf club membership, an alternative is to gain a handicap through organisations such as Elite Golf Solutions. For a fee of just under £20 an approximate handicap can be gauged on-line by entering the details of three rounds and a confirmed handicap calculated once signed cards for those rounds are posted or faxed to EGS.

Most clubs abroad will accept such a verification of your game, and it's better to travel with one and not need it than get to your destination and be denied access to the courses you plan to play.

Tenerife has nine courses in all, and the island's trump card is a climate described as ‘everlasting Spring'; an average temperature of 23 degrees centigrade all year. Now, if I could just raise the temperature of my game to something bordering luke-warm....


Published: July 9, 2005

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Rising to the Challenge
at Tecina