Golf bliss on Spain's Costa Brava

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May 04, 2011
David Brice, Golf International, Inc.

David Brice, CEO of Golf International, reviews destinations on PGATOUR.COM that can be experienced by purchasing a package with Golf international, a leading provider of high-end international golf travel. For more information about this trip or any other of Golf International's destination trips, click here.

Spain is a country of variety and contrasts and nowhere is this more vividly apparent than in the fascinating region of Catalonia. A triangular wedge of mountains, valleys, plains and 360 miles of Mediterranean coastline, it sits in the northeastern corner of Spain, bursting with character, charm and an individuality entirely of its own.

Emporda Golf Resort offers 36 holes of Spain's best golf.jpg
Emporda Golf Resort offers 36 holes of Spain's best golf.
Emporda's Forest Course - Cathedral-like stands of umbrella pines present a unique challenge.jpg
Emporda's Forest Course - Cathedral-like stands of umbrella pines present a unique challenge.
Emporda's Links offers Bunkers, bunkers and more bunkers.jpg
Emporda's Links offers Bunkers, bunkers and more bunkers.
The Forest Course  is drama from start to finish.jpg
The Forest Course is drama from start to finish.
Emporda Links - 6th hole.jpg
Emporda Links -- 6th hole
Emporda Links - 3rd hole.jpg
Emporda Links -- 3rd hole
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This region, which has it's own language (Catalan) in addition to Spanish, is an increasingly important force in the world of European golf. There may not be as many courses as in some other places, but when it comes to quality, few can match Catalonia's variety and consistently high caliber of golf layouts.

Most of the courses are concentrated along The Costa Brava, a 125-mile length of ruggedly spectacular coastline, running from the French border to within 45 miles of Barcelona. There are a dozen truly stunning layouts along this balmy coast and four of these are ranked among the top 50 courses in all Europe - when it comes to golf, the Costa Brava has no room for mediocrity.

Leading the small but very distinguished course grouping is the Emporda Golf Resort, a haven for the game's true connoisseurs, with a pair of championship layouts good enough to tempt even the most jaded golf traveler. Emporda's Links and Forest Courses showcase Spanish golf in the grandest of style.

Both courses are the handiwork of Texas born master architect, Robert von Hagge, a maestro at squeezing the most (and then some) from any site. Doral's Blue Monster and TPC Woodlands in Houston are just two outstanding examples of von Hagge's more than 100 US creations, but it's on the international golf scene where the man has really excelled with brilliance. They are to be found in Australia, Japan, Mexico, the Caribbean and in France, where 3 of the country's top 10 courses, Seignosse. Les Bordes and Paris National all bear his signature. Robert von Hagge's well-earned reputation for building handsome, tough, yet thoroughly playable layouts followed him to Spain, as evidenced at Emporda.

The two courses complement each other magnificently, making it difficult to have a preference for either -- so there really is no alternative but to play both and try to decide for yourself -- things could be far worse!

The Forest Course is filled with a majestic drama as its narrow fairways wind their way through a veritable jungle of tall, umbrella pines, at times creating an almost cathedral-like feeling - and when was the last time you played golf in a cathedral? Water has been used in moderation, but it's effective, subtly adding complexity to the test, which at a very respectable 6,750 yards from the back tees, is stern and far from a simple walk in the park.

This is a layout for the thinking golfer, where accuracy, accompanied by correct club selection and a healthy dose of strategy are all rewarded well. The bunkering is bold, at times almost audaciously so and these are not the kind of mild mannered, token bunkers you may be accustomed to on your home course.

The Links Course, although not a true links, does contain many links-like elements. The rippling fairways are wide, filled with sometimes wild undulations and open to a wind that can gust and play its own games. Von Hagge has added dune-like hazards to be contended with and the rough is as close to that found on a Royal Dornoch or a Carnoustie, as you're ever likely to encounter -- deep, thick and with an insatiable appetite, it's to be avoided at all costs.

Any big hitter who lacks accuracy, but feels they must spread their shoulders and let it rip, is likely heading for trouble - this links demands respect from all and makes no exceptions.

Unlike a true links, there's an abundance of water with 8 lakes scattered around the course and Von Hagge has used them with a cunning tenacity. He brings the wet stuff into play on more than half the holes, compounding the need for careful thought before every shot.

Adding to the pleasure of playing at Emporda are the beautiful surroundings and immaculate maintenance that keeps both courses in tip-top condition, including the greens which must be among the very best to be found in Europe. There's no question that all 36 holes at Emporda deserve their ranking up there at the top of the official European rankings, but you should still play both courses and make a judgement as to which deserves first prize.

But take full advantage of your time on the Costa Brava by playing as many of the highly regarded courses as you can -- Pals, Peralada, D'Aro and PGA Golf de Catalunya, are just a few of the outstanding layouts that demand some attention. And there is much more to discover along this stunningly attractive coastline.

The picturesque, white sand beaches are irresistible and even the most ardent golfer can be excused for spending a few hours relaxing under the brilliant blue skies just enjoying the good life, in between golf and sightseeing excursions. There are medieval villages that have been standing here since the beginnings of time to be explored, together with the fascinating ancient city of Girona, which can easily occupy an entire day.

Girona has a small but excellent collection of museums, including one devoted to what was once the most important Jewish Quarter in all of Spain. Be sure to visit Girona's magnificent Cathedral, dating from the 14th century. But the real joy of this amazingly photogenic city is simply to wander the winding narrow streets of the Old Town with its tiny squares and vaulted passageways, just soaking up the centuries of history that lives here. Another excursion not to be missed is a half day or so visit to the town of Figueres, noted for its fine cuisine and as the birthplace of Salvador Dali the famous surrealist painter. The Dali museum located here will be appreciated by all, just be sure to take a sense of humor along with you.

Spain's Mediterranean Coast is blessed with an abundance of excellent golf courses and so much more, including the perfect, year round climate and the Costa Brava shares in it all. Golfer or not, this is a part of Spain that will capture your heart and provide memories enough to last a lifetime.

For more ideas and suggestions on how to include the best of the Costa Brava on your trip, contact the Spain experts at Golf International by calling toll free, 1 (800) 833-1389 , or click here.

©2011 David Brice / Golf International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Golf International -- Providers of quality golf travel arrangements since 1988.

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