Son Gual, Mallorca: course review

A Mallorcan masterpiece to rival Spain and Portugal's best

Max Harvey
Wed, 26 Aug 2015

Son Gual is a powerhouse. A big, bruising, confident golf course in a spectacular setting.

From the cool of the under-stated clubhouse, to the dazzling panorama on the terrace, to the challenge of the course itself, Son Gual will hold you spellbound.

The €30m development, 20 minutes east of Palma, was opened in 2007 and continues to scoop awards from golf media and the travel industry.  

Coming up to a decade since cutting the tape, sumptuous Son Gual is maturing nicely, with some 800 olive trees and acres of beautifully bright wild flowers helping radiate the course's character. 

German businessman and long-time Mallorca visitor Adam Pamer conceived the idea for a championship golf venue on Mallorca in 1995 and bought the Finca Son Gual, 160 hectares of agricultural scrub off the main eastbound highway out of Palma towards Manacor.

Planning permission was finally granted in 2003, and three-time German amateur champion Thomas Himmel commissioned to design the layout.

Nearly two million cubic metres of soil were moved to sculpt well-defined holes, numerous lakes and water features (many of which form part of the irrigation plant) and expansive American-style bunkering.

More than 800 mature olive trees were planted and wildflowers strewn through the rough, which is brutal in places.  Several vineyards dot the property around the old, disused Palacio to help soften the impact.

The result is a 7,240-yard work of art off the championship tees – with immaculate teeing grounds, greens likened to Augusta by Ian Woosnam during the 2009 Mallorca Senior Open and perfectly manicured holes with a backdrop of Palma and the distant Tramuntana mountains.

The domineering design doesn’t so much blend into the landscape as stand sentinel, a visually stunning emerald assault course plonked onto the humble Mediterranean hinterland.

Son Gual exudes finesse, on course and off. It is a favourite haunt of Mallorca native Rafael Nadal when he retreats back home from the ATP tennis circuit, and it is easy to see why.

Related: Alcanada course review - a Mallorcan must

The downside to the vision is that one end of Son Gual lies under the flight path into Palma airport. In the mornings a steady squadron of mostly Air Berlin planes swoop low over the layout. This airborne invasion doesn’t detract from the quality of the course or the golf on offer, but when summing up the venue it inevitably enters the conversation. 

But Son Gual is no resort stroll. This is a proper track and a strategic test which demands clear thinking. Plotting your way from one island of safety to the next – avoiding water, desert-like traps or split fairways – is the key. The angled greens demand precise approaches, while each tee teases, forcing those that default to the driver to pause and think again.

The course is laid out with two distinct loops of nine both ending up outside the clubhouse, and possesses more than 60 bunkers, with one standout trap on the second that ranges some 120 metres in length.

Woosnam has likened the course to Augusta and that is easy to see why. The greens are quick, smooth and true, and when the wind swirls, it can prove a very demanding course that challenges even the world's best.

Several standout holes will alert the senses, such as the long fourth through a minefield of traps to a green skirting the water, or the deceptive par-three fifth over the same lake, or another short hole, the uphill 15th, to a green in the shade of the Palacio.    

The par-five 18th embodies the idea that placement is the way to tackle this course with precise shots needed to navigate your way back to the sanctity of the clubhouse.

Off the course, Son Gual offers an oasis of calm away from the madness of Mallorca. Andreas Pamer, son of the founder, runs the show and creates a wonderfully relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. Savouring a drink or dining on the terrace while gazing out over chequerboard fairways, bunkers that mirror the clouds and the Bay of Palma and distant mountains is a treat.

Pre or post round, resident pro Tim Holroyd’s Logical golf academy offers a range of gizmos to improve your swing, from the airplane on the shaft, to gym equipment adapted to represent the correct positions. The advice is clear and, well, logical and the practice facilities first rate.

Verdict

Mallorca often gets left out of the conversation when it comes to the best European golf destinations - well, not any longer. 

There is no doubting that since Son Gual's arrival in 2007, this balearic beauty has raised the standards of courses on the island of Mallorca.

Son Gual is by far the best course we have played on this island and is quite frankly a must play if you are heading there for a golf holiday.

Accolades have been received here from day one, and they will likely keep coming.

Factfile

Designer: Thomas Himmel
Par: 72
Length: 7,240 yards
Green fee: From €100
Tel: +34 971 7858 88
Email: info@son-gual.com
Website: www.son-gual.com

Have you ever played golf at Son Gual? What was your experience like? Share your thoughts in the forum, on Twitter, on Facebook or visit us on Instagram or YouTube.

 

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