Empordà Golf Club, a reinvigorated top resort

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07 March 2022
11 min. read
Jeroen Korving
From time to time we are invited to a specific region or resort to experience first-hand what has changed. At the end of February, we were invited to Empordà Golf Club, a resort that used the covid-19 pandemic to reinvent itself and to invest in the hotel, the restaurant and the golf courses. A bold move initiated by a successful lawyer and real estate entrepreneur who invested in Emporda via his investment vehicle EMESA. As a member of Empordà Golf Club he saw the potential of the resort and the region. His vision is to create a club with the vibe of Les Bordes Golf.
View of the Links course taken from the Terraverda Hotel
View of the Links Course and the swimming pool at Hotel Terraverde (photo credits: Empordà Golf Club)

A golf resort with an ambitious owner

When we visited Empordà Golf Club, flying to Girona Airport - which is located only 45 minutes from Emporda - unfortunately was not an option. Many (low-cost) airlines commence flying to Girona from April onwards so the best alternative is to fly to Barcelona during the off-season. From Barcelona Airport to Emporda Golf Club will take you slightly less than two hours.

Aiming for the next level

Many golfers visiting the area will have played or visited PGA Catalunya Resort, but Emporda Golf Club definitely should not be overlooked. Its two golf courses rank slightly lower than PGA Catalunya but they are still well over an 8.0 which is really an accomplishment. It makes both courses 'recommended' on our site. The newly refurbished Hotel Terraverda at Empordà Golf and the Entrecamps restaurant do express the new ambitions of this club. A new spa is on its way, the terrace area of the restaurant is being enlarged and the golf courses will be improved in the next couple of months when vHS&B (Von Hagge, Smelek and Baril) have given advice on what exactly to change. In my humble opinion not too much has to be changed, I already like it a lot as it was now. It's merely getting the details right (cart paths, quality of the tee boxes and making some holes a bit more clear from the tee) which will raise the course to the next level.

Sustainable while embracing the Emporda region

When we met the new owner he immediately indicated that the project he embarked on is not finished yet. It also became clear that he has a vivid vision on where to go. He does not want to 'copy' the success of PGA Catalunya. His ambition is to make Empordà Golf Club a club that radiates the quality of a club like Les Bordes Golf, but which is still accessible for all types of golfers while maintaining strong ties with the Emporda region and local companies, like the Olive farm we visited (Fontaclara) or the local winery Mas Geli which was built on a former golf course! Sustainability and taking care of nature is another aspect of Emporda that is really important to the new owner. Having strong ties with the local Emporda region while protecting it for future generations is the roadmap ahead for Empordà Golf Club.

The interior of the restaurant Entrecamps which is located in the new clubhouse (photo credits: Empordà Golf Club)

The golf courses at Empordà Golf Club

The resort, which has undergone a major upgrade in 2020, features two 18-hole courses – the Links Course and the Forest Course – with both layouts designed by world-acclaimed architect Robert von Hagge. Both golf courses are completely different so it is difficult to pick a winner or to indicate which one is best. Depending on the golfer, their handicap and their preferences they might favour the one above the other. Below my experiences when playing both courses have been described and bear in mind that it was still February. When we arrived on Friday I managed to squeeze in an extra 9-hole round on the Links Course, we played the Forest Course on Saturday and the Links Course on Sunday.

Playing the Emporda Forest Course

When playing with people you don't know, it's always a bit nerve-racking when teeing off. Especially with an unfamiliar set of clubs, with a caddy master and a golf director watching, and the next flights as well. My first drive of the day definitely wasn't my best (it ricocheted over the water just onto the beginning of the fairway), but fortunately for me, this was my only 'miss' for the day. The rental set - brand new Ping G425's - was love at first sight and I really enjoyed the whole course. The Emporda Forest Course is a par 72 tree-lined golf course with indigenous pine trees and it measures almost 6.000 meters (yellow tees). There a 5 par 3's, 5 par 5's and 8 par 4's, which gives this course a nice rhythm when playing it. The variety of holes is good, some doglegs, some downhill holes and some uphill sloping.

The green of hole 8 (and of hole 12) at the Forest Course at Empordà Golf Club (photo credits: Azalea)

What I liked about the course is that there are a few stretches of holes that you will definitely remember after your round. Hole 5 is a really nice uphill par 3, hole 6 has two fairways with a green located behind a water hazard and at hole 7 your drive is over a large lake with an elevated green. Hole 8 is also a par 3 which shares its green with hole 12 and hole 9 has a lake on the left and a large sandy waste area in the middle. The end of your round is also great fun, with three nice par 4 holes: hole 16, hole 17 and hole 18. The 18th hole ends in a huge arena shaped green with a lake on the right. The lake and green are also part of the 18th hole of the Links course.

Greens were fast but fair on every hole. Some golfers might complain about the 'hard' sand in the bunkers, but in my opinion, this type of sand belongs on a forest course. It shouldn't be the white sand that is used on the Links course. Small improvements to be made: tee boxes could need a bit more sunlight, the paths are as you expect on a forest course - bumpy but ok. Sometimes you do not have enough space around the tee box to turn your buggy, this causes slight damage to some tee boxes.

Playing the Emporda Links Course

The Links Course has received a little more attention than the Forest Course. Some paths are in really good condition, although a few of them do need some attention. The course itself is well-maintained, with good tee-boxes, fast undulating greens and nice bunkers with enough white sand in them. The course is called a links course and it definitely has some 'links' characteristics like undulating fairways, grassy areas and hard greens. It even has a bridge that looks like the Swilcan bridge on St Andrews Links. But for the real purists, this is not a genuine links course.

Having said that, we really enjoyed the course. The Links Course has much more water in play than the Forest Course, so if you are not straight from the tee, bring some extra balls. The rough is not very penal, so you will find your ball back if you do not hit the fairway. The par 71 Links Course is slightly longer than the Forest Course. It has 4 par 3's, 11 par 4's and only 3 par 5's, so it is quite difficult to score on this course. The first hole is a comfortable par 4 without real hazards, which is always nice to start with. Most of the time the 9th hole and 18th hole have to be great and at the Links Course this is definitely the case. Another hole to remember is the Par 4 4th hole. Your drive has to be good which gives you a nice wedge or 9 iron to the green. The green is narrow and surrounded by water with some bunkers at the beginning of the peninsula green.

View of the undulating and slightly elevated green of the 17th hole of the Links Course at at Empordà Golf Club (photo credits: Azalea)

I liked the back-nine slightly more than the front-nine. Greens - just like on the Forest Course - were fast, fair but difficult. All in all an enjoyable golf course, which makes it difficult to determine a clear winner of the two. A few suggestions - although I am not a golf architect: I would elevate the tee boxes of the two Par 3's (hole 6 and hole 15). Both have an enormous bunker or waste area in front of the green. It will make the holes a bit more interesting and dramatic. On certain holes - like hole 8 - it is difficult to see where to hit your driver. If you aim for the fairway, your shot will end up in the lake. The better route would be to hit left of the fairway bunker, which is difficult to see when you are on the tee. Placing a striped pole - which would enhance the 'links feel' - to indicate the ideal route could do the trick.

Our place to stay - Hotel Terraverda at Empordà Golf

We stayed in the completely renovated Hotel Terraverde. The hotel lies adjacent to the clubhouse with the Entrecamps restaurant - specialising in grilled food - and it overlooks the Links Course. You enter the hotel on the 1st floor where the reception is found, but also the rooms on the first floor. I stayed on the 2nd floor overlooking the Links Course and the clubhouse. The room I stayed in was nice and spacious with a separate sofa and a place to work. It even had a nice balcony.

The breakfast area and the Terrafonda restaurant are on the ground level (0 floor). The Terrafonda restaurant is a flexi-vegan restaurant, serving 16 completely vegan dishes, but there are some exceptions with ingredients such as milk, cheese or eggs.

Hotel Terraverda at Empordà Golf has 86 double rooms, 7 family rooms, 5 suites junior and 3 superior suites which are ideal for couples and families and feature a sleek new modern and contemporary interior design concept. There are also 3 rooms adapted for people with reduced mobility. If you love dogs (so do the new owners), you are allowed to bring along your dog. 

A Golf Room, which is suitable for up to 2 people and a child (photo credits: Hotel Terraverde)

What to do besides golf?

If you stay at Emporda Golf Club, you definitely will not get tired of the two golf courses after just one round. But there is much more to do after your round. There is a gym at the hotel, the spa will soon be revamped and the hotel offers a nice pool overlooking the golf course. If you love yoga, there are classes you can attend at the resort and there are road, mountain and electric bikes available for hire.

We visited a very nice winery Mas Geli and an olive farm, both are really nice. I would also recommend exploring the Emporda area, walking around the city of Peratallada, the city of Pals or the beach. I definitely recommend walking certain parts of the Cami de Ronda. It's a historic coastal path used mainly to fight smugglers, but it was also used to connect beaches and villages and to help fishermen return if they got shipwrecked.

Cami de Ronda around Castell - Cap Roig (photo credits: Jeroen Korving)

The verdict - would I go again?

What makes Emporda unique is that is has two really good golf courses. Generally, you see that a resort has one really good course and a mediocre course or Academy course. I really hope that they can keep both courses at the same level!

I would definitely revisit Emporda Golf Club to play both the courses again, especially when they have been slightly upgraded by the team of Von Hagge, Smelek and Baril as I'm really curious what they would change. The Emporda resort is a lovely place, but it might need a little time to develop even further. Not because of the courses or the facilities. They are already great. But getting the hospitality level up to the next level will take a bit more time. Not that this is poor, but it mainly is just getting the little things right. Nothing that can't be fixed quite easily.

Definitely go here if you can! Surf to Emporda Golf Club to check reviews from other golfers or to book a tee time!

Jeroen Korving

Jeroen Korving

Founder Leadingcourses.com. Loves (the) internet, prefers to travel with family & friends, likes football, tennis, golf & skiing!
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