At Bayonne and Pine Valley golf clubs, adjacent to New York, and Philadelphia respectively you will find, two of the world’s greatest golf courses. As you drive to either you are struck by the fact that roads leading to these amazing venues are lined with industrial buildings, low rent housing, and faded commercial enterprises. More than once, you might think you are on the wrong road, and that your satnav is once again having fun at your expense. But, pressing on, against your better judgment, you finally pass through the unassuming gates of your quarry to find golfing nirvana. The same is true of Real Golf Club EL Prat, just thirty minutes from the hustle and bustle of Las Ramblas, in the heart of Barcelona, that most lively of Spanish cities, lies an oasis of peace, tranquility, and world-class golf not easily apparent from your journey.
A Club Steeped in History
This legendary facility with its’ roots dating back to 1912, it’s one of the few Spanish clubs to have been granted “Real” or Royal status by King Alfonso XIII. The club offers 45 holes of golf, superb practice facilities, and a linage of hosting great events, that go back over one hundred years, including ten Spanish Opens. It’s Spain so of course, the food is wonderful, the hospitality warm, and the golf every bit as exciting as you would expect from the hosts of a major championship venue. In truth, you feel a little lucky to be playing here at all because despite being one of the top private member’s clubs, in Spain, Real Golf El Prat does, in fact, welcome visitors. Which is an opportunity that should not be missed if you should find yourself in Barcelona.
The Club dates back to 1912 when some golf amateurs in Barcelona’s aristocracy and nobility set up the Barcelona Golf Club in Pedralbes. Over time, with the city’s expansion, the Club was forced to make its first leap to new facilities in 1954, to El Prat de Llobregat, beside Barcelona’s airport, and was subsequently renamed Real Club de Golf El Prat. In 1997, the expansion of Barcelona airport required the club to change its location once again, this time to the Bonvilar country estate, a 220-hectare plot situated in the green corridor that links two Nature Parks. In this idyllic setting less than 20 miles from the city center, Greg Norman designed 45 holes with the idea of creating a fusion of playability, aesthetic beauty, and seamlessly integrate the holes into the natural surroundings without moving much earth. Over the years the courses have been tweaked by Norman himself removing some bunkers and improving the sustainability of the course.
Two Championship Courses and an Emergency Nine
The two championship layouts the Pink, and the Yellow are of a very different character from each other. The Pink is an interesting mix of classic and modern design. The front nine is flat and treelined with several tight driving holes. The back nine is hilly going straight uphill some 100 feet on the par 5, 10th, which no doubt causes some controversy with a huge tree in the center of the fairway impeding your second shot. The course stays along the top of a ridge for several holes featuring a more open, modern style of golf, with lots of bunkers and offering wonderful views of the city to the Montserrat and La Mola mountains to the West.
The 14th and 15th revert to the classic style and the course finishes tough in the modern style with two long par fours. One guarded by a lake the other with large, bunkers up the right and a barranca up the entire left side, while the final hole is a long par five. The par threes are particularly challenging as all but one of them is quite long. The par three 6th, The Volcano features a long iron or wood over a sea of sand to a tabletop green keen to reject all but a perfect shot and leaving a difficult chip from any side of the green.
The Yellow is Clearly Norman
The yellow course is modern all the way, and with little to no elevation change. Its’ DNA is clearly Norman that is to say it’s longer, has lots of large bunkers, sand scraps, mounding, and is far more generous off the tee than much of the Pink course. That makes it ideal for your first round, allows you time to take in a wonderful lunch, and tee it up on the Pink course in the afternoon for a slightly shorter but much tighter challenge.
Both courses were in excellent condition with tight fairways and receptive greens that according to the two pros I played with were running very slow at 10 on the Stimp meter. The greens on both courses had plenty of undulation and subtle breaks. They were generally large offering multiple pin placements of varying difficulty and were often raised with run-off areas leading to difficult Augusta style chip shots from tight lies. The Green course I did not play but understand it is a shorter easier nine, mainly used to relieve stress on the course on busy weekends allowing for different combinations of the five nines to be used.
As with any great course, El Prat will make you hit every club in your bag on both courses. There is a good mix of short and long holes, tight and open holes and with no forced carries, and only one lake the course is very playable for ladies, seniors, and juniors. Doglegs go left and right while birdie opportunities were mixed well with potential boggy holes. Unlike many of today’s “championship layouts,” you won’t go through a sleeve of balls every nine holes. You’ll just have fun!
The large modern-style clubhouse offers well-appointed locker rooms, a restaurant, bar, and veranda overlooking the course. The adjoining La Mola Resort and Spa offers convenient golf cart access to and from the course.
Walk-in The Footsteps of Legends
If you slept at every inn in Scotland where Bonnie Prince Charlie has supposedly been, you’d have to live to be 120 to visit them all. Not so with Real Golf El Part, Seve really did play here, so did Arnie, Watson, Garcia, Faldo, Langer, Els, Norman, Fleetwood, Rahm, and many more of your favorite players past and present. At Real Golf El Prat you will walk in the footsteps of legends and you will not be disappointed.
At a Glance:
- 45 holes of golf close to the city of Barcelona and the airport
- Your choice of a more classic or modern layout
- Excellent playing conditions
- Great practice facilities which is why the club boasts numerous tour pros among its members
- Lots of space and no houses it’s all about the golf
- It’s Spain…. the food is wonderful don’t miss the Gazpacho
- Mountain and city views
- Both courses are walkable although the back nine of the Pink is hilly
- La Mola Resort and Spa adjacent to the course with golf cart access for guests
- A friendly welcome to guest
- Well-appointed locker rooms, showers, etc