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Catalunya, Spain

Quick Overview

An hour’s drive north of the wonderfully historic city of Barcelona you begin to climb into the foothills of the fiercely independent and stunningly beautiful region of Catalunya. Its northernmost coastal area, called the Costa Brava, boasts a rugged 40-mile stretch of sandy beaches that sweep from the Spanish capital up to the border with France. But, if you aren’t interested in the beaches, fear not, as here you will discover the world’s top-rated restaurant and the best golf course Spain has to offer.

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Literally translated, Costa Brava means the rugged or wild coast, but head a little further north and you’ll unearth tranquil medieval towns of Girona and also Figueres, the birth-place of surrealist painter Salvador Dali and home to the museum celebrating his unique life and distinctive works.


If golf is more your thing, then why not join the growing band of club players starting to discover the Cost Brava’s wide range of blissfully empty courses, the best of which is Spain’s No1 rated PGA Golf Catalunya course at Caldes de Malavella, near Girona.


The Stadium Course, designed by Ryder Cup veteran Neil Coles and Spain’s Angel Gallardo, has twice hosted the Spanish Open (2002 and 2009) since opening in 1999. Ranked #3 in continental Europe by Golf Monthly UK it also sits 12 places inside Golf World Magazine’s Top 100 courses in the world list for 2012.


Conceived as a potential venue for the 1997 Ryder Cup, planning delays ultimately denied PGA Catalunya its chance of competing against Valderrama, in Andalucía, for the tournament hosting rites. However, the course has blossomed and matured since and is now home to the gruelling ‘Q School’ – The 252-hole final stages of Europe Tour Qualification where professionals go to earn their spurs to play on tour.


A par 72 measuring up at 6,226 yards off the yellow tees, the Stadium Course features two huge lakes between the third and fifth holes and another resting beside the 11th and 13th that only add to the majesty of this rolling, visually stunning course that boasts a backdrop of the nearby Pyrenees.


There are several breathtaking holes here including the par three 11th hole – Catalunya’s answer the infamous 17th at TPC Sawgrass in Florida. Almost 200 yards off the back tees, the lake envelops a narrow, kidney-shaped green. For the club golfer at least, it is distinctly scary.


The Tour Course here, which is substantially shorter and less intimidating from the tees, backs on to PGA Catalunya’s bespoke hotel, the Melia Golf Vichy Catalan. Alternatively, you can rent one of the villas lining the fairways. For all tariffs and further information visit: www.pgacatalunya.com


Within scouting distance, especially if you have a sat-nav system in your car, there are other courses well worth a visit during your stay in Catalunya; Golf Girona, only a ten-minute drive from the main shopping centre and barely quarter-of-an-hour from the airport; Golf Platja de Pals, the region’s oldest course; and the modern and superbly appointed Torre Mirona Golf & Spa resort.


Away from the course


When you fancy leaving your clubs back at the hotel, Catalunya offers plenty more to keep you busy. From wine tasting to white water rafting, tennis and mountain hiking, to horse riding, or maybe try mounting a two-wheeled Segway for a safari amongst the vineyards scattered throughout the Pyrenean foothills.


The historic local town of Figueres is well worth a visit too. Not only to wander around the bijou boutiques and the iconic Salvador Dali Theatre and Museum, but simply to explore the shady alleys and back-streets which play host to numerous tapas bars and some of the best restaurants in the world, let alone Spain.


For that special occasion you can book a table at the three Michelin starred, El Celler de Can Roca in nearby Girona – the world’s top-ranked eatery.


The family-run restaurant entered the World’s 50 Best list eight years ago and has steadily climbed the rankings since, reaching the summit in early 2013.


Its relatively low-key rise to fame reflects the approach of its owners, the three Roca brothers, and an evolutionary approach to cooking that goes hand-in-hand with their modest outlook on life. What better way to end your trip than a visit to El Cellar de Can Roca?


Mark Pennell travelled to Costa Brava courtesy of the regional tourist board, EasyJet and Landmark Media. He stayed at Hotel Carlemany in Girona, Hotel Torre Mirona, and Melia Golf Vichy Catalan, at the PGA Catalunya golf resort.


May 9, 2023


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