There is an old technique in the advertising business called the “damaging disclosure” where before you start to tell people all the wonderful benefits of your product you first tell them of a perceived drawback, something that is lacking in your product. This according to legend builds trust in the consumer. After all, when you lead with one of the shortcomings of your product everything else you say after that must surely be true. Therefore, the damaging disclosure makes everything that comes afterward seems more powerful.
With this in mind allow me to tell you about the first hole at the Peralada resort. It is a very short, straight, boring, uphill par, 4 that is no more than a drive and a flick. Once you get to the green and look back at the first tee, there is a nice view of the mountains in the distance but that’s about all this hole has going for it, no one will ever remember it. There are many great courses with a throw-away hole, like the 18th at Ballybunion or the 18th at Cypress Point but I think it is far better to get it out the way early rather than save it for a final letdown on the last. The first hole at Peralada gives you no clue about the great golf experience is to come, and I promise there are no damaging disclosures on the gourmet food, excellent wines, amazing history, iconic castle, beautiful hotel, and lovely spa, they are all just wonderful.
Oaks, Pines, and Olive Trees Beautifully Frame Every Hole
From the second hole on this is a magnificent golf course although some might surely question the Dali like fifth hole. A dogleg left with a massive Oak tree squarely in the middle of where a perfect drive will place your ball directly behind it. Exactly the type of despicable thing Dali would have done had he designed golf courses. Still, I liked it, crazy though it is, and with that final disclosure out-of-the-way you’ve got 16 amazing golf holes left.
The second gives you a good taste of what’s to come. A beautifully framed dogleg right that slopes gently downhill at about the point your drive will finish just right of the left bunker leaving a mid-iron in with a creek guarding the front of the green. The beautiful rolling terrain continues in the same vein going up, down left, and right in equal measures often giving you wonderful views of the city of Figueres and the mountains beyond. Figueres was Dali’s birthplace and home to a large museum of his works. The par 3’s are particularly challenging, all demanding a long iron or a wood from the tee. The picturesque 9th is 190 yards, downhill to a green closely flanked on the right by a large pond, while the 18th plays, 240 yards over a beautiful lake. My favorite was the 12th hole, played from a raised tee to a raised green surrounded by mature trees.
Playing as I did in mid-summer the fairways are heavily watered to prevent burnout, and drives seldom roll more than a few paces. This turned all the par 5’s into three shots for me, although the 17th with its risk-reward second may have been in reach, I just didn’t like the look of failure. There are plenty of birdie opportunities on the par fours especially on the front nine. The back plays a little longer with 15 and 16 being particularly challenging.
You Could Be in Napa
With the rolling terrain, dry air, vineyards bordering several holes, and mountains in the distance you could almost think you were in Napa Valley. Where it not for the medieval church towers in the distance. While many courses claim this Peralada delivers the course is both challenging for the good player and playable for the occasional player. My normal criteria of a quality course ie hitting every club in the bag and remembering most of the holes the next day was easily met. The surrounding neighborhood is made up of classy mainly Spanish-designed homes none of which in any way impede on the golf course and several of which I thought worthy of a photograph.
The Resort Catch Phrase “More Than Just Golf” Is Taken to New Heights at Peralada
When golf is over for the day, I’m usually more than happy to take a nap, and clean up for cocktails, and dinner but at Peralada I was quickly tempted to do much more. The pool area was lovely, and I swam laps each day before relaxing on the surrounding grass to dry off. The private spa which can be booked for you, or your group alone was magnificent and featured all kinds Sanus, steam rooms, hot tubs, and water treatments. I have no doubt the hands-on treatments using the special healing properties of the local wine products were equally as good. Dinner my first night featured a tasing menu on the veranda at the hotel’s L’Olivera Restaurant which was excellent as was breakfast each morning.
Few Resorts Can Boast Their Own Castle and Casino
The second night I took the easy 15-minute stroll down to the medieval town and took advantage of a wine tasting at the hotel’s own vineyard. I was well impressed with the quality of the wines. This was followed by a tour of the museum. There I marveled at the 100,000 books of the Castell Library including a thousand different first editions of Don Quixote. The fine collection of medieval wine-making tools was interesting and for the ladies, there was a fine collection of glass and ceramics. All part of a unique private collection great private collections built up by the Suqué Mateu family over the course of three generations. The front desk will be happy to set these up for you.
In a World Where Resorts Are Quick to Claim, “Unique Experiences” Peralada Actually Delivers
Next, I slipped into the castle casino surely up there with Monte Carlo for the title of the world’s coolest casino? After winning $100 I quit while I was ahead and marched across the courtyard to dine at the Shiro by Paco Perez. He’s famous in these parts for his award-winning restaurants and Michelin stars. This informal, garden venue facing the castle features a set menu of small dishes inspired by Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Thai food fused with Mediterranean ingredients. The castle also houses the Michelin-starred Castell Peralada Restaurant and there are several other local options around the castle and in narrow streets of the medieval town adjoining.
The words “Unique, Luxurious, Experience, and World-Class” are thrown around a lot at the higher end of the resort business. I’ve been around, so I can tell you first-hand, few resorts anywhere, at any price, can match the total package that is the Peralada experience. The family-owned Peralada Resort is located in the heart of Empordà, one of the most beautiful regions in northern Catalonia just 90 minutes north of Barcelona. Their philosophy is to uphold a different way of living, focusing on life at a leisurely pace, with time to savor every little detail. At Peralada they have clearly succeeded in creating unique experiences revolving around wine, culture, and recreation. This resort should be on your must-play list, and if you want to extend your trip there are two other fine resorts, I recommend less than 45 minutes away, making for a spectacular week. Save this one for last though!
At a Glance:
- Unpretentious 5-star luxury
- Elegant spacious and well-appointed rooms with a balcony or patio
- Friendly service
- Excellent and challenging golf course on rolling terrain
- Lovely natural pool area
- Beautiful spa, and private spa
- Gourmet dining onsite and multiple options around the castle
- Michelin-starred Castell Peralada Restaurant in the castle
- Wine tasting from the Peralada’s own vineyard
- Casino in the castle
- Castell de Peralada museum
- Gothic church
- Peralada Festival in summer attracts top musicians from around the world
- Dali museum 10 minutes away
- Girona airport 45 minutes
- Barcelona 90 minutes
- Two other resorts I recommend with 45-minute so you can make a week of it