El Nino storm barely raises a ripple at La Manga

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Should £50m striker Fernando Torres need to escape the limelight and relax following his record-breaking move from Liverpool to Chelsea – he would not go far wrong if he headed back to his homeland and paid a visit to La Manga Club Resort for a few days.

The Spanish stars move was the major talking point in Spain last week, and around the world, as the Premier League transfer market went crazy for day.

But while El Nino’s move whipped up a storm in Anfield and at Stamford Bridge – it raised barely a ripple at the peaceful and tranquil surroundings of La Manga.

Make no mistake, passion for sport burns brightly in La Manga – after all that was the very principal this resort was built on 40 years ago but it’s enjoyed at a relaxed and far more leisurely pace.

And it’s easy to see why. It’s February and the Murcia region of South East Spain remains bathed in sunshine. The area has been a popular spot for tourists looking to escape to the sun for almost four decades thanks largely to the resort of La Manga.

In 1972 visionary American founder Gregory Peters had a plan to deliver a top golfing and leisure complex to Europe. Inspired by the popularity of the year round sunbathed courses of Florida, Peters picked out this picturesque South Eastern corner of Spain as the ideal location.

The area enjoys around 2,500 hours of sun per year with an average annual temperature of almost 20 degrees, perfect for golf and perfect for Europeans seeking the ideal climate. It is 20 minutes drive from Murcia – San Javier airport and is three hours away from many of the main European Cities.

The 1960’s and 70’s was boom time for the tourist industry of Spain. But while many areas were being over-developed with high-rise concrete blocks, La Manga was taking shape and carefully designed into the hillsides of the Costa Cálida.

Today the area covers six square km, it has 2000 apartments and villas, four golf courses, a 28 court multi-surface tennis centre and academy, a centre for professional football with eight pitches, two cricket grounds, rugby and Gaelic football facilities and a spa area that includes a 25 metre six lane swimming pool.

La Manga has more than 20 bars and restaurants, a supermarket and basically anything a small town needs. It is not so much a holiday resort but 37 small communities based around golf, healthy living and fitness.

There are approximately 2,000 residential apartments and villas with more being built and sold despite the tough economic climate. While £3m would struggle to buy the right foot of Torres, it could buy you the finest villa La Manga can offer. Top of the range villas are complete with private swimming pools, breathtaking views and everything else you would expect in a first class villa on a first class resort. More modest apartments are available for down to earth prices of approximately £200,000.

When visiting the resort guests can choose between the five star 192 room Principe Felipe hotel area and the four star Los Lomas Village apartments which are situated further up the hill ideally located near the spa. At its capacity the resort can comfortably cater for a staggering 15,000 guests and residents.

With four courses to choose from golf is never far from the topic of conversation around the resort.

The Gary Player designed South Course is the best of the three 18 hole courses on offer. It is set in the centre of the valley and boasts wide palm-fringed fairways and the water is very much in play on the 15th and 18th to catch out anything wayward.

Off the white tees it measures a challenging 6,499 metres and will offer a fair test of golf for scratch and handicap players. The south course is bidding to host the Solhiem Cup in 2015.

The course appealed to former Daily Telegraph editor Lord Deedes so much, he wrote, “If I had to choose one course to play before I die it will be the South Course at La Manga.”

High praise indeed, but perhaps that’s why La Manga Club has earned an impressive collection of accolades including three time winner of European Leading Golf Resort prize and has been nominated twice for the World’s Leading Sports Resort.

At 5,753 metres the par 71 North Course, designed by Robert Putman, is shorter than the South. Accuracy off the tee is vital due to the tight fairways but the larger greens offer inviting approach shots and the opportunity to make a few birdies.

The short par three second is an enjoyable hole, it looks fairly straightforward but the triple tiered green can easily turn birdie opportunities into bogeys.

The 18th on the Dave Thomas designed West Course is a hole you can always look forward to. The elevated tee offers wonderful views but this also gives the wind the opportunity to play its part. It’s a fine finale for an enjoyable round that measures 5770 metres set amid pine woodlands.

A top-class Spanish golf resort would not be complete without a little touch of magic from the Spanish golf master himself. Severiano Ballesteros’ beautifully designed and manicured 18 hole Par 47 is an ideal opportunity to sharpen your short game.

But beware, the subtle slopes on the greens makes scoring a touch more difficult than you would think. Another tip on this course is to take your camera - the water hazards and bunkers within this superbly landscaped course, complete with tropical palms and parkland trees, make for great photo opportunities.

The whole concept of La Manga is sport, healthly living and fitness and the 2000 square metre spa area, set over two floors, is a popular and well used addition to the resort. Built in 2004 the facility includes saunas, steam rooms, jacuzzis, fun showers and a relaxation area, as well as a large gymnasium, dedicated fitness studio and six-lane 25metre lap pool with separate children’s pool.

A total of 13 treatment rooms offer massages ranging from therapeutic to treatment packages including hydrotherapy, reflexology and manicures.

The Swedish massage is recommended for easing aching muscles and releasing tension and as promised, after an hour on the table, the detoxifying oils and Swedish technique will leave you completely relaxed.

Who knows, it could even do the trick for Fernando Torres. His Chelsea career did not get off to the best of starts with defeat against his former club Liverpool but a few days in the La Manga sunshine could be the ideal tonic – after all, even £50m strikers need to relax sometimes.

For more information on La Manga Club visit: www.lamangaclub.com