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.
The course is fantastically manicured with an amazing attention to detail. There are numerous features like sculpted waterfalls next to tees which add to the experience. The course was in great condition – when we played it on a Sunday in May there was hardly anyone on the golf course which makes you worry about the cashflow but only adds to the experience. We played off the second back tees (6900 yards) and it was probably a little too tough for my 13 handicap. Shots off the fairways led to real difficulties getting back in play sometimes and the par 3 9th at 220 yards over water was a hole I was delighted to get a 4 on! The 18th is the signature hole with its amazing par 5 finish with water coming into play on at least 3 occasions.
Would be great to see a Mallorcan Open here on the tour – the players would love the set-up and it would be a real challenge for them. Martin Kaymer was practising there when we were there and said he thought this was the best course on the island and of that there can be no doubt. The only thing I would say is the the greens were rolling at 10 on the stimpmeter but could have done with being a little faster to really get the full experience as they looked faster than they played. It would be an even better place to play golf were you not under the flight-path to the very busy Palma airport but frankly that is only a mild distraction. Great place, great people, great golf.
Played Son Gual recently and it will run Valderrama close as a contender for the best conditioned golf course in Spain. The attention to detail is stunning from beginning to end and surely this will only improve as this new course matures and settles. A varied selection of holes make for entertaining golf and here there’s a fine mixture. Dig deep and experience Son Gual as a treat and take your time and perhaps enjoy tapas on the balcony which I can honestly say is delicious. Solid finish from 15 through to 18 and I’m sure they will host the Mallorcan Open at some point in the not too distant future. A good new course but it played a little too softly for my liking, negating the ground game option. I didn't enjoy the close proximity to the main road and being under the Palma airport flight path, not my idea of relaxation. The huge lush green aprons in front of many of the greens detracted from the target to my eyes. I understand that at least another nine holes are in the offing so this is sure to become a popular place for those serious golfers who are willing to part with around €150 for the privilege.