In the game of golf, a player with ‘Spanish hands’ possesses great finesse, flair, and the capacity to thrill and excite. Camiral Golf & Wellness, a truly stunning golf destination and wellness retreat commandingly overlooking the dramatic Girona countryside, is the kind of place that could have been built with only Spanish hands.
Formerly known as PGA Catalunya, the resort is part of the Leading Hotels of the World and one of the most highly regarded golfing destinations in Spain. Following our visit, it’s clear that its reputation is more than justified.
Where is it?
The resort is found a short airport transfer from Girona Airport. It’s around an hour’s drive from Barcelona in the heart of Catalonia in north-east Spain.
One of the first things that guests will notice driving up to the site is the multitude of multi-million-dollar villas surrounding the grounds. There is construction work ongoing on further properties along the fringes of the golf courses.
A millionaire’s playground, clearly. And, after testing out the facilities and experiencing a few days of Spanish sun, it is no surprise to see millionaires flock here in their droves.
The building itself is a sleek and sweeping, sitting beautifully in its lush surroundings. The design of the crisp white walls is clean. There are also acres of glass soaking in the Catalonia sun, which seeps into the foyer and the spacious, high ceilings of the lobby.
The place is packed with tasteful modern touches and subtle nods to modern art; there’s a hint of household-name artists such as Gaudi, Dali and Picasso in the designs of the communal spaces, bringing some bright, playful elements and a flair for the elaborate. This all adds to the feel of truly contemporary luxury.
Our Hotel Camiral suite, designed by Bryan O’Sullivan Studio, was grand in size. It had a beautiful, spacious bathroom with a bath, shower and toilet, ample kitchen area and living space. There was also a good-sized TV kitted out with Sky Sports, an excellent coffee machine, and a separate WC. Overall, it was fitted to a superb standard, offering a truly luxurious experience and a couple of excellent nights’ sleep.
Our balcony looked down on to the Catalan countryside and the magnificent pool, which is the focal point of the resort. An early morning dip on our final day proved to be an altogether ethereal experience. The rejuvenating swim allowed us to shake off some of the Rioja-induced rust of the evening before.
Guests have a choice of deluxe rooms, family rooms and a large number of suites.
Food & drink
The 1477 restaurant is the most sophisticated of the options at Camiral. It is in a smart space that remains relaxed and never felt stuffy during our visit. The kitchen here focuses each dish on a single, locally sourced ingredient.
While Spain might be synonymous with some of the best meat on the planet (my fellow diner’s sirloin steak was pretty show-stopping, by all accounts) and hearty red wines (of which we had our fair share), I found the vegetarian options to be fresh and thoughtfully constructed. The bombastic whites on the wine list shone particularly.
Next door, there’s the well-stocked Lounge Bar, which shows sport and offers a nice refuge after a day on the course. It’s also worth noting the bar has an excellent whisky selection; a dram of Lagavulin 16 watching the golf in this comfortable setting was an excellent way to round off the first day of our trip.
There are more casual dining experiences on offer, too. After the poise of 1477, the hearty pizza and pasta options at Bella’s Restaurant, a short walk away at Lavida Hotel, proved a more relaxed option. This seemed especially suited to larger groups and families.
The rebrand from PGA Catalunya to Camiral in 2023 coincides with added emphasis on the spa and wellness facilities as part of the resort’s offerings. The Wellness centre is next to an impressive, state-of-the-art gym, which was kitted out with high-tech cardio machines — most of which featured screens with Netflix compatibility. There are plenty of free weights, a Smith machine, a fridge full of chilled water, and floor space for classes. There’s a whole host of other fitness and wellness activities available that I didn’t partake in during the stay, including pilates, yoga and exercise classes.
The spa facilities were full of excellent touches, from delicious ginger tea on arrival to the superb changing facilities before the treatments. There is a huge range of treatments on offer, ranging from bodyworks to facials and aesthetic treatments, to sports recovery and more.
As well as an excellent holistic massage, which came with a choice of four aromatherapy blends and was personalised with a focus on a problem shoulder, my treatments also showcased some of the high-end technology on offer at Camiral. One involved photo bio modulation, which took place on a sunbed-like machine targeting inflammation and aiding skin repair and pain recovery.
There was also an oxygen chamber therapy, which delivered 20 times more oxygen to the body than normal and helped to provide a sense of real serenity. Other treatments of this type include a whole-body cryotherapy treatment, which sees temperatures drop to -110°C and is designed to release endorphins.
There are two championship courses at Camiral: the Stadium and the Tour. The former is the flagship course, which has hosted the Spanish Open and welcomed players on the European DP Tour for the Catalunya Championship in 2022.
The Stadium’s reputation for being demanding and unremitting is well justified. First of all, there are the narrow, undulating fairways. Hit an even slightly wayward tee shot and you’ll either end up in the thick, penal rough, or roll off entirely into pine straw-laden woodland which rarely offers you a gap through which to advance your ball.
Then, there are the approaches to greens, which are more often than not protected by walls of bunkers, or surrounded by water. Once you’re actually on the greens, then it’s just a case of tackling the McKenzie-style split layers and judging grain and break — all while putting on surfaces that are by far the fastest I’ve ever experienced.
Make no mistake, the Stadium Course and parts of the shorter Tour course will challenge any golfer in the world. However, both will also offer unforgettable experiences for any player.
The designs of both courses are exquisitely carved into the rolling Catalonian landscape, embracing the contours of the land to frame stunning hole after stunning hole.
If you dug up any hole on the Stadium and moved it to a less spectacular course, it would be the signature hole. As it is, there are 10 or 12 holes that stand out in the memory. My pick was the 13th hole on the Stadium Course, requiring an incredible tee shot down a narrow fairway and up to a small island green.
It was a glorious experience and the construction work ongoing around the property was perhaps the only slight distraction — but that’s more than forgivable. The views of the finished properties framing the course in the near future will add even more to the experience of playing Camiral.
The Stadium is such a test that you probably wouldn’t want to play there every day. But the Tour — which is shorter and slightly easier — is the kind of course that I could happily drive a buggy around every day of the week. It still offered a test and provided plenty of beautifully designed holes, all within the same idyllic landscape as the Stadium.
There are also fantastic practice facilities to get warmed up at before the game, as well as a beautifully kept putting green within view of the clubhouse by the first tee. We also rented clubs during our stay and we were equipped with top-end TaylorMade Stealth drivers, fairways woods and Stealth irons, along with a TaylorMade Spider putter, which were available at a reasonable price.
In terms of the all-round package, there is no doubt that Camiral offers a world-class golfing experience that will appeal to many players. The sophistication and refined feel of the venue and clubhouse might mean that larger groups looking for a rowdier trip, where the quality of golf and facilities is second to the atmosphere and vivacity of the nightlife, will be better suited to other destinations. But anyone looking for a genuinely special golf and spa experience in truly luxurious surroundings needs to have Camiral firmly on their radar.
Rooms start from £184.50 a night. Carretera N-II, Km. 701, 17455 Caldes de Malavella, Girona, Spain; camiral.com