Golf expert Jim Odoire finds fun and sun in Spain
Snow and constant lashings of rain snow then rain then awful course conditions is seeing a spike in oversees bookings from hackers desperate to throw off the shackles of a golf-less winter.
So I and three stir-crazy golfing buddies boarded a plane for Barcelona and the Costa Brava for 3 rounds in fabulous sunshine and still got home the following evening without it costing a small fortune.
Just 90 minutes after touching down we were enjoying lunch at the first of three golfing venues – Platja de Pals, oldest course on the Costa Brava and the home to the first European Tour event back in in 1972.
A glance at the card might lull stronger golfers into a false sense of security because at only a touch over 6200 yards this course, not long but beware! Fred Hawtree’s design is enough to test all but the most accurate of hitters with the majority of fairways lined by ancient pine trees and the likelihood of the tramuntana wind blowing in from the distant Pyrenees in the late afternoon adding more than a little spice. Apart from wishing I’d left my wayward driver at home, this thoroughly enjoyable and classy track is a must, especially for lovers of that old school feel.
The Pals area is close to the La Costa Beach and Golf Resort – a 5 minute walk (or a 2 minute golf buggy ride) from the course, providing more than comfortable accommodation in large rooms with terraces overlooking the beach or pool offering great quality local fare in the aptly named Green’s Restaurant. Groups or families could also opt for the hotel’s beach apartments with their toes in the sand of the stunning 2-mile long Pals beach.
The following morning, after a generous Catalonian breakfast (included in price) we drove the 10 minutes to Emporda Golf – offering 36 holes of golf (2 x 18 holes – The Links and The Forest), a large clubhouse / restaurant, golf school and an on-site Hilton Hotel. We teed it up on the recommended hybrid of the front nine of each course and looking back I’d be hard pressed to think of a more fun combination of golf holes anywhere – negotiating
- First – the dunes,
- Lakes, Gobi-desert sized bunkers, marshlands,
- Blind shots, semi-island greens and split fairways used every club (and shot) in the bag and left me wanting to head straight back out and play again.
But time was against us so one quick (excellent burger) later we were back in the car and heading for the final round of our fleeting visit at the legendary PGA Catalunya – designed specifically to bring the Ryder Cup to Spain and recently voted the number 1 course in the country.
You get a feel for the course right from the get go – an elevated tee shot with a 200 yard carry to the fairway over a jungle of bushes… and all this just to reach the dog-leg fairway with an approach along edges over water. Not for the faint hearted. Off the tips the yardage is 6700 – long enough on flat ground but its hugely undulating terrain makes it feel longer – booming drives, accurate (and often long) approaches and lengthy putts on the competition-slick greens are the order all round long. It feels and plays likes exactly what it is – a course made with the pros in mind but no-one should be put off as this course is a must-play, even for the recreational / higher handicap golfer who can choose from one of the 5 tee boxes on offer – just don’t expect to be framing your card!
With enough time to enjoy a final beer and the sweeping views from the clubhouse veranda before heading back to the airport, we had the opportunity to reflect on a cracking couple of days on Spain’s rugged coast : 3 totally different but equally enjoyable courses, sunshine , great food, friendly welcomes and value for money making for much reason to return – not least to play the ‘other’ 18s at both Emporda and PGA Catalyuna. Roll on another wet spring in the UK – to get back to do it all over again. Cost of our golf-feast was a trifle less than it costs at home and flights to Girona are from £40. Golf tour ops –