On this trip I was accompanied by our Spanish Ambassador Guillem, who is actually living in the epicentre of the courses we wanted to play. On the first day, we went to one of the most well-known courses in the area, PGA Catalunya. This course was originally built to host the Ryder Cup in 1997 (that year it went to Valderrama because of external reasons). Next to the famous Stadium course, there is another 18 holes course called the Tour Course. Both courses were designed by Spanish European Tour player Ángel Gallardo together with another former European Tour player, Neil Coles.
Both courses at PGA Catalunya are very well maintained, compared to the last time I played here a lot of shrubs under the trees were taken out. This is great because the Stadium course is not a course where you want to miss the fairway. It looks beautiful but for players above handicap 15 (and sometimes under), this course can be quite challenging. No wonder they have hosted the European Tour Final Stage Qualifying School on several occasions.
The Tour course however is a more benign course to play, there is a little more room for error the maintenance is immaculate as well and very much fun to play. I would really advise players with a handicap from over 18 to play this course instead of the Stadium Course. If you want to read more about my experiences view my full review of PGA Catalunya.
The second course we played is the home course of our Spanish Ambassador Guillem Mataró, Club de Golf Montanyà is situated 700 meters above sea level, about 1 hour from the city centre of Barcelona. The first thing you see is the ancient clubhouse partly built in the 15th century. Furthermore, the course is embedded in a huge national park with lots of wildlife and no freeway or train tracks in sight. There are challenging holes and the greens are great.
Inside the clubhouse, there is a very good restaurant - with Michelin Bib Gourmand classification - where you can also arrive by helicopter (41º 49' 09" N - 2º 16' 95" E). The restaurant is also open for non-golfers. This members club with little over 200 members very quiet, so no full flights or a busy course, but plenty of space for a relaxing day of golf. Another interesting fact is that Montanyà was the home course of Johan Cruijff, the famous Dutch football player who played and coached FC Barcelona.
After Montanyá we went to Real Club de Golf El Prat. This old club that used to have its course next to the airport moved to their new location Terrassa (half an hour north-west of the city) in 2001. El Prat has been the host of several Spanish Opens and was designed by Australian legend Greg Norman. Recently a lot of bunkers were taken out on the Yellow course to make it more playable. You don’t really notice because there were 260 bunkers(!) on the 36 holes before that.
There also is a 9 hole public course next to El Prat called El Vallès. It's also designed by Greg Norman and maintained by the same greenkeeping crew as El Prat, and it's nice to play. Design-wise I prefer the Pink and Yellow course at El Prat. But the green fee at El Vallès is only € 42 for 18(!) holes.
When we finished playing El Prat & El Vallès we went to this excellent Spanish steakhouse called La Vinya Grill (10 min drive) this is the place where you want to go after 27 holes on Catalonian top courses. Although the waiters speak little English I’m sure with pointing, Google translate and help from friendly Spanish guests you will get great food. We went for the grilled octopus and a 1.400-gram Prime rib, dessert didn’t really fit anymore…
The next day we were already on the last course of our 99 holes trip but this ‘dessert’ was great. We played at one of the oldest clubs in Barcelona, Sant Cugat established in 1914 and designed by the famous architect Harry Colt. When the club was built it was on the edge of town but now it’s a green oasis in the middle of apartment buildings and houses. The course is not super long so you can leave your driver in the car but it is very technical and placement on the fairways to attack the well guarded small greens is key.
The course is pretty undulated and some of the members drive around on little scoot mobiles instead of buggies. At the turn, there is a little halfway house where you get a free bocadillo con jamon (cured ham sandwich) when you buy a drink. The perfect snack to continue your round. I’m a big fan of Harry Colt designs and on this course, he has done a great job. Colt created a beautiful course on a relatively small property just like De Pan in Utrecht where he only had 45 hectares to fit in 18 amazing holes.
So to summarize this trip; we played 5 totally different courses in just a few days. Starting with the championship courses at PGA Catalunya that handle a lot of green fee players and have loads of other nice facilities. After that the exclusive but very hospitable member course Montanyá. With only 216 members there is always a tee time available.
El Prat that has hosted several Spanish Opens, but is mostly played by members (if you want a tee-time here be sure to book on time to get your desired time slot.) El Vallès was the course that didn’t really stand out because that might be because the other courses are really of very high quality. But for the relatively low green fee, it is great price-quality.
Sant Cugat was my personal favourite, pretty hard to get a tee time here because over 250 members play here per day. Normally you can book only one day in advance by phone but they do make exceptions for foreigners who need to know earlier.
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