The Mediterranean island of Mallorca (aka Majorca) lies 100 miles off the eastern coastline of Spain and is the largest of the Balearic Islands. To date it is not recognised as a premier golf destination, but this must surely change for an island that has so much to offer the visiting golfer - reports Steve Fenton.
To many, Majorca is known as the place where hordes of Brits travel in the summer months to enjoy sun, sea, sand and sangria. Few of us, perhaps, appreciate that there are 19 excellent golf courses on the island and - furthermore - there are three more under construction and 12 in the early planning stages. By the year 2010 it is anticipated that there will be a total of 35 courses throughout the island and that the number of golfing visitors will double from its current 100,000 a year.
At the moment the tourist season runs from May through September, after which the hotels empty and the place grinds to a halt. The tourism bodies realise that the golf courses are at their best in the winter months and golf could - and should - be used to encourage visitors all year round. They are therefore hoping to appeal to two main target groups - the dedicated golfer, who will go in winter and play almost every day, and the family man or woman who takes a summer holiday with the children and hopes to squeeze in a round or two while they're there.
The climate of the island is ideal for winter golf as the mercury can still hit 21 degree C (70 F) in January but it gets too hot for even the maddest of Englishmen in mid-summer throughout the day - although the temperature is pleasant enough in early morning and in the evening to play. Some courses have introduced split green fees, when nine holes can be played in the morning and nine in the evening, leaving the rest of the day to travel or enjoy the sun or sights.
It's a sensible and often necessary compromise but we wonder how much fun a keen golfer would have seeing the sights with his family if he'd shot his best ever nine hole score at 8am and had to wait 11 hours before tackling the other half.
Majorca has been a top tourist destination for 30 years and over such a long period of time those involved in tourism have refined and developed what they offer, in response to feedback from literally millions of visitors. In consequence it has all standards of accommodation and restaurants and, most appealingly for a British audience, is only a two-hour flight from England (three from Scotland). There is ample entertainment for golfers and non-golfers alike, with some of the best food and wine in the world and then there's also the golf.
To publicise the fact Majorca is more than a summer tourist haven, a posse of journalists were invited by the Majorcan Chamber of Commerce to visits the island and sample some of the golf to promote the island as a golf destination, primarily to UK golfers.
We only had four days [my heart bleeds - Ed], so obviously could not play every course on the island. However, our hosts organised a couple of helicopters to view them all from the air and we did get the chance to play some and tour others in buggies.
The courses themselves are generally challenging but fair and in relatively good condition. Summer is when a lot of work is being done on the greens, but even then most were looking pretty good.
Golf de Andratx
The Andratx course at Camp de Mar was opened in 2000. It's a magnificent layout designed by the Gleneagles Golf Development (so must be good). It is a long, well-maintained course with over 60 bunkers and seven lakes. The fairways are narrow requiring both accuracy and length off the tee
Normal Green Fee: 90 euros (£54), which includes buggy.
This is the most renowned club on the island with three courses (I, II and III). Santa Ponsa I was host to the Balearic Open between 1988 and 1998 when Severiano Ballesteros won twice. Designed by Falco Nordi and opened in 1977, it is a demanding course with generous but sloping fairways. Water comes into play on five of the holes and the 590-metre (650 yards) 10th hole is one of the longest holes in Europe.
Normal Green Fee: 68 euros (£40); www.santa-ponsa.com
Opened in 1978 this is one of Majorca 's oldest courses. Designed by John Harris it is a fabulous testing layout suitable for all standard of golfer and a place where good shots are rewarded - not that I would know. Some fantastic views and only a few minutes drive from Magalluf. Again, like most courses on Majorca, the fairways are generous but often slope away unsuspectingly. The large greens are tricky and can catch the unaware.
Normal Green Fee: 68 euros (£40); www.ponientegolf.com.com
Real Golf de Bendinat
My personal favourite, the original nine holes were designed by Martin Hawtree and opened in 1986, with a second nine opened a decade later. The greens and fairways are in prime condition. The course twists through some impressive real estate, where celebrities such as Michael Douglas and 70s rock legend Suzie Quatro own villas. We in fact ran into (almost literally) Michael Douglas - or Mickey, as I call him now - on the course. The golf itself comprises some interesting holes, many doglegs played from elevated tees, with many water features. Over all an excellent course comparable to any I have played in the UK.
Normal Green Fee - 65 Euros (£40); www.realgolfbendinat.com/
The oldest golf course in Majorca opened in 1964. It was designed by Fred Hawtree and opened by Prince Rainier of Monaco. It is now the most prestigious golf course in Majorca, set among some of the most luxurious properties on the island. Countless almond, carob, pine and palm trees can be found around the course, which has undergone total renovation after being closed throughout 2001.
Normal Green Fee: 70 euros (£42); www.sonvidagolf.com
Son Antem (East and West)
The East Course opened in 1994 and is a championship layout measuring 6,325 metres (6,900 yards). A well-designed course, the wide and long fairways allow the high-handicap player to recover from bad tee shots. There is plenty of rough, and a good supply of spare balls is recommended.
We played the West Course, which was opened in 2001. It is tougher than the East, with narrow fairways and elevated greens, there are three lakes that come into play on five holes. The Son Antem West course promises to be one of the finest golf courses on the island.
Normal Green Fee: 64 euros (£38);
Opened as a nine-hole layout in 1985, designed by Bill Bendy. The original nine holes (now the inward half), are set among a variety of trees; carob, olive, almond and, of course, pine. The newer outward nine, designed by Bradford Benz and opened in 1993, is set among pine trees and is significantly more hilly than the opening nine. At just over 5,500 metres (from the yellow tees) the course is not particularly tough and gives the high handicap player an opportunity to return a satisfying card.
Normal Green Fee: 69 euros (£41); www.valldorgolf.com/
Opened in 1967 this is the second oldest golf course in Majorca and designed by John Harris.
A challenging nine-hole course with narrow tree lined fairways and fast greens. Surrounded by mountains it is tucked away in a quiet backwater at Costa de los Pinos but is only minutes away from the resorts of Cala Bona and Cala Millor.
Normal Green Fee: 50 euros (£30); www.golfsonservera.com/
One of Majorca 's newest golf courses, it opened in 1995 and underwent reconstruction in 2001. Pula also hosted Majorca 's first 'Skins Game' in 1997 when Jose Maria Olazabal, Mark McNulty, Carl Suneson and Bernhard Langer took part - Olazabal reckons it is among the top-20 courses in Spain. Designed by Francisco Segales. It is a flat course with some wonderful views of both mountains and the sea.
Normal Green Fee: 84 euros (£50); www.pulagolf.com/
A Jose Gancedo design and opened in 1989. The front nine is hilly and back nine slightly longer and flatter with a lot of water and fantastic views of the mountains and sea. It is a well-maintained course with exceptionally well-kept greens and generous fairways. Many of the natural old stone walls have been left. The feature hole is the 9th where a stone house is situated in the middle of the fairway - and guess where your ball normally ends up from the tee.
Normal Green Fee: 68 euros (£41); www.canyamelgolf.com/
A Dan Maples designed course, Capdepera, also known as Roca Viva, was opened in 1991. The view as you stand on the 15th tee and look out over the valley to the sea is something special and typifies the attraction of Majorcan golf courses. The first nine holes are flat with long fairways, while the back nine starts with three more flat holes before rising into the Arta Mountains. There are six lakes and three of these make their presence felt on the 5th, 11th and 18th holes.
Normal Green Fee: 66 euros (£40); www.golfcapdepera.com/
The nine-hole Pollensa course designed by Jose Gancedo is hilly with narrow fairways, loads of sand and great views. First opened in 1986 it has undergone a few changes in recent years with the help of Mike Pinner - a former member of the Jack Nicklaus golf course designing team.
Normal Green Fee: 55 euros (£30)
Designed by the Harris Group and Jose Rodriguez and opened and opened in May 1998. This is a demanding golf course that has been superbly laid out using many local features and a lot of innovative ideas. It is a hilly layout surrounded by mountains with panoramic views towards the Bay of Palma. The greens are acclaimed to be of the highest standard.
Normal Green Fee: 68 euros (£41)
Designed by Robert Trent Jones and opened and opened in 2003, this is the nearest thing to a links course on the island. A difficult challenge, recommended only for experienced players.
Normal Green Fee: 70 euros (£42);
Son Muntaner Golf Course
This is an exclusive golf club used by hotel guests of the Arabella Sheraton Hotel, Castle Hotel, and Mardavall Hotel so unless you are staying at one of these hotels you cannot play. This is the only course in Europe accredited by environmentally friendly certificates. www.golfsonmuntaner.com/
This trip to Majorca was my first golfing excursion outside the UK and Ireland. The acid test is would I be back again? The answer - without any hesitation - is yes. Perhaps not in June, although even then it was not so unbearably hot. The best time to play would be early in the year when the climate is still warm enough to play in shorts but not so hot you need to pour ice cold water over your head (as I did on several occasions).
The quality of service at every club was outstanding. The food and wine were exceptional - on par with any five star hotel. For the beer drinkers there are plenty of quality German and Spanish beers to go around. To me it was a different breed of golf - the greens were all very receptive as they are continuously watered, allowing the ball to be fired straight at the pin. One notable difference to golf in the UK is off the fairway, the rough areas of the course are very barren, hard and difficult to play because the cost of water is such that only fairways, tees and greens can be irrigated.
Finally, there are flights direct to Palma from all the major airports in the UK, as the island has welcomed tourists for over 30 years there is ample for other members of the family to do.
To book your escape to a golfing paradise visit: www.magoco.com who can arrange your tee times, car/coach rental, accommodation and anything else you may require on your trip .
|| 22 - JUNE 2004