Spain's island of Mallorca: A golfing wonderland

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December 15, 2009
David Brice, Golf International, Inc.

According to the calendar, it will be another week before Old Man Winter is officially here, but many of us can vouch for the fact that he has already been around for over a month. In fact the guy has settled in and made himself totally at home and unfortunately, it looks as though he intends to stick around for longer than we would like.

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Son Mutaner Golf - flagship course of the Arbella Golf Resort.
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Son Quint Golf presents a challenging test for even the best.
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Son Gual Golf is on a rocket ride to golf glory.
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Canyamel Golf - handsome good looks belie the test of this beauty.
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Marriott's Golf Son Antem belongs on every visiting golfers must-play list.
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With at least another three, or more likely even four months of bone chilling weather ahead, it's time to start planning a winter sunshine escape, or perhaps an early spring, "pick-me-up" trip to someplace warm, where winter memories and nightmares can be cast aside. If the weatherman's projections for this winter are true and it turns out to be a longer and harsher cold season than usual, we will all deserve a better sunshine break than usual -- we will have earned it.

If you are looking for someplace warm, where the entire family will be happy with a wide ranging variety of activities to please them all, wouldn't that be ideal? And if this dream destination also offered the chance to squeeze in a few rounds of golf, wouldn't that be absolutely perfect?

It has been said that golfers and non-golfers are like oil and water and simply do not mix -- don't believe it. Look to the Mediterranean Sea and the Spanish island of Mallorca and you will find the perfect vacation spot for both golfers and non-golfers. Those with no love of the game whatsoever will be faced with a dizzying array of activities and sightseeing opportunities, or simply basking under the sun on a golden sand beach. The golfers will be confronted with an equally impressive selection of some two dozen, world-class golf courses to play.

Golf on Mallorca is not only plentiful, it's also top quality and making a good thing even better, the courses are conveniently located close together in just three clusters, leaving more time for playing golf and sharing in some of the activities of the non-players.

The largest cluster of courses, containing more than half of the islands layouts, is located within a ten mile radius of Palma, the capital city. Base yourself in a city hotel or perhaps better, one of the excellent golf resorts in the area, where the Arbella Golf and Spa Resort offers three luxury hotel choices -- The Castillo Hotel Son Vida, The Ritz Carlton and The Arabella Sheraton. Choose any of these three and all of Palma's city attractions will only be a few minutes drive or taxi ride away.

For any golf resort to be classified as excellent it must offer golf which is equally as good as the hotel and the Arbella Golf Resort accomplishes this in grand style, with three championship courses.

Son Vida Golf is Mallorca's original layout, designed by the noted English architect, F.W. Hawtree in 1964. An extensive re-styling of the course in 2004 has lengthened the track to almost 6,200 yards of pure parkland delight and a challenging test for all. Mature trees must be carefully navigated from start to finish and the voraciously hungry bunkers that jealously guard the well contoured greens are to be avoided at all costs. But it is the extremely fast and subtlely undulating greens that will really impress. This is a layout that rewards the thinking golfer who is accurate.

Son Mutaner Golf is The Arbella Resort's flagship course and a beauty, filled with variety and memorable holes that require the expert use of practically every club in your bag. Stretching to almost 7,000 yards from the back tees, this is a layout for the big-hitters, but unless accompanied by accuracy, long hitting will only bring problems.

Rounding out Arbella's trio of courses is the two year old, Son Quint Golf, an intriguing design from the great Spanish architect, Ramon Espinosa. Water has been introduced as part of a defense arsenal that can be a little frightening from the back tees, where this sparkler stretches to almost 7,500 yards and presents a very serious examination of golf for even the most accomplished player. Fortunately a selection of four different tee positions brings things down to a more manageable length for mere mortals, but be warned; Son Quint will still be no walk in the park.

There are another ten courses in this Palma cluster, each of them well worth playing, but special mention must be made of Son Gual Golf Club a sparkling newcomer, that since opening in 2007 has made clear that it's on a rocket ride to golf stardom.

Selected to host the 2009 Mallorca Senior Open at a mere two years young, the auspicious field of Europeans, including Ian Woosnam, Sam Torrance, Eamonn Darcy and the eventual winner, Mark James, were unanimous in their opinions that Mallorca has given birth a real winner. Already sitting comfortably on Golf World magazine's prestigious listing of Europe's Top 100 Courses and considered a contender for the throne as Spain's top-ranked course, there's no doubt that Son Gual has a very bright future ahead. Remember the name Son Gual and make sure it's at the top of your must play list when you visit Mallorca.

And this is still only the beginning of Mallorca's golf story. There are other cracker-jack layouts that virtually demand to be played. They are in and around Palma where Marriott's Golf Son Antem offers a pair of spectacular tracks and David McLay Kidd (of Bandon Dunes and St. Andrews Castle Course fame) has produced another winner at Golf de Andratx. On Mallorca's north coast, Club de Golf Alcanada stands out as an exceptional layout and there are still more. On the northeast coast Canyamel Golf is a stunner and nearby Pula Golf, regular host the European Tour's prestigious, Mallorca Open, is more than worthy of attention. Look for reviews of these great courses and more about Mallorca's endless, off-course attractions, in future articles.

Mallorca is hiding a treasure trove of excellent golf and with an idyllic climate to enjoy them year round, together with so many other attractions; this magical island deserves to be your next vacation destination. For more ideas and suggestions on how to enjoy the best of Spain, whether golf is to be included or not, click here.

©2009 David Brice / Golf International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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