After the spectacular vistas of Jeju Island for the Ballantine’s Championship, The European Tour returns to continental Europe next week where the Pyrenees will provide the stunning backdrop for the Open de España.
PGA Golf de Catalunya, part of The European Tour’s portfolio of courses, will host the tournament for the first time since 2000 when England’s Brian Davis was crowned champion.
After hosting The European Tour Qualifying School Final last year, the Girona course was described by European Tour Productions as one of the most photogenic they had filmed.
It is certainly hard to disagree with the course cutting through a swell of pines, Spanish oaks and olive trees in a 650 acre valley at the foot of the famous mountain range.
Designed by Neil Coles and Angel Gallardo – respectively Chairman and Vice Chairman of The European Tour - , along with the European Golf Design team, PGA Golf de Catalunya’s Green course has matured into one of the finest in Europe.
Initially earmarked as a site for a Formula One Grand Prix track, the trees will ensure driving is a challenge for any European Tour professional but according to Stanford Eby, of European Golf Design, it is the subtlety of the greens which will test them most.
“PGA Golf de Catalunya is a dramatic piece of land with some beautiful mature pine trees,” he said. The original masterplan routed the course through the valleys of the site and kept the natural ridges and trees for strategic elements”.
"There are vantage points on the course where you can see the Pyrenees – the vistas are truly beautiful. The natural state of the site the scrub vegetation lining the edge of the fairways has been preserved. The natural elevation provides some great spectators opportunities and the topography creates a very photogenic course.
"In terms of playing, the trees visually frame the course but do not make it tight – it is wide enough. There are some tees with high elevation which mean you are hitting down the fairway. In fact, despite the natural ridges, there is only one uphill tee shot - on the sixth hole.
"A few bunkers have been added in recent years and the greens are pretty well guarded. The greens are not great big undulating greens – the design intent was for subtlety . There are small ridges and breaks rather than a roller coaster ride. It’s a very testing putting challenge."
Eby said the par three 16th hole could be one to watch out for while the 18th should provide a strong finishing hole.
“The 16th is pretty dramatic as you are hitting from the tee across a valley to the green,” he said.
“Anything short won’t get up on to the green and will run back down towards the valley where there are bunkers. The 18th is also deceptively uphill from tee to green and I would hope that it would play as an 18th or 72nd hole should.”