A golf course designed by European Tour Chairman Neil Coles and Vice Chairman Angel Gallardo, in association with David Williams Golf Design, has been described as “the most photogenic course in the world” – by the production team who have filmed European Tour events throughout the world for the last 15 years.
Following the European Tour Final Qualifying event held at PGA Golf de Catalunya in early November, Tim Lacy, senior producer of IMG Media/European Tour Productions, wrote to Richard Hills, Ryder Cup director at the Tour and said, “Just a quick note to say what a successful event we had a Final Qualifying School, especially from a TV perspective. The star of the show was undoubtedly the course which provided such an amazing backdrop to the drama. It is certainly the most photogenic course I have ever filmed, and I know from feedback from our cameramen that they shared this view.
“Our senior cameraman that week, Jeff Rice, who has filmed golf courses all over the world for over 15 years said it was the best he had ever seen. Our commentators also agreed, not only with its beauty, but also because of the layout, describing it as the best course in Spain, including Valderama.”
The 6-round event played over both the Stadium and the Tour courses was shown on Sky TV and the Golf Channel, and was a make or break week for those Tour professionals aiming to retain their card for the 2009 season. Players, including many former Ryder Cup stars as well as over 100 Tour regulars, battled over the two courses to earn the vital 30 leading slots.
As Neil explains, “It was very pleasing to receive copy of the email, as we have been involved in the project at PGA Golf de Catalunya for over 20 years. We were appointed as the design team in 1985 for the 36 hole complex, and produced the initial master plan for the complete site, including the two golf courses, the housing and the hotels, at that time.
“The magnificent 650 acre tree covered site had originally been purchased by the RAC of Catalunya to build a racetrack for the Formula 1 Grand Prix. However, planning problems prevented that aim, and RACC went elsewhere to build what is now the circuit at Barcelona.
“From the earliest days, the intention of PGA Golf de Catalunya was to build a course of the highest quality, with the initial aim being to design the championship course to host the Ryder Cup on the first occasion it was to be held outside the British Isles. However, planning and other problems delayed the construction, so that honour went to Valderama.
“However, the first course, the Championship (now named Stadium) course, was built in the mid-1990s and opened to great acclaim. It hosted the Saracen World Open in 1999 and the Spanish Open in 2000. Only a couple of years after its opening, it was listed in Golf World’s respected Top Ten courses in Continental Europe – the only course built in the last 25 years in that Top Ten. The Spanish Open is to return to the venue in April 2009.
“With the imminent opening of the 5* Melia Hotel on site, the second course, the Red (now named Tour) course, was built in 2004, following the layout set out in our original master plan produced almost 20 years earlier. That course opened in 2006 and was welcomed by members and visitors alike, being a slightly easier test of golf than the demanding championship layout.
“However, in the design, we were always conscious of making the two courses look very similar as they both occupied the same dramatic landscape. The entrance road through the resort runs through the easier Tour course, so we wished a dramatic entrance to the whole complex.
“It is in the detail that the two courses differ – the greens on the Stadium course are like inverted saucers, so that shots hitting the edge of the green are deflected off into surrounding bunkers. In contrast, on the Tour course, many are ‘saucer-like’ and shots just off the green will be deflected back onto the putting surface.
“With the announcement that the Final Qualifying School was to be held this November, we were called back by the Club initially to toughen up the easier Tour course to meet the demands of the European Tour. However, the clients did not wish the course to be made ‘over difficult’, and we therefore merely added a few back tees to give a course of approximately 6,600 yards in length.”
PGA Golf de Catalunya www.pgacatalunya.com