FOR GOLFERS amongst those tourists wearying of yet another visit to a building designed by Antoni Gaudi why not pay a personal homage to Catalonia by driving an hour north of Barcelona and taking a break at PGA Catalunya?
Golf is becoming increasing popular in Catalan country and the star of the show is very much the track designed by two former Ryder cup veterans, Neil Coles and Angel Gallardo. The Stadium Course at PGA Catalunya was originally built in the hope that it would become a Ryder Cup venue in 1997, when Seve Ballesteros was European captain, although Valderrama pipped it to the post.
The fact that elevated tees, sloping hillsides and dramatic water features make it an ideal spectator course for tour events also make it an exhilarating as well as challenging test for handicap golfers.
This is a long course, as one would expect from a venue that has been chosen for the Spanish Open and also as a regular base for the European Tour Qualifying School final stage since 2008, so a buggy is essential.
However, despite being over 7,200 yards off the back tees and 6,800 yards from the yellows there are five tee box positions to allow a less taxing challenge although accuracy, particularly from the tee, is always at a premium with mature pines lining some narrow fairways.
The highlight of the round comes shortly after the turn with three superb golf holes. The 11th is a 173 yards, par three which drops some 30’ from an elevated tee onto a green stretching out into a man made lake which have to cross when we tee off on the par five 12th and tucked, just in behind in another smaller lake, that will take anything sliced or pushed.
Things do not get much easier as we approach a green with two nasty, deep traps on the right hand side and a slippery putting surface that sums up the Stadium Course experience- if we are on the wrong part of it, we shall be doing well to get down in two.
Our Stadium Course water torture may not yet be over as we have still to play 13, a shortish par four, where the fairway runs out once more into the lake. Having teed off successfully we still have to cross the water onto what looks like the merest sliver of green that has caused numerous problems for many tour professionals. Generally regarded as the course’s signature hole, this is as visually pleasing as it is a potential card wrecker.
We turn away and climb uphill towards home and the clubhouse, taking in views of the often snow capped Pyrenees in the distance. We have no more water to face just huge bunkers full of white sand.
Should the Stadium Course have taken its toll there is a gentler, shorter but equally beautiful course to play alongside it and the wider fairways of the Tour Course certainly come as welcome relief.
With a friendly clubhouse providing first class food and wines, superb practice facilities plus a 149-room Golf Hotel it is easy to see why the complex has been voted Spain’s number one golf resort. We must just make sure that we book our rounds at quiet times, as the course can become very busy, and take lots of balls with us as we may very well be needing them.