Play Away: Son Gual, Mallorca

7294961020_3587a2c09dON THE FACE of it ‘Urban Golf’ does not sound that attractive a package. Knocking a ball around a few holes surrounded by high- rise buildings whilst risking life and limb amidst roaring traffic is hardly likely to capture anyone’s imagination.

But Palma Urban Golf is different. The brainchild of the hotels association in Mallorca’s capital who were keen to attract overseas’ visitors during off-peak times of the year and offer discounted rates at both their hotels, that range from two star offerings to the five-star Palacio ca sa Galesa, plus some top quality nearby golf courses.

Mallorca has come a very long way since the days of sun, sin and sangria spread equally across sombrero wearing package tourists from Luton Airport and so have its golf courses.

With around 300 days sunshine a year, staying in the historic old town of Palma and playing a round at the hugely impressive Son Gual golf club is a perfect winter break for enthusiastic golfing travellers.

Multi millionaire German double-glazing baron, Adam Pamer, had a stylish home in Mallorca but could not find a course on the island he though good enough to play regularly so he decided to build his own. Pamer recruited German golf architect, Thomas Himmel, and presented him with 175 acres of pancake flat, scrub and farmland and urged him to do his damnedest.

Over 1.8m cubic yards of earth was shifted with 800 mature olive trees, some over 1,000 years old, planted in a project costing around €30m and the end result is stunning, delivering a course that has already featured on the seniors’ European tour despite only opening in 2007.

The first thing that strikes the visitor, after the size and quality of the clubhouse, is the condition of the course. Tee boxes are immaculate and whilst Son Gual can be a frightening challenge off the back tees there are five other positions to play from. However this is very much a championship course and no place for the occasional golfer.

The greens are enormous and so are the bunkers with giant tracts of irregular sand dotted along the fairways- some 66 in all. And if the bunkers don’t get you there is a fair chance the water will with seven man-made lakes, of which the largest runs along the left of the 12th fairway being 70,000 sq ft, and about the size of your average football pitch.

There are no easy holes but the stroke index two, par five 18th is a monster. At 581 yards off the tips the hole swings right to left with a meandering stream tracking the left hand side of the fairway to around its halfway point when it takes a very nasty right hand turn. From here it babbles forward until it forms a small lake in front of an elevated, very wide, sloping and extremely shallow green.

The sight of the pink stucco clubhouse behind can be a torment if hooks and slices are raining into the drink so perhaps it might be wise to play Stableford, card a blob and head swiftly to an extremely welcoming bar. From the terrace the 18th looks an altogether more benign prospect.

With cheap flights available daily from Gatwick to Palma International airport there is always an opportunity to come back and have another crack at it.

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