With putter in one hand and a glass of red in the other, my father said: ‘I would love to play there.’
That was two years ago as he and I watched Miguel Angel Jimenez win the Spanish Open at the PGA Catalunya Resort, near Barcelona. Now, here we are, about to tee off on this famous course and, what’s more, it’s Dad’s 70th birthday.
We have always loved playing sport together — it’s the only time we have to catch up.
In the swing: Chris and John on the Stadium Course at the PGA Catalunya Resort
And thanks to the European Tour Travel Club, you can now see the likes of Justin Rose win on the television, then play on the same tees and the same greens the following day.
The PGA Catalunya Resort is an hour north of Barcelona and the famous Nou Camp.
It turns out that my father played there a few times during his years as a midfielder for Chelsea and full-back for Arsenal.
But it’s funny how a man who has battled on the football pitches of Europe suddenly goes quiet when he arrives at a golf resort.
There are two 18-hole courses here: the championship Stadium Course, which is ranked number one in Spain, and the Tour Course, which is slightly shorter.
‘Let’s check in,’ my father says with a nervous squeak in his voice.
On most golf trips, the hotel never matches the course. Perhaps that’s because most golfers just want good game and a comfortable bed.
But the new five-star Hotel Camiral, which has been revamped at a cost of £28.5million and only opened in June, has much more to offer.
There are two 18-hole courses at the PGA Catalunya Resort: the Championship Stadium Course, which is ranked number one in Spain, and the Tour Course (above, the 13th hole)
It’s luxurious, chic, but also has a real family atmosphere.
We play our first round on the Tour Course, a perfect warm-up for the big one. I pip my dad.
‘I’ve travelled all this way to play like a plonker,’ he says by way of analysis. We’re both a bit dispirited by our performances and nearly go straight back to our rooms.
But as the sun sets, he suggests a quick drink by the pool and we remind ourselves we’re not professional golfers and never will be.
And what a spot to rip up the scorecards. A warm, gentle breeze sweeps across from the mountains as our bodies and, most importantly, our heads cool down. We could stay all evening.
Fine dining; a slice of history: The 1477 restaurant at the PGA Catalunya Resort is so-called because that was supposedly the year in which the first Catalan cookbook was written
Then it’s time for dinner. The Costa Brava has some of the best restaurants in the world. In fact, 13 have Michelin stars and they are all within an hour’s drive from here.
So the hotel’s 1477 restaurant has to be good to compete. It’s called 1477 because that’s the year the first Catalan cookbook was written.
We go to town on the suckling pig and wild sea bass, and don’t hold back on the local rose. This is followed by Catalan cream and a dessert wine. This isn’t the way McIlroy or Stenson would prepare for the ups and downs of the Stadium Course.
Next morning, we have an early tee time. When you’ve wanted to play a course for so long, you wonder whether it will live up to expectations. It does.
Sportsman: Chris Hollins was born into a footballing family in Bromley, South London. In 2009 he made use of his fancy footwork, winning the series of Strictly Come Dancing
Tough, yes, but far more beautiful than I had imagined.
The course cuts through a pine forest and there are spectacular views of the Pyrenees. There are lakes, too.
My favourite hole has to be the 13th, its elevated tee allowing you the perfect view of mountains, woodland and lakes.
I hit a great tee shot and acknowledged the huge round of applause from the imaginary crowd. Then I put my approach shot in the water.
Final result? The match is halved at the last following a generous concession on my part.
The smile on my dad’s face as I hand him his ball tells me this has been a thrilling experience.
The only thing missing is a Miguel Angel cigar to celebrate.
Travel Facts: Plan your own golfing break in Spain
EasyJet (easyjet.com, 0330 365 5000) flies from Gatwick to Barcelona from £58 return.
The European Tour Travel Club (europeantourtravelclub.com, 0845 2508404) offers three nights’ B&B from £325 pp at the Hotel Camiral at PGA Catalunya Resort (pgacatalunya.com, 0034 972 472 249), including a round on the Stadium and Tour courses.
Source: Mail Online