A lot of people head to southern Spain to relax in the sunshine, but Grace Newton found herself being put through her paces.
La Manga Club markets itself as one of the best leisure resorts in the world, and it’s not difficult to see why. This 1,400-acre sporting mecca covers an area of land three times the size of Monaco, and attracts athletes of all shapes and sizes, from professional teams to casual players, who come to enjoy its benign climate throughout the year.
I visited the resort, in the Spanish region of Murcia, with a group of British journalists for a four-day break with an emphasis on tennis, and stayed at the five-star Hotel Felipe.
Despite the sheer size of the site – guests can also stay in the Las Lomas self-catered apartment complex or privately-owned accommodation – there’s a relaxing ambience and capacity is carefully managed to ensure it does not feel overcrowded, even during peak season.
La Manga Club is most famous for its golf – there are three championship-standard courses, all beautifully kept, and the resort has hosted the Spanish Open.
But it was the tennis we were there to sample, and we found the 28-court tennis centre still basking in the glow of a recent successful stint hosting the Fed Cup tie between Spain and Paraguay’s top female players on its red clay.
Great Britain’s Davis Cup captain Leon Smith is a huge fan of La Manga, and often decamps here with his squad to escape the British winters. British number one and Yorkshireman Kyle Edmund, who recently entered the world’s top 20, has visited for a training bloc with Greg Rusedski.
The facilities are fantastic – there are clay, artificial grass and hard courts, as well as the amphitheatre-style Centre Court with seating for 1,200 spectators. You can also play “padl” tennis – an increasingly popular form of the game that resembles a cross between tennis and squash.
Our group included a mix of abilities, from regular club players to beginners, but we found our daily coaching programme engaging, challenging and useful, and all of us made obvious progress by the end of the week. La Manga Club runs week-long and weekend academies for both adults and juniors of all levels, and the courts can also be booked privately by individuals and groups. Coaches are English-speaking to cater for the large numbers of British visitors.
Our tour of the vast site also took in the ever-developing cricket academy, which is used as a training centre by England’s women, Scotland and Ireland, and is the focus of a new phase of expansion. Directors hope to attract major international sides as well as England’s county teams to use the specialist facilities for warm-weather training.
Football is big business here – in the winter, Europe’s top sides arrive to use the immaculate training pitches. Liverpool visited last year, and manager Jürgen Klopp also brought his previous club, Borussia Dortmund. In high season, the football centre is used for junior academies accessible to all abilities – the resort has recently entered into a partnership with Chelsea’s foundation to run children’s camps.
Other centres include rugby – plans are afoot to affiliate the junior academy with an English Premiership club – netball and even Gaelic football.
We were assessed on our agility and fitness using tennis-specific drills at the impressive High Performance Centre – a temple of the latest sports science and analysis techniques which is used by several Spanish Olympians.
Testing can be individually tailored to your body type, fitness level and preferred sport, and the results can be applied to your own training routines without the need for specialist knowledge or understanding. The welcome from the HPC staff was warm and care had been taken to give the facility an accessible, non-intimidating feel.
The on-site Wellness Centre also includes a spa and gym that boasts a 25-metre pool, three Jacuzzis and 13 treatment rooms.
La Manga Club can be enjoyed without the necessity of leaving the site – we dined at several excellent restaurants, serving a range of cuisines including Mediterranean, tapas, Italian, Asian fusion and seafood – the latter on a picturesque terrace overlooking a small but pristine beach.
It’s also easy to get to from the UK – there are budget flights from most airports to San Javier, which is just a 20-minute transfer from the resort and a new airport due to open next summer will be located a similar distance away. Alicante’s terminal is also within transfer distance.
I’d recommend La Manga Club as a destination for those who want an activity-focused holiday – as well as the main sports complexes, there are running trails, cycle hire and hiking routes, plus watersports off-site nearby. The resort is family-friendly, especially during school holiday periods, with kids’ clubs to allow parents time to enjoy the sports academies.
It’s stimulating and revitalising – so if you’re after a slow-paced beach holiday you should probably look elsewhere.
Jet2 and Ryanair operate several flights per week from Leeds Bradford to San Javier in Murcia, and transfers to La Manga Club can be booked. Alicante Airport, which receives a large number of winter flights from the UK, is around an hour’s drive away.
La Manga Club guests can choose from accommodation in the five-star Hotel Felipe, which is located close to the golf and tennis centres, or in the self-catered Las Lomas accommodation complex, which is a short distance from the Wellness Centre.