Top-class courses make the popular Spanish island a must-visit destination for Irish players, writes Shane Scanlon
There is a not-so-little island off the coast of Spain which is doing its best to turn itself into a golfer’s paradise, and such is the progress being made that some are already calling it ‘The Miracle of Mallorca’.
The largest of the Balearic islands is long established as one of the more popular summer destinations for Irish holiday-makers – mainly because of its many sandy beaches, acres of untouched natural beauty, and array of family-fun facilities.
But there is much more to this Spanish jewel in the Mediterranean sun, and golf is an area of the tourist industry that is determined to shine more brightly.
In an effort to harness this potential, two of their German-owned golf courses have teamed up with a recently opened hotel and spa resort, Hotel Carossa, to attract more Irish golfers to this enchanting part of the world. Aided by the presence of that big golden ball in the sky, they don’t have to try too hard to persuade you to give a it a whirl.
Son Gual is the island’s flagship course that will tickle the tastebuds of your average club golfer, while its challenging layout is one that will the test every single-figure handicapper. Rated seventh in Spain and 42nd in Europe in the prestigious 2018 Top 100 Courses of the Continent, this magnificent venue has an intriguing back story.
German millionaire Adam Pamer loved visiting Mallorca and loved playing golf, but felt the island was in need of a premier course. Back in 1995 he decided to invest some of his hard-earned marks in a high-quality track that would appeal to everyone.
He duly engaged the services of designer Thomas Himmel to make his dream a reality, and it proved a wise choice. The designer delivered in spades and since it first opened its fairways in 2007, it has become a mecca for golfers visiting Mallorca.
Located within a 15-minute drive of Palma airport, it is set on 160 hectares of gently rolling land and while its key feature is the proliferation of bunkers (every tee bar one offers a test of sand), this classic par 72 with four par-fives and four par-threes also has it share of lakes and streams to avoid, as well as being peppered by 800 olive trees.
The official welcome note to Son Gual promises that you can “cast off all the stress of everyday life”, which is probably true for most club golfers. However, if you have the swing of a slow, one-sided junior B hurler and the putting stroke of an inebriated croquet player, like me, then you’re sure to encounter the stress of losing plenty of balls along the way.
This is a real thinking-man’s course as the superb layout challenges your brain on the tee box. From the elevated first tee, you will be tempted – go with driver over a big bunker or lay up and give yourself a more difficult second into the green.
It was a similar story on my favourite hole, the par-five sixth, which has an appealing tee-shot where you have to drive over a lake that gradually widens at the other side. Be brave with the driver and you have to clear 180 metres to land on a wide fairway, or go short with an iron to clear 120 metres and find land but be faced with a long haul to an elevated green.
The signature hole is the 18th, also a par-five with plenty water and again requiring the golfer to put on his thinking cap from the tee-box. There’s a testy carry over a stream from the tee, but you must be straight as there is water down the left-hand side of the landing area before the stream crosses the fairway, widens and travels up the right hand side.
Just under the green, the stream becomes a pond and it makes for a picturesque setting under the magnificent Palacio clubhouse.
Our other venue on the trip was the Alcanada course, which is situated in the north-east of the island in a breathtaking location overlooking the Bay of Alcudia.
With a traditional lighthouse just offshore from which the club takes its name, Alcanada’s 7,108-yard 18-hole championship course was designed by award-winning golf architect Robert Trent Jones Jnr.
Owned by the Porsche family, it’s hard not to fall in love with this most picturesque of courses, which boasts a beautiful old-style terraced clubhouse, allowing visitors to enjoy the stunning views.
The course itself was right up my street, with the opening dog-leg, par-five (which has echoes of the famous 13th at Augusta) setting the tone for a wonderful challenge.
The views become more and more spectacular as you travel around the course, with the high point being the location of the raised 13th tee-box. As you look out it’s like a picture postcard and you can drive down towards the bay with the lighthouse in full view.
Our genial host, director of golf Kristoff Both, told us they plan to redevelop the greens with an investment of close to a €1m during the current off-season. When the work is finished, it’s current standing of 81 in Europe’s Top 100 should jump considerably and make it well worth checking out in 2019.
There are many options for places to stay in Majorca, but if you want to do it in style, then The Carrossa Resort is the ideal one for golfers playing Son Gual and Alcanada.
Located in the beautiful Llevant Hills, it is a 30-minute drive from both courses and far away from mass tourism. This recently opened hotel, owned by the Hamachers from Cologne who are a successful hotelier family, has teamed up with Son Gual and Alcanada to offer an attractive premier golf package which includes gourmet half-board and four sets of green feens.
Offering the finest cuisine, Carossa has an array of first-class services and facilities, including a luxury spa and indoor pool, massage and beauty treatments, gym, luscious gardens with a heated outdoor infinity pool and poolside bar – all this with the benefit of keeping in touch with home thanks to free Wi-Fi.
The deal starts at a price of €1,139, which is value for money considering the level of hospitality. For more, visit: carrossa.com.
Tip: Avoid the hassle of bringing your own clubs on the plane and check out clubstohire.com – modern golf clubs are available from Palma Airport from just €35 per week
This feature originally appeared in The Irish Independent.