The Costa Brava is the jewel in the crown of the Eastern Spanish coastline, nestling at the foothills of the Pyrenees and escaping the intense summer heat that burns the more southern parts of Spain. Catalonia (Catalunya), of which the Costa Brava is part, feels at times like a completely different country. The local food is very different - heartier than more southern Spanish fare – and the local Catalonian language has more of a French feel.
A visit to this area of Spain is a must for any golfer as there are a number of excellent courses that all offer thoughtful design in great surroundings. The various designers have created excellent challenges that are usually in superb condition due to the cooler northern climate. The best of these has to be the Stadium (formerly called Green) course at PGA de Catalunya, ranked in Europe's Top 100 ever since it opened at the end of 1998.
The Stadium course is the culmination of more than a decade of planning and design by the European Tour. They wanted to build their own Players Championship course to rival the PGA Tour's Sawgrass course. It has to be said that it was a decade well spent. The PGA is so good that within months of opening, it hosted the 1999 Gene Sarazen World Open and the Spanish Open in 2000. The Spanish Open returned to the Stadium course in 2009 (won by Thomas Levet) and 2014 when veteran Miguel Angel Jiménez extended his own record as the oldest winner in European Tour history winning a three-man play-off.
PGA Catalunya Resort is located 45 minutes north of the wonderful city of Barcelona and only a few kilometres from the regional airport at Girona, although this is never apparent as the course nestles in the Girona mountains just outside the quiet town of Caldes de Malvella. Utilising their combined 25-plus years of European Tour experience, the designers, Angel Gallardo and Neil Coles, have created a wonderful course that is a test for all standards due to the fact that every hole can be played from five different tees. Which is lucky as the course measures more than 6,500 metres from the championship tees.
Once on the first tee, the true majesty of the PGA de Catalunya is immediately apparent with an elevated drive to a dogleg left par four. Trouble waits in front of the tee and only a good, solid shot will provide the ability to reach the green with anything less than a long iron or fairway wood. For the handicap golfer, leaving this green with a bogey must be viewed as an acceptable result. From here on in, the course just gets better and better as it winds its way through the hills. Beautiful green fir trees, lush vegetation, scrub and an abundance of purple heather, frame each hole. The greens are well bunkered, undulating and always in excellent condition. Additionally, there are a number of large lakes on the course, which blend perfectly with the landscape and on some holes, the water is used creatively to form semi-island greens.
There are many "must-see" places in the world and the Stadium course at PGA de Catalunya should be on any serious golfer's "must-play" list. It's an absolute cracker. And their second course, called the Tour, is pretty special too.
In November 2014 the PGA Catalunya Resort was appointed as candidate venue for Spain’s bid to host the 2022 Ryder Cup. Spain was one of six countries bidding to stage the tournament – the Stadium Course was originally developed with a view to hosting such a major event. Unfortunately the Catalonian bid was unsuccessful with Italy's capital city of Rome winning the right to stage the 2022 Ryder Cup.
PGA Catalunya is one of our Top 100 Golf Resorts of the World
To think you can be standing on the first tee within half an hour of exiting the arrivals hall at nearby Girona airport is a pretty attractive proposition! I stayed in a small hotel right next to the airport so I made exactly the same journey to PGA Catalunya, where pay and play golfers are just as welcome as resort guests.
Course manager David Bataller was my guide for the round and he’s well known in green keeping circles as something of a “mad scientist” who experiments with all manner of horticultural potions and concoctions to achieve the desired agronomic outcomes in and around the two courses he looks after – and he’s also a very good golfer.
Attention to detail is everything here. After recently renewing cart paths, the club has embarked on a programme to tidy up the rough areas bordering the fairways, replacing vast waste areas with pine needles. Other peripheral zones have had scrub removed in favour of dark volcanic crushed stone and attractive new plantings now adorn many of the tee box areas.
The uphill short par four 6th hole has also been improved, starting with a reconstructed teeing area then proceeding to a re-turfed, re-graded fairway with new bunkers which crosses over a “royal path” that’s routed through the property. The fairway on the 10th has also been realigned to push the hole further to the right of the original line of play.
There are small pockets of building work going on around the course but I’m afraid that’s probably always going to be the case at PGA Catalunya – residential development has never stopped since the place opened and it most likely never will! I didn’t find the few elements of outside construction too much of an intrusion, anyway.
Water hazards feature early on, with ponds in play at four of the opening five holes. There’s a little respite from such aquatic features until early on the back nine when the par three 11th plays to a peninsula green, followed two holes later by the par four 13th which also requires an approach shot to a similar challenging green.
You must remember the Stadium course was built on a big scale to test professionals and elite amateurs so if, like me, you’re an average handicap player who’s not a big hitter then don’t try to compete with the golfing he-men: use the “tee it forward“ tees at 5706 metres as they’ll be long enough for you to enjoy your round and prevent you from getting too many balls wet.
I absolutely loved this course. The conditioning was beyond perfect, each hole was varied and absolutely beautiful - I struggle to think of a weak hole. Perhaps the only negative comment I can give is to the amount of building work that seems to be happening with the houses being built on the site. Golf-wise though, this is unbelievable. As stated, no weak holes here at all so I’ll just mention my favourites.
The 1st is a great opener - a dogleg left with a lake short and left of the green - this is a drive from an elevated tee that will get your knees knocking.
3 was a stunning par 5 with the drive needing to find the narrow fairway with trees on the left. The green has a lake all along the left which makes the approach into this green terrifying.
4 and 5 are great holes - 4 is a brilliant driving hole played over the rim of a hill and an approach needing to avoid yet another water feature. 5 is a pretty par 3 that plays from an elevated tee down to a green with a pond on the left.
11 is the next stunning hole - a par 3 played down towards a green that sits on the edge of a lake. 12 is a solid par 5 requiring some well struck shots before the signature hole 13 coming back down the hill from an elevated tee. The drive is easy enough before the approach must find this devilish island green.
The rest of the holes were all solid and brilliant holes. Played amongst the beautiful pine trees, usually from elevated tees offering great views of the snowy white bunkers. It’s not an easy walk so if you struggle up the hills, a buggy may be the best option.
Really cannot recommend this course more. Yes, you may not be a fan of the whole “resort” feel and the amount of houses on this course, but the course itself is truly worth it.
PGA Catalunya is a huge hotel, estate and golf complex with 2 golf courses with the Stadium course as the high profiled course. And in good right. The course is a good test for all level of players. Most amateurs have to be on the very top of their game just to play it close to their handicap. It is a difficult, but not impossible course. It is a forest course with ponds (water hazards) close too and around many of the greens.
On this course it is not your drive that is the challenge – as long as you find the fairway, short or long – the challenge is to place your second or third shot for an optimal approach to the green. If not, you are in trouble. Every little mistakes will be punished. It’s interesting to notice that there are very few holes where the greens is not protected by doglegs, bunkers or water, and where you don’t have to approach the green from a downhill or uphill lie.
All greens are undulated and most of the year with a Stimpmeter around 10 or more. Wish you good luck.
There are 2 holes, 4 and 6, that I think are unfair to golfers who cannot hit an uphill shot more than 230m (and that is most of us). If you cannot, you will have a blind, very difficult and long shot. You will most probably not be able to reach the green. Whether you land your ball 25, 50 or 100m short of the green you will most likely be searching for your ball and most likely also have an very difficult lie. These 2 holes are not good golf holes in my opinion.
I have played the course many times during the last 10-15 years and are usually warning my guest. This is a course more difficult than you think when you stand on most of the tees. Relax, don’t be too ambitious and remember to enjoy the walk. You might be on the green for your expected score, but spoiling your good spirit by a 3 put, or even a 4 put.
For really enthusiastic golfers I recommend to spend time on the practice areas. Here you will have opportunities to practice all the clubs in your bag, hitting bunker shots from bunkers with different sorts of sand, chip and pitch different kind of length to different greens, hitting drivers from mats as well as turf to different hitting areas, and you can rent a pre-installed trackman on the range to help you adjusting your swing etc. etc.
To me the only complaint is the noise from motorways, airport and building activities.
Played a number of rounds on the Stadium course a few years ago and stayed onsite at the hotel (which by now has been refurbished and looks very swanky).
For the golf nut, this is a great place, you have everything you want and need right at your fingertips. The range is fantastic and you can practise all aspects of your game. I've heard very good things about the pros here but have not yet taken a lesson myself.
We only played the Tour course once (I enjoyed it but much preferred the Stadium course) so this focuses on the Stadium course. It's a tough course, no doubt, and high handicappers will have their work cut out. It can play really long. The opening tee shot is incredible and sets the scene nicely for the round. Every par or bogey chance will be hard fought for, no doubt.
PGA Catalunya is a great stay and play place. It's a great escape for a few days. There are also other good courses in the vicinity and you can easily spend a few days here. We also went for dinners in Girona and the cuisine in this part of the world is just wonderful. Highly recommended to check it out.
Quality course and amazing practice facilities. I've never seen anything like this. I stayed here for 5 days, 2 x stadium course and 2 x tour course. The practice area must be the best in Spain. The stadium course are forever to be one of the best in Spain. The layout in the landscape are meant to be. The condition and design are top rated by many players, also why the European tour been playing here. Amazing place, top quality throughout the entire setup. Not the last time I've spent time at the PGA Catalunya!
Expectations were high amongst the 9 of us that made the hours trip North of Barcelona to the mountains outside the city of Girona.
PGA Catalunya is a baby of a course. It was opened for visitors in 1999 to huge excitement and has hosted 3 Spanish Opens to date. That being said, this is a course that divides opinion.
As a plot the course site is huge. I don’t remember being able to see another hole whilst playing the course, so every hole is its own event. They have made fantastic use of the consistent undulations with multiple elevated tee boxes, falling away to pristine looking greens, often surrounded by water. It makes for some epic golfing vistas.
It’s tough, hazards are beautifully placed and it’s a course that can be won or lost from the tee. If you’re a demon with a driver, you will score well here and if you play well you will walk off with great memories of the course.
But for me, this is a good course and not great and let’s be honest, with its ranking, it should be great.
Sadly, despite some lovely holes, such as 1, 3, 5, 11, 13 and 17, the course lacks charm and leaves you thinking “glad I played it, but I’m in no hurry to come back”. Any course with such reliance on one club for me is not one I’m rushing back to play. One added negative is there are a fair few holes with cranes and building sites right up to the fairways, which detracted from the occasion.
That said, it’s a course that if you’re in the Barcelona area, you should play. Stunning views, some of the most picturesque shots you’ll play in Europe, but it just lacks that something that’ll leave it etched on your mind.
I can’t finish this review without talking about 1 hole! The 13th here has made its way into my European Dream 18 holes! A stunning view from the tee box, it drops onto a pristine welcoming fairway offering you differing approach shots into an undulating island green! Stunning!
Many will walk away raving about this course, but that’s the beauty of Golf, one man’s treasure is another man’s trash. For me, this is good...it’s just not great!
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Nice course well prepared but very dificult for high handicaps, the hotel it is also very nice, a golf course you must play.
It’s excellent. Amazing greens, undulating layout. Beautiful lakes, but I just can’t put it in the same league as Valderrama. PGA Catalunya gets a lot of traffic, Valderrama doesn’t. There were quite a few pitch marks in the greens when we played the stadium course and I’ve played it 6 times now. So I love it, but Valderrama pips it for me
The course (design) is true test of golf, I liked it, but it will test at first your driver, both length and accuracy. You have to play a driver from every (yellow, mens’) tee, but Par 3’s, otherwise you play only for bogey. It is long, that is for sure. Many bunkers served during my visit as water hazards after the thunderstorm the day before, remaining bunkers were unraked and hard like concrete. Not what I would expect for this level of green fee.
Everything else is only disappointment. Course is nested between two highways, so if you are lucky to find a corner sheltered from roaring trucks, than you will be immersed into heavy construction place, full of cranes and trucks. Most of the trees shown on old photos and marketing materials are gone and replaced by mono design villas, often very close to the fairway. Not exactly what I enjoy. It is getting to be a pure resort course.
Talking about amenities, the clubhouse is nice modern design, but food served is only average. Both on site hotels are about the same, average food and very noisy, full of drunk golfing and cycling societies, singing and drinking till very very late night. And driving range closed on Sunday afternoon, if you wish. Should be 41/2 for the course design and 2 for the rest.
A luxury 5 star resort with quality modern rooms and service to match. The complex contains 36 golf holes, a large state of the art driving range, swimming pool, spa, its own market, a cosy bar as well as fine dining, there is no storage of things to do for the travelling golfer. The real highlight was the ‘stadium course’. With more movement in the land than you expect, the course weaves itself through beautifully with most holes using the valleys, manicured pines and water to work it’s way around the land. It provided generous landing areas, lovely bunkering (without being to penal) and plenty of movement in the greens. While it was it great condition, it was easy to see this was a championship course (EuropeanTour) and made to test the best by carefully using the hints the course provides and so calculated risks are essential.
This is a really solid golf course with a great routing, a very consistent course in terms of 'no weak holes'. It therefore makes it difficult to determine standout holes, but highlights were the tempting par 5's such as 3, 7, 15 and the rolling par 4's 4, 6, 9, 13, 14 & 17. For the par 3's it was the downhillers with water lurking on holes 5 & 11.
But what really impressed me was how enjoyable and fair it was to play! As I came off the course I realised that not only is it a championship course, but a course that the average golfer enjoy too!
Rory Wood is Manager of the Travelling Golfer click the link to read his full review