Now I don’t now about you but the daily grind of putting on base layers, doing school runs and bleeding radiators can take its toll. Thus landing in Reus just two hours later was a shock to the system. There’s that strange other worldly feel when a blast of hot air hits you as you step on the tarmac. It’s October for God Sake. Base layers? They’ve never even heard of them in Barcelona!
The Catalonia International Golf Festival is the brainchild of Dubliner Dermot Synnott of Destination Golf and fellow director in Barcelona Golf Ian Denham. The festival showcases the delights of golfing in this proud region. From the mature trees on the Stadium Course at Irish owned PGA de Catalunya, which is familiar to us all as the venue for European Tour School, to the tight and tricky Real Club de Golf El Prat, venue of the Open de Espana, the province is just teaming with top courses.
Visiting the vast region of Catalunya you have the choice of basing yourself in the North or South. For its inaugural year the Catalonia International Golf Festival chose its base at the splendid Husa Masia Bach Hotel, situated in the countryside alongside the quant village of St Esteve de Sesrovires, and the town of Martorell just a short hop from bustling Barcelona City. The four star Husa Masia Bach hotel is an oasis of calm and boasts its own top quality golf course Golf de Barcelona. Tight and undulating, you will certainly earn to your trip to the pool and sauna after the round.
While most of the festival attendees arrived into Barcelona airport, we took a Ryanair flight a couple of days early from Ireland West Airport at Knock to Reus, an hour’s drive from Barcelona. There we took the opportunity to shoot down to catch a La Liga game in Villarreal. What an experience! The whole town shuts down two hours before every home game to rush into the 25,000 seater El Madrigal Stadium to watch their heroes. Tickets are cheap, always available and the atmosphere is electric.
The Catalonia International Golf Festival kicked off on the 3rd of October with over 70 players from Italy, Britain and Ireland arriving into Barcelona. From low single figures to fair-weather players, the eclectic mix were acquainted in the 28 degree sunshine on the hotel terrace. Over the next five days the group tackled PGA de Catalunya, Real Club de Golf El Prat and Golf de Barcelona at the Husa Masia Bach Hotel. And you know something, it’s amazing to watch 16 odd fourballs sitting on the clubhouse balcony agonizing over missed putts in several languages!
Pic: James Hanby tees off at PGA de Catalunya
The great thing about basing the Festival near Barcelona for its inaugural year was it allowed players to hop from the tee box into Barcelona and all its sights like Las Ramblas, or Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia or if you’re a sports fan like me, the Camp Nou. Unfortunately Messi, Iniesta and company were away from home last week but the Stadium Tour for just €22 is unmissable. The Camp Nou experience brings you around the fascinating 99,000 plus seater ground, from the pitch to the press boxes and just about everywhere in between. Would you believe that during the ’92 World Cup, the Camp Nou held 112,000 fans, all seated, but reduced its capacity after for safety reasons?
Click on the album opposite to view Gala dinner photos
Left To Right: Ian Denham (Barcelona Golf), Anna Carrera (Catalan Tourist Board), Steve Gray (Overall Winner), Dermot Synnott (Destination Golf Media)
Of course the key to a successful golf group trip is occupying people’s hours off the course and one of the highlights of the Catalonia International Golf Festival included combining the transfer to the airport with a trip to Torres vineyards, a powerhouse in the wine making world, with a fascinating visitor’s centre. I guess you could say the guys at Destination Golf got the blend just right in every way for the first festival and plans are already underway for the 2012 event. For more information on the Catalonia International Golf Festival check out www.barcelonagolf.com.