Plans de Bonvilar 17,
- +34 (0) 937 281 000
22km N of Barcelona
Welcome - contact in advance
Ariana Martin Balet
Greg Norman & Alfonso Viador
Marcello Della Vecchia
The Real Club de Golf El Prat was established in 1954 and for almost half a century the members played on a course designed by Javier Arana beside the airport to the south of Barcelona city centre. The Spanish Open was last held there in 1999 and Jarmo Sandelin won it.
When the city airport was extended at the end of the 1990s, it was time for the club to seek new land for their golfing pursuits. A new site was acquired to the north of the city, between Terrassa and Sabadell, and the Greg Norman design team was called in to create not one, but two 18-hole layouts with a 9-hole practice course thrown in for good measure.
Constructed on relatively flat land, the 45-hole complex effectively consists of five sets of nine holes, each built to USGA stadium specification. They are big, bold and brash – perfect for holding national and international competitions.
The Open course measures more than 7,300 yards from the championship tees with a par of 72. Fairways are generally wide, sometimes plunging quite dramatically. Greens are large with subtle borrows and tricky run-off areas. Trees line five holes on the front nine and at the 14th and 15th holes on the inward half. Fairway and greenside bunker complexes threaten both tee shots and approach play and golfers will find them suitably penal when encountered.
The front and back nine start and end with very strong par fives and in between, there are two sets of tough par threes, only one of which is less than 180 yards in length.
Many golfers will be well aware of the name El Prat due to the extensive list of high profile European Tour players who have won at this club over the years. Dating back to 1956, when Peter Alliss was still in his playing career, winners include Seve Ballesteros, Lee Trevino, Sam Torrance and Tom Watson to name a few. However, this doesn’t tell the whole story, as the course played back then was a totally different location and layout to the Greg Norman design under the same golf club name today.
The current course now boasts an impressive 45 holes, which make up 4 loops of 9 holes that can be played as 7 combinations of 18. It’s worth understanding the combinations if you’re not so familiar with place, so it’s advisable to do your research on the clubs website beforehand. The most recognised combinations are named Open, Pink, Blue, Yellow and Green and opinions vary as to which is the best combo. The most famous being the Open, which has itself played host to European Tour and Challenge Tour events. The most recent was in 2015, when James Morrison lifted the Open De Espana trophy with an impressive score of 10 under, beating the Miguel Angel Jimenez by 4 shots.
Although it’s a very strong members club, there is a warm welcome for visitors as the club is progressively looking to attract more travelling golfers. This gives it a pleasant and welcoming atmosphere, as you can sense pride and charm that those associated with the venue seem keen to give off.
The courses are all great design with plenty of variety. Playing the Open layout, it’s clear why this is the choice for a tour event, as the course can be stretched out to 6,700 meters off the tips and has the look and feel of a championship layout. Unlike some modern championship designs, which can be a bit of a slog, this is still a fun course and plays well for all level of golfers from a good variety of tee boxes. As you’d expect, the condition is immaculate, with manicured tee boxes, soft sand in the bunkers and true and fast putting surfaces.
You’ll need to drive well to score well on the Open course, as you’ll realise from the first hole on the Abajo front nine, which at 400 meters with a fairway bunker stretching down two thirds of the right-hand side of the fairway presents an immediate demand on power and precision.
The second is a belter of a par 5, although unreachable in two for most players, the pin placement options can dramatically change the difficulty of the hole, with a back right pin placement demanding a longer shot over a fearsome cluster of bunkers. It really is very well thought out and cleverly sculpted, with a backdrop of wild flowers and bushes.
The wild flowers are continued throughout the course, particularly around the far edges of the bunkers, which give the course distinction and character. This helps to make the Abajo nine feel natural, and, given the course is relatively new, makes it seem mature beyond its years.
Playing the Open course takes you on to the Arriba layout for the back nine, which is a far hillier piece of land, allowing for numerous elevation changes in teeing grounds and green complexes. One of the most interesting being the par 5 10th, which presents you with a superb view down to a generous fairway, which once found demands a steep climb to a raised putting surface, which blends naturally into the terrain, again using wild shrubbery to create a natural look and feel to the hole.
The course meanders along the higher ground until a stunning 5th/14th, presenting a challenging drive to a sweeping right to left fairway with bunkers on the landing area to the right of the fairway. This is a superb tactical hole, as the further you try to drive the more you need to draw the ball to avoid the bunkers. A tough approach to a raised green, tops off what could be my favourite of the holes we played.
This 9 holes gives more of a woodland feel and continues to challenge the golf with variety, bringing a man-made pond in to the 16th, which doesn’t feel out of place despite being the only water feature on the entire complex.
Playing this 9 as part of the Pink course combo along with the course would be my preferred choice, as both have a similar style and feel like they belong together. However, this isn’t always an option for visitors, and is restricted to certain time of the season.
My choice of loops of 9 in order of preference would be:
In terms of visiting and places to stay, there is plenty of choice in the area and the club partners with hotels in Barcelona, which include Gran Hotel La Florida, The Serras and the Majestic – while Hotel Sant Cugat is a very local option.
Reviewed by S Bale
At arrival you quickly realize this Spanish gem follows the country club concept for its’ members. With two large swimming pools (one just for adults with kids not being allowed), tennis courts, a large restaurant with terrace and another smaller bistro down stairs not too mention large meeting and conference facilities appropriate for weddings, events and special get togethers. The clubhouse is very modern and upon check in feels like you’re arriving at a 5 star hotel.
On the day we played our companions informed us that we were in for a great challenge due to the abnormal wind direction and relatively high winds. This was apparent from the very first hole of the Open course, which measures just under 7000 yds from the white tees. The Championship tees, well let’s just say on the day in question we left them for what they were, too much for us at 7300 yds.
The first hole normally plays down wind but for us, straight in our faces and at 395 meters with water right and bunkers surrounded by fairly deep rough and high slopes on the left Harry Colt’s traditional gentle starts did not come to mind. The greens on El Prat’s Open course are very large and full of undulations. The quality of the greens was near perfection on the day of our visit. They were rolling very fast and very true.
I found approaches to greens to be rather difficult with all the bunkering and elevation changes plus it was very easy to hit yourself out of position and be left with near impossible ups and downs. On the day in question, I was not in great form especially and ended up heavily relying on my short game. I would also not that I really struggled with the distances. The fairway markers were to the front of the green and even knowing this, I managed to come up short almost all the time. I’d recommend paying close attention and getting a caddie book for your rounds.
The fairways were all perfectly manicured and generous in width for all hcps in my opinion. Which doesn’t make them easy but does result in enjoyable golf from the tees. The main challenges at El Prat are the elevation changes, wind, excellent green complexes and bunkers everywhere.
The 501 meter par 5 second hole gives long hitters an opportunity to reach in two. With water to the right on the tee shot and more bunkers protecting the left it requires a very straight drive.
I have to admit that throughout the course I didn’t find myself faced with too many birdie opportunities so there is plenty of challenge out there. The front 9 delivers one challenging hole after another. The par 3’s are relatively long as well so there are no real let ups. I found my bunker play, however, improving from all the practice I was getting. I will also mention that the bunkers were absolutely perfectly prepared. The sand was firm and just deep enough to make the shots very fair. I would certainly choose the bunkers at El Prat above the rough and often I did.
The second 9 starts with a optically very challenging tee shot tight through trees and leaves you with the impression there is no room at all for mistakes. Once you get out to the fairway you realize there was all kinds of room on this very challenging 512 meter 3 shot par 5. The approach is steep up hill to a large green protected by bunkers. While this was one of my favorite holes this would not be reflected in the bogey I ended up fighting to make.
I found the back 9 even a little more challenging than the front 9 as well as a very challenging walk in the heat, so even being a walker I was glad that they had highly encouraged us to ride on the day in question.
I enjoyed the mix between open holes and tree lined holes on the back as well. El Prat definitely throws everything at you and tests every aspect of your game.
After we finished we enjoyed what I can only describe as fantastic 3 course lunch on the terrace of the restaurant which overlooks the driving range. The food, one of the best I’ve ever experienced at a golf club as was the excellent service.
If you are headed for Barcelona or thinking about golf in Spain and wondering where to go I’d highly recommend thinking about heading out this way and most certainly paying a visit to El Prat. With 36 holes of truly excellent golf and a fabulous restaurant you just can’t go wrong.