Emporda Golf in Costa Brava has two excellent and contrasting 18-hole courses, named Links and Forest. The on-site hotel has undergone a refurbishment which cost €21m. Of this nearly €7m was spent on the Links course and involved work to all the bunkers. That’s a lot of money, but then there is a lot of bunkering.
A rule of thumb is that any course calling itself a links is not one. Such is the case here. Mounds of earth to ape a links have been built, but these do not flow or have the ripple effect characteristic of linksland.
The fairways are flat, with none of the awkward stances you can get on many links, and the bunkers are often flat – so none of the steep or pot bunkers typical of a links either. But it is an imaginative transformation of a flat, open piece of land.
Also, unlike with a links, you cannot manufacture shots so easily here: there is a mix of target golf and risk-and-reward. This is often because water hazards have been sploshed around the design with enthusiasm by architect Robert von Haage.
The 9th is probably the most attractive hole with the distant backdrop to the moated green one of mountains and castle. The green is 170ft deep and in the shape of a cartoon depiction of a dog’s bone.
On the par-3 6th the putting surface is angled to the tee and behind a sprawling bunker. It is also jolly wide – well in my case actually miserably wide as I was on in one and down in five. An even better, or worse, chance to four putt is the 18th as that has a massive double green with the 18th on the Forest.
The 428-yard 7th has a green 170ft deep. The par-3 11th is to an angled green 155ft from front to back with the tee shot over the corner of a lake.
The slightly shorter Forest, also the work of von Haage, might seem to be the secondary course at Emporda Golf as Links was prioritised for renovation and hosted two Challenge Tour events this year. However the majority opinion of our dozen-strong party is that the Forest is an even better course. It is prettier, perhaps has a wee bit more character, with a touch more variety and a bit less that is forced in the design. But it shares with the Links design large, flat bunkers, and some artificial mounds.
As it name suggests, it plays through a wooded area, with narrow fairways lined by umbrella pines. There is a subtle variety to the green complexes, with differing styles of bunkering used, and some raised greens, including a pork-pie-hat green on the 11th.
Pleasingly for a modern course, there is not a par 3 with water, and the short holes are exactly that – the longest any can stretch to is 187 yards. My favourite hole was the elegant par-3 2nd played to a slightly raised green with banking to the left and a slope strewn with bunkers to the right, with distant backdrop, when viewed from the tee, of castle. Sadly my photo of it does not quite do it justice.
But the two most talked about holes are the most overtly designed. The 319-yard 6th offers a choice of routes to the green. To play straight towards it you have to hit a fairway bordered with water on three sides and then approach to a shallow, wide green over water. Or you can choose the C-shaped fairway to the left of this, which has water inside the C. This is the longer route, and this fairway is not wide, but the approach does not have to cross water and is now to a narrow but deep green from this angle.
The par-5 9th has a large bunker dissecting the first part of a fairway which doglegs right and arcs to the left round a lake, with the green jutting out into the lake. You can play parallel to the bunker, and then over it to set up a third shot to the green, or you can take on the large flat expanse of sand – and in truth it should not be too tricky to play out of this anyway – to set up a second shot over water to the precariously positioned green.
The golf clubhouse is but a short iron from what is a true golfers’ hotel – the spa has yet to reopen at Terraverda Golf Hotel as it awaits its own rejunevation, and this leaves a limited range of non-golfing activities. However the local area is enchanting. Llafranc is a charming seaside village with superb views from the promenade and is a 20-minute drive from the hotel. The evocative and romantic medieval villages of Pals and Peratallada are a 10- and 15-minute journey respectively.
Barcelona airport is 1hr 45min drive away from Emporda Golf and Girona airport is 45 minutes’ drive.
Contributing Writer Golf courses and travel are Roderick’s particular interests and he was contributing editor for the first few years of the Golf Monthly Travel Supplement. He writes travel articles and general features for the magazine, travel supplement and website. He also compiles the magazine's crossword. He is a member of Trevose Golf & Country Club and has played golf in around two dozen countries. Cricket is his other main sporting love. He is the author of five books, four of which are still in print: The Novel Life of PG Wodehouse; The Don: Beyond Boundaries; Wally Hammond: Gentleman & Player and England’s Greatest Post-War All Rounder.
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