Mallorca or Majorca as it’s known in the UK, is one of the most popular holiday destinations for tourists from Germany, Ireland and the UK and now with the recent opening of Son Gual, there’s a genuine reason for serious golfers to visit Spain’s largest Balearic Island.
With around 20 Mallorcan courses to choose from, there’s no shortage of layouts on the island, but there was no real tempting “must-play” course until three-time German Amateur Champion, Thomas Himmel, moulded the dramatic Son Gual into the landscape, thereby raising the bar to a significantly higher level. In doing so, Himmel has created a likely future venue for the Mallorcan Classic, a regular European Tour event, which is usually hosted at Pula Golf Club.
Son Gual is the realisation of Adam Pamer’s dream. After purchasing a holiday home on Majorca, Pamer, a golf mad double-glazing magnate, grew frustrated by the poor condition of the island’s courses and decided he’d remedy the problem by building his own. The earth definitely moved for Pamer – 1.4 million cubic metres to be precise – and soon afterwards a bland 175-acre slice of former agricultural land was transformed into an imaginative, sweeping golf course. Throw in a few acres of vibrant wild flowers, 800 mature olive trees, expansive bunkering, acres of water – including a waterfall – impeccable tee to green conditioning and two of the most dramatic closing holes in golf and voilà a cocktail of undiluted enjoyment.
The entire Son Gual project is reputed to have cost a cool €30m but given the challenges faced, especially those surrounding irrigation water supply, the budget has been spent wisely. Apart from the colourful wild flowers, on-course vineyards and those other points mentioned above, the overriding memories from Son Gual would certainly include, the size and quality of the tees, which are double the average tee size (averaging 900 square metres) and bigger than Son Gual’s greens. The greens themselves are pretty big, but the putting surfaces appear much larger as they incorporate massive elongated fringes and run-off areas. Naturally, such attention to detail only adds to what is surely a hefty annual course maintenance budget.
Measuring a substantial 7,250 yards from the back (black) markers, Son Gual is a challenging test, especially when the fickle Mediterranean breezes stiffen. The whole design is captivating and, with bent grass from tee to green, the whole experience is polished to absolute perfection. Numerous holes, including 7, 14 and 15 will stick in the memory but none more so than the closing hole which is a serious contender for Europe’s best par five and Spain’s most dramatic 18th.
Golf Son Gual hosted the Son Gual Mallorca Senior Open from May 8-10, 2009, underlining the club’s growing reputation as one of Europe’s finest golfing venues. Englishman Mark James defeated former Irish Ryder Cup teammate Eamonn Darcy in a play-off to claim the title.