PGA CATALUNYA RE­SORT

SPAIN’S NUM­BER ONE GOLF COURSE

Golf Vacations - - Front Page - by Chris Strat­ford

Spain’s Num­ber One Golf Course

An in­vi­ta­tion came to play the PGA Catalunya Re­sort Sta­dium course – an­nual stage for the Euro­pean Tour’s Qual­i­fy­ing School – as part of a trip to ex­plore the golf and gas­tron­omy of Girona.

For a mid-hand­i­cap­per golfer such as my­self, to be asked to sit the exam faced an­nu­ally by play­ers hop­ing to win a card to com­pete at Euro­pean tour­na­ment golf’s elite level seems a bit like ask­ing a pri­mary school pupil to tackle a Pure Maths A level exam pa­per.

But stand­ing on the tee at the open­ing hole of a course ac­claimed as Spain’s No 1 (pga­catalunya.com), it was clear this was go­ing to be an awe­some treat rather than ab­so­lute tor­ture. Par­tic­u­larly with the ‘cheat sheet’ that is playing off the for­ward tees.

Its high el­e­va­tion gave a won­der­ful view across a course of dip­ping and twist­ing fair­ways flanked by trees and wa­ter: vis­ually stun­ning and end­lessly chal­leng­ing.

It was the first of many tees to af­ford the player a view of both a hole’s aes­thetic ap­peal and its abun­dant dan­gers, golf­ing femme fa­tales yield­ing up ei­ther great plea­sure of a par or the pain of sev­eral dropped shots.

The Costa Brava boasts nine golf­ing des­ti­na­tions in all, in­clud­ing Em­porda Golf Re­sort (em­pordagolf.com) and Golf de Pals (golf­plat­jade­pals.com), the other sport­ing tests on a trip that would of­fer a rig­or­ous test of my al­leged de­ter­mi­na­tion to com­bat a thick­en­ing waist as I march to­wards old age.

PGA Catalunya Re­sort has a sec­ond course, the Tour, and sim­i­larly Em­porda of­fers its vis­i­tors 36 holes in two sep­a­rate lay­outs: the Links and Forest, their one-word ap­pel­la­tions pro­vid­ing a suc­cinct pointer as to what to ex­pect.

The former’s path wends its way through a tract of dunes and huge, rolling bunkers, its bar­ren, tree­less land­scape made all the more stark by playing it on a rare oc­ca­sion when the rain chose to fall on this area just north of Barcelona, which sees more than 300 days of sunshine per year.

As if apolo­getic for its ab­sence in the morn­ing, the sun emerged as we tack­led the Forest course, hewn through a dense Mediter­ranean pine forest. This is more pleas­ing on the eye to this golfer, but chal­lenges still abound.

For those with lim­ited time, such as our­selves – con­stricted even fur­ther by the need to es­cape the rav­ages of the rain for a few hours while in­dulging in the ex­cel­lent fare on of­fer in Em­porda’s club­house – a round can be played by mix­ing nine from each course.

And so on to Golf de Pals, Costa Brava’s old­est course and one that holds a place in the his­tory of York­shire golf as it was here that Rother­ham’s Danny Wil­lett won his fi­nal ma­jor event as an ama­teur.

Read more at: http://www.york­shireevening­post.co.uk/life­style/travel/ travel-re­view-spain-s-num­ber-one-golf-course-1-8311527

Wil­lett lifted the Span­ish Ama­teur Cham­pi­onship, the Copa SM El Rey, in March 2008 just two months be­fore turn­ing pro­fes­sional. The club’s affin­ity with the Ry­der Cup player was en­hanced when he won the Mas­ters just as Golf de Pals was cel­e­brat­ing its 50th an­niver­sary.

It is a Bri­tish-style park­land course with largely flat fair­ways, where par is pro­tected by strate­gic use of bunkers both on the way to greens and at their sides.

Wa­ter is also a peril to be faced on a few holes, par­tic­u­larly at the beau­ti­ful par-3 ninth, where a tee shot that will test the nerve is played to a small green en­closed within a horse­shoe of um­brella pines.

In the same way Spain hails its golf­ing kings such as the late and great Seve Balles­teros and cur­rent Ry­der Cup player Sergio Gar­cia, so within the sphere of Girona gas­tron­omy are lauded the likes of Fer­ran Adrià and the Roca brothers, Joan, Josep and Jordi.

All have helped bring Michelin stars to the re­gion, where a gour­mand can in­dulge in an in­tox­i­cat­ing fu­sion of tra­di­tional and in­no­va­tive cui­sine that uses the area’s boun­teous har­vest from its fields and coastal waters.

From a show cook­ing demon­stra­tion at Bulthaup (lb.bulthaup.com) through fine din­ing at the Ho­tel Aiguablava, at Aiguablava Bay, in Be­gur, a cur­tain was drawn back to of­fer a glimpse – and sev­eral tast­ings – of a re­gion that was at once both heav­enly and satanic.

Heav­enly in that it was sump­tu­ous, satanic in that it will be the devil’s own job try­ing to work off its dam­age to my afore­men­tioned ex­pand­ing waist­line.

It is a price worth pay­ing for Girona de­serves its grow­ing rep­u­ta­tion as a des­ti­na­tion for hol­i­day­mak­ers with a dis­cern­ing pal­ette.

Girona, golf­ing and gas­tron­omy: a pleas­ing al­lit­er­a­tion and a plea­sure to have savoured.

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