Located close to the well-known beach resort of Magaluf in Calvià, west of Palma de Mallorca, Golf de Poniente is a Commander John Harris design which opened for play in 1978. It was the fourth course on the island, after Son Vida (1964), Son Servera (1967) and Santa Ponsa (1977) and quickly gained a reputation as a quality course.
What was good enough in the 1970s, was not competitive over thirty years later. As local rules on irrigation water became stricter and golfers’ expectations on conditioning rose, Poniente could not compete against newer courses built to higher specifications such as Son Muntaner, Son Guál and Alcanada.
A quick search of older online reviews reveals the sad slide in reputation which ultimately followed, despite the qualities of the original design.
In 2015, German entrepreneur Heiner Tamsen acquired the course and announced a major upgrade in connection with a new name, where the “T” in T Golf & Country Club stands for Tamsen. Why not, if you own and have paid for the place? However, the upgrade project quickly had to become more ambitious.
The team brought in by Tamsen soon realised that a full rebuild from scratch was needed. The original Harris plan of the course was retained but new and larger ponds were built, fairways were re-shaped, and tees and greens reconstructed to a higher specification.
The course reopened in October 2018 with an intact routing of the front nine. The order of play on the back nine, however, was changed so the original finish is now played as holes 10-14 and the old 14th hole is now the finishing hole adjacent to the clubhouse and parallel to the opening hole.
Not only are water storage facilities much larger, but salt-resistant grass varieties have been chosen for the revamped course, which now features Bermuda fairways and bent grass greens. This was done to cope with the recycled water which is the only permitted water source for irrigation of golf courses on Mallorca. Rainwater is also collected, but there’s too little of it during the hotter part of the year.
The course measures 6,426 meters (7,069 yards) from the back tees for a par of 72. Three of the four short holes are ranked among the more difficult on the card, although only the 16th plays more than 200 meters from the back tees. Seven of the ten two-shotters measure in excess of 360 meters (400 yards), so unless you really hit it far you are not going to be hitting a lot of wedges into the greens. Instead, there are scoring opportunities among the four par fives, all of which are ranked among the easier holes on the layout.
The terrain is open and quite flat in the early part (holes 1-6) and late part (holes 14-18) of the round, with bigger changes in elevation in the middle portion (holes 7-13). This central section is also where the best views towards the UNESCO-listed Serra de Tramuntana mountains are found. The topography is gentle enough to make buggies optional rather than essential during all but the hottest parts of the year.
I played Poniente 2-3 times before the recent renovations and was disappointed with the condition of the course. After being closed for almost 2 years I played it shortly after it re-opened in October 2018. The new owners have turned a tired old course into something quite special and, in my opinion, a serious rival to Alcanada and Son Gual. Although there was still a lot of work to be done on the practice area and the course surrounds, the course itself was in great condition. The revised layout and newly configured holes result in a tough but playable 18 holes. I'm looking forward to playing it again.
Always tricky to write a review based on only one round. Will first impressions persist?
I had given the old Poniente a miss as every source I consulted said that the place was so neglected that the green fee was a waste of money. That is now in the past.
Have no idea whether the new owner thinks he has got his money’s worth, but golfers on Mallorca should be grateful that he decided to commit so much time and money to bringing this old girl back to health.
The course offers very good parkland golf with some pretty views. On the plus side: walkable, tests many clubs in the bag, water hazards well integrated in the design, as a looming threat, rather than an insurmountable obstacle for our beginner friends. During 2019 I guess we will see if it will be managed for conditions on the softer or firmer side. The layout allows for both and the choice of grass also indicates both possibilities.
So, how does it compare?
I am pretty sure virtually anybody who has played it in the last few months will put it in their own island Top 10. Time and more plays will determine where on the list it belongs.
Should I include it in my trip this year ?
Yes, if you have already played Son Guál, Alcanada and Son Muntaner.