What would you do if you were struggling to get a game on the sunshine island where you spend much of your time? In the case of wealthy German double-glazing magnate, Adam Pamer, you build your own golf course and go to extraordinary lengths to make it not only the best on the island, but also one of the finest in Spain.
This has been Pamers avowed intent since becoming disillusioned with his experiences at other Mallorca courses. To achieve his goal, he has invested somewhere in excess of 30 million in his Golf Son Gual pride and joy, amassing a vast fleet of John Deere machinery and an impressive 35 green staff to take care of it all a figure comfortably exceeding the number of players on my recent visit.
This is perhaps not surprising, with a current membership of just five, and only two hours worth of visitor tee times a day at 15-minute intervals from 10.00am to midday. If this all sounds financially unsustainable, then son Andreas, with whom I played, assures me the longer-term goal is to attract a select group of members prepared to pay an as-yet-undisclosed princely sum to enjoy genuine millionaires golf.
If Son Gual is special to the Pamer family, then it also now has a special place in my heart, becoming the 400th course Ive played since taking up the game in 1982. And what a fitting venue for such a momentous occasion, with its ambience of understated opulence and the feeling that no expense has been spared whether in the clubhouse, on the practice ground with real greens for targets or on the course where the pure, though pretty slick, putting surfaces quickly give you the confidence that if you get the line right, nothing will stop your ball finding its way home.
For this level of investment you would assume the coursedesign contract would go to a big-name architect. But it was actually awarded to someone probably only familiar to keen followers of German golf three-time German amateur champion, Thomas Himmel, whose CV and golfing pedigree are pretty impressive. Apparently, it was he who came up with the most creative and imaginative use of the available land.
It is a clever design too, for while the targets off the tees often seem reasonably fair, your approach play will need to be a little more on the mark than usual. Many pin positions are wellprotected by bunkers, meaning distance control is a priority and the scope to run the ball in to the flag is fairly limited. The lower approach is not always out of the question, but it will generally need to be played away from the flag to a part of the green from which two-putting is rarely a formality, with awkward crests and ridges to negotiate. Nowhere is this more evident than on the par 3s, especially off the tees we ventured back to on our second outing. This styling reminded me of the 5th at Ballybunions Cashen course, though Himmels targets are more generous than Trent Joness mere eight yards of green depth there.
Water and wine
Around the greens theres generally a small area of immaculate fringe, which is softer and slower than it looks, thus calling for a deft touch. Beyond that, your ball tends to sit down just sufficiently to leave you the dreaded chip shot conundrum; you must hit the ball hard enough to get it out yet soft enough not to let it get away from you on landing.
Choosing a favourite hole is tricky, though the short par-3 5th perhaps best encapsulates everything Ive talked about. Its a dead-ringer for the 13th at The Oxfordshire, becoming deceptively longer the further left the flag is placed a sucker pin position to which I meekly succumbed on day one as I foolishly went flagchasing with predictably watery consequences.
There are also a number of small vineyards in evidence as you make your way round a nice touch that goes beyond the merely decorative as the Pamer family is hoping 6,000 bottles of 2008 vintage will soon be adding another string to Son Guals bow.
This luxury golf complex lies just 20 minutes from Palma airport, quite close to the flight path, but mercifully just far enough away to be a talking point rather than a distraction. Our final airline count after two days of golf was well up into the 20s, with the highlight for one of my colleagues, three Air Berlins in a row at one point. This hints at the extent to which the Germans have adopted Mallorca as a favourite sunshine getaway, and we should be grateful that one of that nations sons has chosen to present the island with what many will consider its first truly world-class golfing destination.
GOLF SON GUAL
T: +34 971 7858 88
STATS: par 72, 6,621m
Limited tee-times available.
Monarch Airlines flies to Palma from Luton, Birmingham and Manchester in the summer.
WHERE TO STAY
MELIA DE MAR
This recently refurbished five-star hotel is set right on the shores of the Mediterranean in Illetas, just outside Palma.
T: +34 971 402118 or 0808 101 4566
W: www.melia-demar.com or www.solmelia.com
Enjoy a drink on the terrace after the challenging 9th.