As the weather turns colder and more miserable outside here in Central Europe, it fills me with great memories of late 2019, when I played golf during winter, which in Mallorca feels nothing but great with its blue skies and very pleasant and moderate temperatures.
At the same time it gives me a heavy heart as so much happened during the past months which did not turn well for golf in the Balearics or for the lovely islands in general. Of course I’m relating to the COVID-19 lockdown and all the unfortunate consequences that come with it.
This is a travel and course report of the better times when playing golf was an obvious thing to do in good weather and when every chance to play such a course is an absolute must.
Mallorca is a golf mekka, I don’t break this to you I’m sure. On this rather small island there are not less than 24 golf courses and the vast majority of them are publicly available to play.
The oldest, since 1964, and maybe hence the most original course of the island is Golf Son Vida, meandering around the famous Castillo Son Vida Hotel and through the posh and sophisticated Son Vida urbanizacion, just 10 minutes outside of Palma.
Nowadays Mallorca is famous as a golf destination all across Europe, if not the world — and it all started with Son Vida, the grand dame of Mallorcan golf courses.
I played Son Vida just one day after I played Son Muntaner. And I played with the very same set of rental golf clubs that really didn’t suit me, as it already became obvious one day before. In terms of score I was therefore not reaching for the skies. I was however trying to be blown away by this famous and prestigious golf course.
Did it work out? Have I been blown away in the end? The answer is yes and no.
Starting with the obvious. The island is beautiful in the area. No, there is no beach access and no, many villas here presumably don’t have a sea view, but still you have to picture the Son Vida neighborhood being a rather hilly compound of luxury estates with a golf course in between.
These days gated communities, such as this, are nothing uncommon anymore, be it in the States, the Middle East, South Africa or other parts of the world. But Son Vida started in the 1960s and back then I’m pretty sure this setup made quite some headlines.
While the real estate in this area is outstanding, no question about it, what about the course? F.W. Hawtree in 1964 and later Kurt Rossknecht in 2001 created a course that seriously fits between all these posh villas. It was new, it was interesting and attracted golfers from all over the world. The European Tour staged two events here, in 1990 and 1994.
It’s an 18-hole par-71 design with just over 5,600 meters in length. There is no driving range to warm up or practice, there’s just a medium sized putting green and a net into which you can hit some balls in order loosen your body and swing pre-round.
No driving range, that doesn’t make sense, you will argue. And yes, I would give you that. However, you should take into account that the Son Vida, Son Muntaner and Son Quint golf courses all belong to the same organization of Arabella Golf Mallorca and are well connected. So travelers longing for an extensive range session would hop on the shuttle on a 3 minute ride to Son Muntaner with its vast training facilities.
So is it really a huge problem that Son Vida has no driving range? I would say no, it isn’t. It’s unusual nonetheless.
Having this out of the way, let’s briefly talk about what the course indeed has to offer. Next to a rather new club house with a beautiful sun terrace and an exquisite club restaurant, there are 18 interesting golf holes meandering through rich people’s backyards.
There are short holes, there are long ones, easy and very difficult ones. In that regard this is not really different from other courses really. While the first 12 holes are pretty much just one hole after the other (maybe apart from 3, 4, 5 which indeed are pretty close together) from the 13th, the course opens up to some sort of valley, ring-fenced by real estate, where the holes share one big playing field and give sight across some other holes.
When I played the course in December 2019, there was a serious construction going on, the course invested over 1 million EUR in a new irrigation system and 400,000 EUR for new and re-done bunker complexes.
Gee, we had one lousy golf cart, I can tell you, so I hope they are planning to invest in their fleet as well. It would be a good investment. I usually prefer walking, especially when there’s a cart path only rule implied, but Son Vida is not really a walking course. Sometimes there are quite some distances and elevation changes to overcome.
The round starts quite normal with an easy par-4, follows with a long par-3, an uphill par-4 until you get to some holes with serious elevation changes and elevated tee and green complexes close to each other.
Hole 6 is the famous “San Francisco” hole, a narrow and downhill par-5 pretty much in the backyard of the Castillo Son Vida hotel. Number 7 is a dogleg right par-4 below the hotel, followed by a short par-3 from a very high tee box to a valley green. You seriously have to drive serpentines to safely get down to do the putting.
For hole 10 you should consider to tee off with a mid-iron and play it smart. Holes 11 and 13 both are rather long par-5s of which the latter is the first one played in the mentioned golf valley, where all the action takes place until you reach the 18th with its green that wants to be approached over water — just a fantastic finishing hole.
That’s the time when you should relax, get yourself a cold drink on the terrace and watch the other ladies and gents behind you how they manage to reach the 18th green of the day.
It is a great course, with great history and in good shape. Downsides are distances green to tee, the need to cross streets from time to time, the rather narrow setup which might not suit everyone and the emerging wish to buy some real estate here — a thought which one should immediately forget as it is frigging expensive hereabout!
For you to get some further insight how all this looks, here is a nice club video:
For further information please check out Arabella’s website.