What Makes Emporda Golf Resort a Special Destination
The Empordà Golf Resort is well-known to UK golfers who have been enjoying the 36 holes there for some years.
Its two courses - Links and Forest - offer contrasting qualities that divide opinions among those who play both.
On my visit in October 2021, there was a split among our group. Some preferred the former while those including me, considered the Forest to be more enjoyable and challenging.
My view was not echoed in the scores over the weekend however, as more points were racked up on the tree-lined Forest Course than the Links where the huge green complexes and open landscape provided no hiding place from the breeze coming in off the Mediterranean a few miles to the east.
All this is good news. It means that without doubt there are two quality golf courses here, and it’s hard to argue that one is any better than the other. They are just different and that probably explains why the combination of the first 9 of each course is regarded as the favoured course for professional tournaments.
Both were designed by Robert von Hagge and built over the early years of the 1990s on a large plain and the adjacent pine forest.
During lockdown both courses have been upgraded with extensive renovations.
The Links Course
You have to take the name with a pinch of sea salt but you will get the idea. Man-made, generous, undulating fairways with humps and hollows have been constructed on an open landscape with no respite from the tramuntana wind should it be blowing from the north, fortunately mainly just in the winter months. Unlike its partner course, you will not get behind a tree anywhere, apart from possibly around the 16th green, but instead a number of water hazards add to the challenge. There are plenty of bunkers and waste areas, but they are not too penal with shallow faces unlike traditional links pot bunkers with rivetted faces. When we played the rough was fairly tame but it was evident there are plenty of opportunities to tighten up the course considerably if needed.
Pin placement is critical to your approach play as the size and shape of the greens provide plenty of nasty options for the greenkeeper to make things difficult if he has got out of the wrong side of bed.
This is best seen on the 4th, an island green some 40m deep with long bunkers either side. A pin placement to the back of this green is scary indeed and you could end up with an extremely long putt from short or a Van de Velde moment if you go too bold and overhit the green by only a couple of yards.
There are a number of memorable holes throughout the course including the 13th that features a gorgeous-looking plateau green that plays havoc with anything but a perfect approach shot. Van Hagge obviously decided 13 should prove unlucky for most players at Empordà - the Forest has an equally cunning challenge on the same number for a different reason, but more on that later.
The 9th, a short par 4 that plays over water in front of the green is another that has a devilish pin placement option on a small area raised above the main surface which in some instances could require a chip from the main green. At least you could get your own back on the greenkeeper.
The short par 4s are the highlight of this course; lack of length can easily lead to complacency and you need to be on your guard and think through every shot if you want to score well.
The Forest Course
By contrast this is more traditional by appearance in the Mediterranean sense and there is no denying its scenic appeal. Fairways weave through umbrella pines on almost every hole so hitting it straight from tee to green is a must.
But it is more than a test of accuracy. Bunkering here is more penal, only one par three could be described as short and straightforward and there are some very demanding holes.
As mentioned earlier the number 13 seems to be one that von Hagge had in mind when he was looking for a real challenge. Here it’s a dog-leg left par 5, where even a very good drive will leave you scratching your head when you decide what to do next. The line is down the left - but that is defended by a build-out of tall pines making you aim straight down the middle instead. The problem with that is the lie of land sloping left to right is likely to carry the ball into a large bunker short of the green. A great hole.
The one that fills most players with fear is the short par 4 6th. With water literally left, right and centre it’s a great talking point on the tee. If you keep your nerve, all that’s required is a good straight shot about 200 yards down the middle followed by a distance-perfect mid to short iron to a narrow green and a couple of putts on an undulating green. We can all manage that, can’t we? Holes like this are the ones that make us come back for more, even if they are potential card wreckers.
Another standout hole is the 9th; a wriggling par 5 where the perfect tee shot is hampered by a huge shallow fairway bunker. From there a route needs to be plotted around a lake before a third shot over it to another huge green.
Empordà makes an ideal stay-and-play base for golfers with its 87 roomed hotel, restaurant, well-equipped clubhouse and golf range. Recent investment in the clubhouse, shop and restaurant provides a great golfing experience for those who have missed travel so much. The hotel is adjacent to the clubhouse so you are ready to play without having to travel.
There is plenty of interest in the vicinity including the medieval towns of Pals and Peratallada, both good for sightseeing, restaurants and a spot of culture.
The Med is just 15 minutes drive away at Pals Beach.
If the tramuntana blows your golf away, head to Mas Geli Winery just down the road for tasting and tapas, where they thank the wind for enhancing the health of their grapes.
Catalonia and the Costa Brava is an ideal destination for golf. Golfbreaks offers a range of packages taking in the courses at Empordà, PGA Catalunya, Golf de Pals and Club Golf D’Aro.
For more on what you can enjoy in this region, please see The Best Golf Courses to Play in The Costa Brava.
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