The Beach La Reserva Sotogrande life and style

The life and style of sotogrande was formed back in the 1960’s by the pioneering families of sotogrande. Colonel Joseph mcmicking was an accomplished officer of the US army as well as a very ...

Sotogrande Chronicles: Embracing the Distinctive Life and Style of this Exquisite Destination

The life and style of sotogrande was formed back in the 1960’s by the pioneering families of sotogrande.

Colonel Joseph mcmicking was an accomplished officer of the US army as well as a very successful business man. A great entrepreneur! Joseph Mcmicking was married to the Mercedes Zobel a famous and well respected family of the Philippines. It was in the Philippines that Joseph Mcmicking was to cut his teeth with the development of Metro Manila.

The Zobel family had very strong links with Spain and so it was natural that Joseph Mcmicking and his wife would explore and search out a beautiful place to live. Here begins the story of Sotogrande.

In 1962, after much research and literally scanning by motorbike the coast of Spain,  his friend Alfredo Melian found the perfect spot. Joseph Mcmicking proceeds to buy varios farms that today make up the Sotogrande estate of 1,800 hectares (4,448 acres).

Sotogrande was born amongst the beautiful cork oak trees, river and coast line of the Mediterranean Sea in the heart of Andalusia close to Gibraltar.

The location was excellent as it offered abundant water and trees. It was well located and at the time the hope was for a fluid border with Gibraltar and flights to the UK. Remember Malaga airport was a 4 hour drive away on difficult roads. Alas Gibraltar was not open until 1983, but this was no deterrent to Joseph Mcmicking.

It is important to understand the philosophy of Sotogrande that Joseph Mcmicking and his partners had in mind.Sotogrande must be based on three main pillars: family, sports and security.

From these three pillars began the shaping of what I call the “life and style of Sotogrande.”

As a child coming on holiday in Sotogrande in the early 1970’s I was to experience a sotogrande that today hardly exists, but was when the foundations were being laid!

The first thing that strikes people when they first visit Sotogrande is the sheer size and open spaces. Indeed the main entrance, a dual carriageway, was back in the 60’s the biggest road on the coast! Joseph Mcmicking spared no expense on infrastructure and as a result we have very good roads, sewage system and access to water.

Sotogrande has always enjoyed an abundance of water. People take this for granted, but as we know, water is now more scarce. Also water is more expensive throughout Andalusia! Joseph Mcmicking was well aware of the importance of good access to water from his experience in both Florida and California.

Sotogrande was also a very wooded area! Hence the name “Sotogrande “ meaning a large grove of trees. Joseph Mcmicking was very keen that his resort should have an abundance of nature and trees. We are very fortunate to have numerous cork oak trees as well as pine. This gives us as shade in summer and retains moisture. Anyone driving through the resort will be pleasantly surprised by how wooded sotogrande is: even now, 60 years later.

The future of Sotogrande was shaped by Joseph Mcmicking and his great attention to detail and selection of residents that understood his philosophy. The first residents did not want a busy and show off resort. They wanted above all privacy and discretion. They wanted a safe place for their Children to enjoy a healthy and sportive lifestyle.

Joseph Mcmicking’s attention to detail is reflected in the original architecture and famous architects he chose to build the first villas. Villas that today stand the test of time and are fondly loved by their neighbors.  

The first buyers were a mixed nationality of well known European families and naturally Joseph Mcmicking’s friends from the United States and the Philippines. Sotogrande was shaping up to be a truly international resort. It is important to point out that some of these families were famous people and they loved the privacy and safety of living in Sotogrande.

The emphasis on sport was very much at the forefront of Joseph Mcmicking’s mind and as we look around the resort we can see why!

The building of the Real club in 1964 was the first major investment in sport! The design of the “Real Club de Golf Sotogrande “ Royal sotogrande golf club was to be undertaken by the world famous golf designer, Sir Robert Trent Jones. The course to date is world famous and has offered its members an outstanding club. A first class eighteen hole course, a challenging shot nine hole course, croquet lawns, tennis and paddle courts. There are many social events and the food and beverages are first class. The life and style of sotogrande is beautifully reflected in this iconic golf club.

In 1975 “las Aves club de golf” was again designed by Sir Robert Trent Jones. Golf was now becoming a sport that would define Sotogrande and the residents it would attract.

In 1985 “las Aves” was to be bought by Jaime Ortiz Patińo and remodelled into the now world famous “ Real club de golf Valderrama “ The Royal Valderrama golf club. This course was to then host the many Volvo Masters, the American Express world championship and of course in 1997 the greatest of all competitions:   the 1997 Ryder Cup.

More golf courses were to come with the Almenara golf course in 1998 and the wonderful Cabel Robinson, “ La Reserva club de golf” in 2002. Also on nearby, the wonderful municipal course “La Cañada”.

In sotogrande we are truly spoilt for golf and this has created a world class destination for the sport.

Joseph Mcmicking was then to launch into the equestrian world! His vision was to not only create magnificent polo grounds but also stables that would offer the residents the ability to ride around the beautiful resort and surrounding countryside. 

As a child I could play polo, go hacking or learn dressage or show jumping! The rides down to the beach and polo ground by the sea was an amazing experience.

Today we have three major polo clubs, Ayala, Dos Lunas and Santa Maria, providing us with polo for all handicaps. From low to medium and the highly competitive high goal tournament in August. Polo certainly has added to the glamorous life and style of sotogrande.

Joseph mcmicking encouraged racket sports providing us with both tennis and paddle courts. These facilities have expanded since the 1960’s and one can find numerous excellent courts throughout the resort, and even some marvellous clay courts by la Reserva golf club. There is now even an in land lake and beach by these courts! Who could have imagined such a facility back then.

The next major move to expand the resort, was to provide space for the world of sailing through the purchase of land to create a port, marina and beach clubs.

In the 1980’s work started and today we enjoy the use of a port and magnificent marina. They provide for all the needs of diverse aquatic sorts. Indeed in 1997 the world championship for Hobbie cats was to be held in Sotogrande! What an achievement and as a result our yatch club was to become: The Royal Sotogrande yatch club.

The marina and port also provides a range of interesting shops and restaurants. It has become the focal point for the youth to not only enjoy aquatic sports but enjoy some fun night life! The KE Bar being the centre of life in the port.

It is worth mentioning that sotogrande had a wonderful family night club, called Oscars. It was a safe and beautiful night club surrounded by cork oak trees! We all have fond memories of Oscars. Today the youth enjoy the facilities of “After Polo” and the Trocadero beach club. Both venues offer an outdoor night life of music and social gatherings, much loved and enjoyed by our younger residents.

Hotels in Sotogrande were always modest and discreet. The old Tennis hotel, now Hotel Encinar, was designed for families to stay with young children under the age of 16. The hotel was mainly for inspection trips to buy real estate, (if you were lucky enough to be invited to buy by Joseph Mcmicking!) 

There were the suites in the “Real Club de golf”, for families over the age of 16. A very smart hotel with excellent food and service. The food in the 60’s was flown in from “Horche” a top restaurant in Madrid!

In 1998 the first big hotel of 150 rooms was built up at the top end of sotogrande: “Hotel Almenara”. This was the first golf hotel with a spa and was only to change in 2020. It was to be totally refurbished and managed by a new hotel group, by the name of, So/ Sotogrande hotel resort. Well worth a visit.

At the same time the smaller hotel “Club Marítimo” in the sotogrande port was to change to a Messi run hotel. Now a world famous football player was investing in sotogrande, the life and style is changing, but maintaining the essential ingredients.

There will be, no doubt in the future more hotel facilities and maybe even some branded residences! Who knows?

Joseph Mcmicking had certainly sowed the seeds for a first class resort that would encompass his dream of a secure family resort with very good infrastructure and magnificent sporting facilities.

The sotogrande of 2022 is a very different place to the sotogrande of the 1960’s and 70’s. Much has changed and the resort is fully spread over the 1,800 hectares. However, the resort still maintains a high level of discretion and privacy. The facilities are excellent and if Joseph Mcmicking were with us today he would surely feel the life and style of sotogrande, though changed, still encompassed his vision and dream of a world class family resort.

Michael Norton
Michael Norton Partner & Director

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