Fairway to heaven
As distractions go, the 13th fairway of the Stadium course at the PGA Catalunya golf course must be among the best in the world.
As I watched my ball sail into the beautiful blue sky, I struggled to keep my eye on where it landed as I gazed at the stunning Pyrenees mountains that rise majestically above the Catalonian countryside ahead of me.It was the pinnacle of a breath-taking four days of golf that took in some of the finest courses in the region.Our four day Catalonian odyssey began at the famous Pals Golf Club just off the coast at Arsenal de Mars.The oldest golf club on the Costa Brava, the course is steeped in history and has a wonderful traditional feel to it.Pals Course was founded in 1966, just a few years before the first ever European PGA Tour Event was launched at the course in 1972. Our arrival at this tree lined, venue nestling between hills and the coast, was greeted with some fog and a gentle breeze which swept across the course. We teed off in anticipation the sunshine would burn back the mist and help our navigation. Pals offers golfer of all abilities a challenge. The fairways are lined with pines protecting several bunkers along the way. With a par of 70, the capable golfer should be able to score well. The front nine gives plenty of opportunities to par and the back offers some tricky water hazards and long par fours. The 9th hole was one my favourites. A par three, you have to negotiate a wide pond and land on a tight green surrounded by pines with the added pressure of being next to the clubhouse. The 10th is a good challenge in front of the clubhouse again out along a tight tree lined fairway. We were given a very warm welcome by the staff at Pals and it was an impressive start to the trip.Our first night’s stay was in the four star Hotel Carlemany in the regional capital of Girona. Modern, clean, and comfortable, it catered for our every need. The evening meal offered traditional tapas complemented with fine Reserva local wine, a main course of Catalonian pork and rice followed by a sweet lemon pie in a glass.Refreshed and away early for Day Two, we set off for nearby Gualta. 20,000 people across Spain are registered pitch and putt players and this interesting venue offered everyone a chance to sharpen their short game ahead of the main event of the day at Emporda. With great access from Girona and offering excellent value for money, this compact 18 hole par 3 course is a little gem of a place with a driving range, practice greens and relaxing restaurant setting with outdoor seating area. The Double Tree by Hilton Hotel and Spa Emporda is an eye-catching sight as you arrive from the main road from nearby Gualta. A vast expanse of two courses offering first class accommodation and facilities. We took on the Links course which offered another great chance to drive into wider fairways with a good first cut. With little rustic bridges and a smattering of heather, there is a traditional feel of a links course with some water hazards. Well sign posted and designed, the course was pleasant on the eye and in great condition. And it was an opportunity to see some of the wonderful Catalonian countryside and wildlife. Our hotel in Calonge on the coast was simply stunning. A real traditional Spanish Casa feel to it located on the shore, the Silken Park Hotel San Jorge offered breath taking views of the Med. The rooms were comfortable and quiet and the food was first class. Day three saw us arrive at the impressive PGA Catalunya resort, the crema de la crema of golf in Spain. A total feast for the eyes of any club golfer. Putting greens you can eat your dinner off, well manicured fairways and first class facilities throughout. The course regularly hosts the Spanish Open and to think we were treading in the footsteps of the world’s best golfers was daunting enough.We took on the Stadium Course, rated among the best in Spain. It was a beautiful, clear day and an unforgettable five hours of golf. The scenery was spectacular and the golf even more so. The course offers the biggest of tests for the best golfers. Fairways were fairly wide and long, hardly any rough but plenty of trees to catch you out. There were some blind holes and challenging water features. The 13th was the best I have ever played. Teeing up and letting the ball fly against the stunning backdrop of the Pyrenees was truly unforgettable. It was the highlight of another enjoyable day's golf. Day Four saw us visit the Mas Nou Golf Club in the nearby hills. A more gentle day after the test of PGA Catalunya, Mas Nou is 300 metres above sea level and offered more stunning views of the coast and distant mountains. A par 72 course, with some testing par fours and fives, it was another good challenge. A course in great condition, it rounded off a memorable visit to a very special corner of Spain. For more information about golf in Costa Brava please visit: www.golfincostabrava.org. For more information about the hotels, visit: www.hotelcarlemanygirona.com, www.parkhotelsanjorge.com