There are few destinations in Europe like Spain's Costa Brava where it’s possible to combine a golf break with trips to two beautiful cities.
Spain’s Costa Brava region is in the province of Girona and only 62 miles northeast of Barcelona. It's equidistance between the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees, so with mountains on one side and the sea on the other, the landscape is diverse; there’s a variety of activities to enjoy, and not to mention fabulous shopping!
Stay and Play
Costa Brava boasts ten golf courses within a radius of 45 minutes. Torremirona Golf Resort which is just over half an hour’s drive from Girona Airport, and ten minutes from the town of Figueres (Catalan for fig trees) is the birthplace of Salvador Dali, and home to the artist’s museum.
Torremirona is a compact resort with functional bedrooms and spa facilities, tucked away into a peaceful setting with the Pyrenees as a backdrop. It’s perfect if you fancy a no-frills night or two away with good food and the added benefit of golf on your doorstep. All golfers will take pleasure in playing this easy walking course with mountain views and picturesque wildlife on the man-made lakes; however, it’s not just a walk in the park! After a straightforward short par-4 opener, fairways are particularly tight on the front nine, and you’re unlikely to forget the par-3 5th hole in a hurry, if like me, the water surrounding the island green unkindly interrupts your play!
Jewel in the Crown
You cannot possibly leave Costa Brava without experiencing the PGA Catalunya Resort (pictured above). This is an impressive facility with a hotel located in the heart of the resort, a large, modern clubhouse, and two beautifully manicured championship golf courses - the Stadium Course, host of two Spanish Opens, is consistently ranked among the 10 best European golf courses and the Tour Course plays co-host to the final stage qualifying for the 2013 European Tour.
The Tour Course was designed for resort play, the fairways are like carpet, both generous and undulating, and you can have fun plotting your way round as hazards present risk and reward options - the memorable par-5 15th springs to mind. At 404 metres, it’s the longest par-5 from the forward tees, so although it’s not monstrous in length, if you take the tiger line, there’s every possibility that you could enter a watery grave.
As the name would suggest, Girona Golf Club is the nearest to Girona town centre, just 4km away, but it’s completely isolated from city life, set between valleys and hills with fabulous views of the foothills of the Gavarres mountains. Opened in 1992, the surroundings give the course a maturity that belies its youth. There’s no shortage of elevation so it’s best to hire a buggy, although be careful as some buggy paths are clearly in need of maintenance and in the meantime could prove to be a little dangerous.
Don’t leave Girona in a hurry as there’s plenty to see and do in this laid-back city which is set on the river Onyar. On the east bank of the river is the Old Town with its famous Jewish quarter, impressive walled section and cathedral which includes the widest Gothic nave in the world. With crisscrossing cobblestone streets and steep stairs going up the hill upon which Girona is built, you can forget your stilettos! Highly pedestrianised, it’s a relaxing place to walk around and window shop before chilling out and absorbing the typically Catalan atmosphere in one of the lively street cafes and restaurants at ‘Rambla’. If you have a sweet tooth you’ll love Girona’s ‘Xuixo’ cake, a very light choux bun, deep filled with custard, fried in olive oil and rolled in sugar.
Gourmet golfers are spoilt for choice as Girona’s province offers the highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants in Spain. The world’s second best restaurant, El Celler de Can Roca (three Michelin stars) is situated in the city, just a short distance from Girona Golf Club.
They say location is everything and within 10 minutes’ walk of the Old Town and five minutes’ walk of the train station is the four-star Hotel Carlemany. This is a modern, glass-fronted hotel with spacious bedrooms and a popular restaurant, plus I couldn’t help noticing Zara and H&M across the street for some essential additional retail therapy.
At Costa Brava Golf Club (pictured below) an additional 9 holes recently opened to complement the existing 18 holes of this British-designed course. Whichever combination of the three loops of nine holes you choose to play, you’re in for a treat. From the forward tees, if your game is accurate you’ll score well, particularly on the new nine holes as they’re fairly short and a great confidence booster as many greens can be reached in regulation. The clubhouse was originally a farmhouse dating back to 1841 and is absolutely charming. Combine this with a cool drink and tapas while sitting in the sunshine on the terrace, and there you have an authentic Catalan golf experience.
Golf is Fun!
If you’re looking for a different golfing challenge, and one that beginners and all members of the family can enjoy, then visit one of the ten pitch and putt courses such as Gualta in the region of Empordà or Papalús in Lloret de Mar. Compared with the majority of pitch and putt courses in the UK, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the courses and variety of holes. Costa Brava also takes pitch and putt play seriously, and earlier this year Papalús was the venue for the International Pitch and Putt Open
What you need to know
Costa Brava can be reached from the UK in less than two hours and is easily accessible as there are regular flights to Girona or Barcelona.
WHERE TO STAY
TorreMirona Golf Resort & Spa - see website for offers www.torremirona.com
Hotel Carlemany www.carlemany.es
From €75 per room per night based on two people sharing
PGA Catalunya Resort www.pgacatalunya.com
From €118 up to €140.50 pp including bed and breakfast and a round on the Tour Course. Package can be customised to include more room nights and golf, and Stadium Course upgrade.
WHERE TO PLAY
Girona Golf Club www.golfgirona.com - €53-€76
Costa Brava Golf Club www.golfcostabrava.com €55-€80