PGA Catalunya Resort in Spain’s Costa Brava is an established golf resort, but as Alison Root discovered, if you’re considering a girlie getaway, golf is not the only thing on offer!
Never before have I received an invitation for a ‘women-only’ press trip. Usually I become ‘one of the boys’ for a few days, replacing my usual G&T with half a lager, so things are looking up!
Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy male company, but it’s refreshing that venues have come to realise that women relish the idea of a golfing trip with the ‘girls’, partners or family, and destinations have woken up to the fact that they need to focus on their requirements. Therefore, full marks must go to the PGA Catalunya Resort and its Hotel Camiral in Spain’s Costa Brava.
One of the great things about this resort is that it’s under a 10-minute drive from Girona airport, and just over an hour from Barcelona, should you wish to combine a golf and city break. Hotel Camiral opened less than 18 months ago following a €33m investment and it oozes class and sophistication, yet it’s not stuffy.
Internationally renowned Barcelona-based designer Lázaro RosaViolán certainly capitalised on the fabulous views provided by the 300-hectare resort, (originally intended to be a Formula 1 racing circuit) to create a modern, low-rise structure with floor to ceiling windows that overlooks the 25-metre pool, golf course and countryside beyond.
From the bright and airy reception area, the glass stairway, contemporary artwork and the library’s astonishingly high bookcases are an instant talking point. The library is an ideal place for guests to relax if they are not doing so already by the pool-facing terrace, or on a private balcony in one of the luxuriously appointed bedrooms.
As a group of ladies we immediately noticed and commented upon (not saying that men wouldn’t!) the oak wood flooring that extends from the bedroom to a spacious bathroom, and it’s here that the hand-painted floral tiles above the bathtub catch your eye as well as the supply of Natura Bissé essentials.
Aside from a Wellness centre and spa, the hotel also offers various activities including cooking demonstrations, yoga classes, gin tasting, cycling and boat trips, so golf can quite easily become an afterthought.
Needless to say, I was thrilled that gin tasting appeared on our itinerary, given that the hotel offers 16 varieties, however it was an outdoor yoga session that came first to stretch and loosen our muscles for the following day’s golf, and with two novices in the group, myself included, there were a lot of giggles.
At this European Tour Properties venue, there are two golf courses - Stadium and Tour - and first up was the Stadium Course, which since opening in 1999, has been consistently ranked among the best ten golf courses in Europe and considered to be No1 in Spain. Standing on the elevated 1st tee with its avenue of pine trees gives you an immediate sense of what’s to come from this dramatic looking course.
If your tee shot happens to stray to the left, you’re faced with an approach shot over water, so not something to cherish on an opening hole. Water comes into play on several occasions and most memorable is the par-3 11th with an almost island green.
Another that I’d prefer to wipe from my memory is the short par-4 13th. With an extremely sloping left to right green, if the pin is on the right-hand-side, even if you comfortably overcome the water hazard with your approach shot, there’s no guarantee that it won’t roll down the gentle slope from the green back into the lake. Word of advice, when playing the par-4 4th, if your drive doesn’t reach the brow of the hill, walk up and take a look, otherwise your second shot could face a watery grave.
This golf course is a challenge and a half, but with five sets of tees and careful negotiation around numerous hazards, it’s playable for golfers of all levels, as was the mixed ability in our ladies fourball. The Stadium’s sister course, the Tour, is by no means a poor relation, but it is shorter and the fairways are more forgiving, especially on the back nine that opens out.
There’s an equal amount of elevation, an engaging feature of both courses, as this allows for wonderful views from tee to green. Again, you’re never far away from a water hazard and the first one makes an appearance at the par-4 3rd. The green sits at an angle, so an approach shot over the water really presents an early test of golfing skill.
This is a ‘serious’ golf resort, in the sense that practice facilities are second to none. As someone that hopes against hope decent play just happens, PGA Catalunya Resort has put the fun back into practising.
The 2,000 square metre putting green features all of the four main grass types and there are five bunkers with different sand types, replicating those at Augusta, St Andrews, Pebble Beach, Hawaii and PGA Catalunya’s Stadium Course. More recently PGA Catalunya has continued to expand its community with the ongoing building of apartments and villas along with the creation of an on-site vineyard and the development of new sporting facilities, which will include an equestrian centre, a man-made recreational lake and an adjoining beach club.
The properties are impressive, they represent the ultimate in luxurious contemporary living, and we could have quite easily moved in there and then, but this lifestyle comes at a price with apartments costing from €430,000, a townhouse from €750,000, and up to €2.9 million for a 4-bedroom villa.
There was plenty to ponder over a G&T at our highly anticipated gin tasting session and we weren’t disappointed, as we sampled four different gins mixed with four different tonics, and these boosted our appetite very nicely.
At the Camiral hotel there are three dining options including the a la carte 1477 restaurant that serves European cuisine with a Catalan twist and a lovely place to dine al fresco, either for breakfast, lunch or dinner, there’s a laid-back lounge bistro or a poolside bar.
As Costa Brava is home to Spain’s highest concentration of Michelin starred restaurants, with the province of Girona boasting eighteen stars in total, including the world-renowned El Celler de Can Roca, when it comes to food and wine, visitors to this region are simply spoilt for choice.
The historic city of Girona is just a 15-minute drive from PGA Catalunya Resort and a must-visit.
As we crossed the River Onyar over the iron bridge towards the row of colourful houses on the river’s eastern bank, we entered Barri Vell, Girona’s charming old quarter with its cobbled streets, stone steps and narrow alleyways that lead to the enchanting Jewish quarter.
Tourists have always flocked to the grand cathedral to climb its 86 steps, but nowadays a walking tour of the Game of Thrones filming locations is equally popular. We only had one complaint - that we didn’t have enough time to shop in what looked to be a great selection of boutiques.
PGA Catalunya Resort did us proud, whether you’re playing golf or not, there’s ample to keep you entertained and the beach is only 25 minutes away. Girls on tour, that’s what I say!
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