Majorca or Mallorca is the largest of the Spanish Balearic Islands and Son Vida is the oldest golf course on the island. F.W. Hawtree originally designed Son Vida and the first nine holes opened for play in 1964, with Prince Rainier of Monaco officially opening the course. Back then, the opening tee shot was played from the old downhill 1st (now the 6th), a hole that’s popularly known as “San Francisco”.
In 2001, German architect Kurt Rossknecht remodelled the layout. Although all the greens, tees, bunkers and water hazards on the course were rebuilt and a new irrigation system installed, only the 13th to the 18th were actually restructured, as the more open aspect of these holes allowed scope for some greens to be repositioned.
Son Vida must be one of the island’s most beautiful courses and there are some stunning views from its fairways across the sun kissed Bay of Palma. Talking of fairways, they appear very tight from the tees but they widen kindly around the landing area of a decent drive. A number of the two-shot holes feature wicked doglegs, which will tempt the big hitters.
Overall, Son Vida is a solid course that offers beauty and variety. The closing five holes are especially challenging and the 18th is a cracking par five featuring a double dogleg and two lakes and a stream. If you make the green in two then you deserve a drink of your choosing in the clubhouse afterwards.
The course hosted two editions of the European Tour’s Open de Baleares in 1990 and 1994. Seve Ballesteros won the first event after a playoff win against Magnus Persson and Barry Lane (with the same aggregate score as Seve’s 269) claimed the second tournament by two strokes from fellow Englishman Jim Payne.
My first round on Vida whilst staying onsite at the Arabella resort was very enjoyable. First thing to say is that although I give both this course and Son Muntaner a 4-ball ranking, Muntaner is the stronger course. The Son Vida front nine is the shorter of the two halves and the nine that you certainly have to plot and plan from the tee. Plenty of history here as nine of the holes were the first to open on Mallorca and these are the holes that are most tight. A very gentle short par-4 gets the round underway followed by a decent length par-3, First hole to highlight for me is the 3rd ; this is a 400 yard par-4 with woods all the way down the left, a couple of landing point bunkers to the right and a really tough uphill shot to a back to front sloping green, stroke index 1 for obvious reasons. The second par-3 comes as early as the 4th hole and this like two others (8th and 16th) is very short and very downhill – fun holes to play but fairly similar to be honest.
I like the 6th hole a lot – this is the only par-5 on the front nine and very, very tight from the tee – trees either side and a lone bunker on the left at 220 yards – your second shot is key to set-up a pitch to an offset green. The closing hole (350 yards) on the front nine is all about the drive as it is very tight and anything going right will be in trouble. The second par-5 on the course comes at the 11th and is the best hole so far; dog legging left, moving uphill and then a small turn to the right towards the green – stroke index 2 and will test everyone.
The course closes very well – the 18th is a strong par-5 with water in play left from the tee and front and right around the layup positions and another tricky offset green – the hole does remind me of the 18th at close by Son Gual and that is a real favourite.
Overall, a course worth playing with many standout holes – very impressed with the Arabella resort on and off course.
I played the Son Quint and Son Vida courses today, as a warm up for a round on the Sun Muntaner course tomorrow.
The Son Quint is a decent track, with fairways squeezed quite tightly into a compact property and water brought into play sparingly at only three holes.
The Son Vida is a lovely old Fred Hawtree course, with plenty of short, tight fairways set out on rolling terrain and an absolutely wonderful set of four short holes, three of which play sharply downhill from seriously elevated tee positions (built in an era when architects knew how to construct eye catching par threes, of course).
The playing corridors are hemmed in by trees and/or housing on either side of the fairway on many of the holes from 1 to 12 and I thought that I’d hate that sort of confinement. Instead, I really warmed to the idea of having to fully concentrate to keep my ball in play and I thought the last six holes were actually too open, hankering for the strictures of the earlier holes to remain in place until the round concluded.
Again, apart from the par three 16th and par five 18th, water hazards were kept to a minimum on the course, which is always a bonus in my book.
There’s a new clubhouse under construction at the moment, strategically located above the 18th green, and it’s due to open in Spring of next year. I can’t help but feel a pang of regret that the current atmospheric old building which has served golfers well for over half a century will be demolished and the 10th hole changed from a short par four to a par three, all in the name of progress.
Can it really have been all of 25 summers since Seve won the Open de Balearas on this course?