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  • Neil White

Son Gual (Majorca, Spain)

“Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,” played the tune from the Son Gual clubhouse speaker as we tucked into our delicious post-round pasta.

Winter golf could scarcely be better than it had been at the club overlooking Palma with a backdrop of the Serra de Tramuntana mountains.

However, considering that Majorca is such a well-established holiday destination, we couldn’t fathom why the course was not more populated.

After all, it is the 22nd-ranked course in Spain and has been even higher.

Our December day at Son Gual was terrific, from the wonderful welcome from the lady at reception to its beautifully conditioned course and, finally, our excellent lunch.

The team even went the extra mile to make us breakfast even though we arrived 90 minutes before the kitchen was due to open.

And hats off to Son Gual for the cheapest cap of my 130-strong collection so far - a mere 10 euros.

The practice area has a well-appointed driving range, chipping area and putting green where we faced an early warning of the fiendish slopes and the precise pace judgment we would need on the course.

Spoiler alert. Mrs W learned the lesson to greater effect than me.

Sand is also a key feature at Son Gual. Its giant bunkers pepper the horizon from almost every angle. Indeed, only the eighth hole has no sand.

From the elevated tee on the long par-four first hole, huge traps lurk down the left - the natural direction for those trying to avoid rough terrain down the right.

Those who make the fairway face an approach into a long green that snakes around another bunker on the right.

Many putting surfaces at Son Gual have false fronts, dramatic drop-offs and devilish slopes. The first sets the tone on all counts.

Players need all clubs in their bags thanks to the splendid variation in the length of holes.

Placement is essential for a successful round and this applies in spades on the relatively short par-four second and third holes, where there are only slithers of grass between fairway bunkers.

Water is also a key element on the course and emerges to the left and behind the fourth green, inhibiting approaches on this otherwise scoreable par-five.

It invades one’s headspace even more on the delightful par-three fifth, where I thought I had played a sharp eight-iron only to watch it skip past the green onto the tangly surround.

The cuffs were my nemesis all day – my ball found it on innumerable occasions, and each time, the pacy greens made me overly fearful of clipping the ball too hard.

On the fifth, the consequence of my timidity was to see the ball hit a bank and slide down the run-off.

By now, my scorecard was such a wreck that the last thing I needed was a long carry-over water from the tee, but that is what the short par-five sixth demands.

Fortunately, I had my cleanest hit to date, and it sailed over the penalty area, leaving a three-wood and pitch into another awkward green.

There are few doglegs at Son Gual. The trickiest is arguably the seventh, the stroke index one with three big traps awaiting those trying to cut the corner on the right and another for the more muscular who may run out of space on the left.

The entrance into an ascending green is so narrow that the ball will likely fall into the deep trap on the right. At least, that is what I found.

The opening nine is completed by a gorgeous long par-three with a long putting surface around water to the left and sand to the right. Club selection is a significant dilemma here.

In my opinion, the second nine was more intoxicating than the first because it was even more dramatic.

For example, the short par-four 10th has an exaggerated sandscape down the right.

The par-four 11th meanders left of the lake before players take on the sublime par-five 12th.

From the tee, there is a creek to the right, followed by more water down the left of a narrowing fairway up to a tiered green. I scored a par - with my second ball!

The 14th was my favourite par-four - a drive down the left requires pinpoint accuracy before an ascending approach to a green guarded by three consecutive bunkers.

Meanwhile, the 17th is possibly the best par-three - over water and a mini-desert into a long, thin green which slopes sharply left to right.

And then there is the 18th, a par-five combination of Son Gual’s most exciting elements in one pulsating home hole.

From the tee, there are pools in front and down the left with a bunker on the right of a tight fairway.

The reverse is true of the second shot, followed by an approach towards the flag behind the lake. I didn’t feel so bad about making heavy weather of it when we watched others floundering from our post-match perch.

I under-performed at Son Gual because slight chinks in my game were made into chasms by a very tough course.

However, I cannot blame its condition – the greens were in great shape as were the fairways and bunkers.

The tee positions are well thought-out, so there is a big challenge for those from the backs and much enjoyment for high handicappers from the forward ones.

Also, I should mention the proximity of the airport. Sure, we saw several planes going overhead, but in no way were they so loud that they distracted us from our game.

Indeed, we thought this was a superb place to play golf when the weather prevented us from doing so at home in early December.

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