Golf in the Spanish Balearic Islands

11 December 2015 Respond to this article

Golf in the Spanish Balearic Islands

The Mallorca Press Cup showcases some of the island’s best courses

At the moment, we feature a dozen courses from the Balearic Islands, which represents only 10% of the Spanish layouts in our regional and national charts. It may be only a small fraction of the overall number of Iberian tracks that we promote but it’s an important cluster, attracting an ever-growing number of golfers who visit the islands every year.

The Mallorca Press Cup, sponsored by Arabella Golf, Starwood Hotels and Air Europa, is intended to showcase some of the best golf facilities in Mallorca so Top 100 Golf Courses was delighted to receive an invitation this year to participate in the 7th edition of the event.

Based in the wonderful Castillo Hotel Son Vida, one of three prestigious hotels in the Arabella Golf portfolio, golf writers from the UK, Sweden, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands made up the majority of the thirty-two journalists and top junior players taking part in this year’s tournament, with competitors from Belgium, France and Italy also appearing for the first time.

Before the 2-day event got under way, we thought it might be a good idea to have a proper look around the Arabella Golf Resort as it boasts three impressive 18-hole layouts and a 9-hole pitch and putt course. As only one of Arabella’s courses was being used for the competition, it made sense to arrive a day early to check out the other two.

Son Vida Golf Course MallorcaAnd so, we joined up with respected French golf writer Roland Machenaud on the eve of the tournament to play Arabella’s Son Vida and Son Quint courses. We knew in advance that Son Vida was the oldest layout on the island, set out fifty years ago by Fred Hawtree – what we didn’t know was that it had hosted a couple of European Tour events back in the early 1990s, won by Seve Ballesteros and Barry Lane.

A fabulous new clubhouse is currently being built in a magnificent position, high above Son Vida’s 18th green, and this is scheduled to open in Spring of next year. Bernat Llobera, the Arabella Director of Golf, assures us the fabulous action photos of Seve that currently adorn the locker room walls in the old clubhouse will be reinstalled in the new building, preserving some treasured items of Spanish golfing history.

The tight, roller-coaster playing corridors of Son Vida were something of a throw back in time as it’s hard to imagine any modern day course ever being designed nowadays to co-exist in such close proximity to the substantial residential properties that back onto many of the fairways on the opening twelve holes.

Son Quint Golf Course MallorcaBy way of contrast, the newer Son Quint course was not nearly as confined, even though its fairways occupy a more compact site. The short par four 8th is one of the quirkiest holes you will ever play, squeezed into the south west corner of the property, where a blind approach shot can be played to the green over a high-walled tennis court at the foot of an adjoining property!

On the back nine, the 195-metre 12th is as tough a par three as you will find anywhere. One of only three short holes on the card, it requires a forced carry across water from the tee to find the green – and for those who attempt to bail out to the left, there’s a cavernous bunker just waiting to gobble up golf balls.

After 36-holes of golf, it was time to return to the Castillo Hotel Son Vida to meet up with the other newly arrived Mallorca Press Cup competitors. Before a buffet dinner in the hotel’s El Castell restaurant, Pilar Carbonell, the manager of the Mallorcan tourist authority, was introduced to the assembled group and he expressed the hope that everybody would enjoy their short stay before “leaving as ambassadors for the island”.

Son Muntaner Golf Course MallorcaAnd so, next day, it was on to the Son Muntaner course, which is marketed as the number 1 layout at Arabella Golf. There’s no doubt it’s a cut above the other two courses, though it’s in something of a transitional state right now because land that had previously been set aside for another hotel is now being used in the design of two new holes.

Even more radically, the course will close from March to October next year when it will be totally overseeded with Bermuda Celebration, a type of grass which is currently being introduced on a number of other top-end courses on mainland Spain. Such a progressive move is indicative of Arabella’s intention to keep one step ahead of the others in Mallorca’s fiercely competitive golf market.

When play was done for the day – and with Italy, France and Netherlands occupying positions 1, 2 and 3 in the competition – it was time for a tapas dinner in the Bodega del Green restaurant in the Sheraton Mallorca, one of the other two hotels operated by Arabella Golf, before transferring back to the Castillo Hotel Son Vida.

Maioris Golf Course MallorcaAnd so to the final day of the short visit, where the golf action moved on to Golf Maioris, on the other side of the Bay of Palma, which is owned by Air Europa, one of the sponsors. A little less polished than the other three Arabella layouts, Maioris has more the feeling of a golf members’ club (as opposed to a modern resort) which was a very pleasant surprise. Apart from a couple of dubiously designed holes, this linksy layout was a real treat to play and a fitting track to conclude the trip.

Having returned to base and with dinner concluded, Golf Director Bernat Llobera presented the Mallorca Press Cup prizes. He revealed that the 4-man team from the Netherlands had overtaken their French counterparts to claim the runner-up position but the winners, by just one point, were Team Italy, who lifted the trophy at their very first attempt. However, once the cheering had died down, it was unanimously agreed that Mallorca Golf was actually the real winner.

As part of our biennial re-ranking exercise for our Spanish Top 100, we took the opportunity to consult with a number of local golfers about the current Balearic golf scene. The most prominent of these correspondents was Elmar Schreiber from mallorcagolf.info, a website that performs something of a golfing quality control function on the island, visiting every course on a regular basis to basically check that standards are being maintained. We’re grateful for the feedback that we obtained from Elmar and from the others that we conferred with.

We’ve still to finalise our new Top 10 for the Balearic Islands, never mind our Top 100 for Spain, but it’s hard to see either Son Gual or Alcanada, both of which the Top 100 team visited a couple of years ago, being seriously challenged at the top of the regional standings. Our poll of local journalists did indicate strong support for the courses at Canyamal and Son Serva in the north east of the island so we’ll make a point of checking those two out when we next visit the island.

Golfers are certainly not lacking in choice when visiting Mallorca, with more than twenty places to play, half of which we publicise in our Balearic Islands chart. If you think there’s one that shouldn’t be there or alternatively, if there’s a favourite of yours that we’ve missed, then please let us know by clicking the “Respond to this article” link above and below. If you’ve played any of the featured courses then please post a review or reply to any of the reviews already posted.

Sincere thanks to Christine Crespo, Director of Corporate Communications for Starwood Hotels Mallorca, for the ultra-smooth running of the Mallorca Press Cup. Her attention to detail was fantastic as she effortlessly looked after the transportation, accommodation and other logistical needs of more than thirty very demanding visitors.

Gracias y nos vemos de nuevo en algún momento.

Jim McCann
Editor
Top 100 Golf Courses