Many people were surprised to see that the Stadium Course at PGA Catalunya Resort had been voted the number one course in Spain. After all, Valderrama has long been recognised as not only Spain’s number one golf course but also one of the very best in Europe and it has held numerous golf tournaments including the Ryder Cup, in 1997. It would take something special to move that from the top spot.
When we played the course for the first time a couple of years ago we was impressed but didn’t believe it was better than Valderrama but after playing there again last week we are now not so sure… From the moment you arrive you realise you are somewhere special when you drive past the practice area. Without doubt its one of the best in Europe with an unbelievably good short game area and its no surprise that many European golf professionals go there to sharpen up their game.
The modern clubhouse has a great shop inside it packed with merchandise whilst the terrace overlooking the golf course is a wonderful place for an after round drink and somewhere to sample the excellent range of food on offer.
As good as the facilities are, it’s the golf course that’s the star and the opening tee shot sets the tone for the rest of the round. From an elevated tee you drive down the tree lined fairway which has a slight dog leg to the left and then you have a mid-iron to a well guarded green. Every hole from there on is different from another and requires an accurate drive and a quality approach shot. There are many standout holes on the course and the shot par 4 fourth hole sees the introduction of water for the first time with a lake guarding the left hand side of the green. The par 3 fifth is a great short hole where you hit from an elevated tee to almost an island green. The 7th a downhill par 5 again has water on the left guarding the green and so it goes on with one great hole after another. Most of the tee shots are played from elevated tees through tree lined fairways and there are some fantastic views from many of them that will have you reaching for your camera.
On our previous visit we were slightly concerned that the number of fantastic houses that were being built around the course would have a detrimental effect on the golfing experience. Those fears were groundless as they have skilfully placed them amongst the pines and you hardly notice them.
So is it better than Valderrama? As a golf course its certainly a fairer test of golf and with a number of different teeing grounds to play from it gives golfers of all standards a challenge and a great experience. Valderrama is a little quirky with strange trees appearing in odd places on the fairway but it has a unique character and a history that is hard to beat. However, the PGA is nearly a third of the price for an 18 hole round and when you consider that there are two course on site plus a 5 star Hotel as well as a new 4 star property opening in April next year plus some excellent apartment accommodation there is no doubt that the place to stay and play is the PGA complex.