Mallorca is already well endowed with top class golf courses – including the likes of Son Gual, Alcanada and Son Antem (West) – but golfers can now add the revamped Pula layout to their list of must-play tracks on the Balearic island.
A decade after they were opened in 1995, the 18 holes at Pula were extensively remodeled over a three year period to transform the course from a regular, resort-style layout to a championship course capable of holding European Tour events.
The man responsible for this conversion was none other than Spanish golfing hero José María Olazábal – perhaps better known in the field of golf design for his courses at Mission Hills, China and Real Sevilla – and Ollie completed this major project in three phases between 2004 and 2006.
Incredibly, the Pula renovation was carried out in the middle of a five-year spell hosting the annual Mallorca Classic and full credit must go to the grounds staff for having the course available for professional tournament play during that time. Ironically, the two-time Masters champion won the 2005 Mallorca Classic and this was Ollie’s 23rd and last European Tour title.In 2010, three years after the last Classic had been held at Pula, along came the Iberdrola Open Cala Millor Mallorca and – yes, you guessed it – more remedial work. This time, the fairway on hole 3 was leveled and the 17th green was moved back and to the right, with six new bunkers installed on a re-shaped fairway.
I was away on a family holiday in Mallorca with my parents and we had the pleasure of staying and playing golf at Pula golf course. I had never heard of Pula golf course before, although it has a lot of history with the European Tour. The course is well protected by a number of bunkers and water hazards. Making it a challenge for all golfers no matter their ability(my dad went in a bunker on each of the first 5 holes!). I was impressed the way the course had withstood the 8 week drought that preceded our visit. There was a vast variety of elevation changes offering superb views as well as testing your ability and imagination of the tee. If you’re on the island stop by for a round and if you get the opportunity stay over night and enjoy the unique and charming atmosphere of the golf hotel.
Playing Pula was a relief during a week in late October 2016 when even Son Gual with its vast resources struggled to put up a presentable course. Greens were true and fast, albeit on the soft side, and fairways were reasonable. Tee-boxes were being overseeded, so they looked predictably awful. Learn to expect the unexpected when it comes to conditioning on Mallorca!
This important matter aside, has Ollie created a really memorable design? Well, Pula is a decent track, mostly fair with its obligatory water hazards (greenkeeping life on Mallorca without being able to store water would just not be possible), but the site is quite awkward so he did not have an easy job. The course crosses (under) the main road twice and there are farms in the middle on whose land the course could have continued in a more organic fashion. There are also some suboptimal solutions: prime examples are the semi-blind 12th with its out-of-bounds to the left and the dangerous walk from the 6th green to the 7th tee when the next part might just be hitting their approach shots. To his credit, Ollie has created a course that is walkable which is a great plus in my book.
The other plus is that it is possible to play 36 holes in a day for less money than 18 at other places. Also, we were able to play 27 of our 36 holes in splendid isolation and at our own pace. The other 9 holes, however, took over 2 ½ hours behind a large group of fourballs playing a competition, so it pays off to phone the day before to check the booking situation as there was no internet booking as at October 2016.