Son Muntaner is one of three 18-hole layouts at the Arabella Golf and Spa Resort in Palma, Mallorca. Son Vida is the senior of the three courses, constructed by Fred Hawtree in 1964, followed by Son Muntaner in 2001. Finally the Ramón Espinosa-designed Son Quint was opened in 2007.
Kurt Rossknecht has been the architect behind many of the top courses in Germany for a long time now (Motzener See, Gut Thailing and Am Alten Fliess spring to mind) and he not only laid out the 18 holes at Son Muntaner in 2001, he also upgraded the neighbouring Son Vida course at the same time.
The course measures a whopping 7,000 yards from the back markers, with a par of 72. Surprisingly lush for a Mediterranean layout, it is routed over rolling terrain in two loops of nine, with ponds coming into play at several of the holes on the front nine. Stone dykes have been incorporated into the design (the par four 10th features a delightful ha-ha wall) and many of the greens are pleasantly hourglass-shaped.
Feel it is appropriate to come back with another review on Son Muntaner after the course was completely regrassed in 2016 and holes 5 and 6 rerouted back to their original design.
First, both changes are clearly for the better. Conditioning is one step up on the previous situation now that the grow-in phase is complete (unlike the situation last year which Alex refers to) and the new Bermuda grass has been firmly established. It is great to see that they are able and willing to maintain the course in a drier, firmer condition than before.
For me, Son Muntaner is now clearly in the top five on the island. Value-for-money is still a big issue (the standard high-season guest rate at €150 is not competitive as Son Gual costs less and still is a lot better). Pace of play can also be a problem, but if you know when and with whom to play (members can apparently buy a limited number of tickets for €50...) it gets an unequivocal thumbs up, albeit clearly below Son Gual and Alcanada.
I agree with the most recent review (April ’16) for the course, this doesn’t feel like the #3 course on the island. In saying that there has been big changes recently and the course has been closed for around five months. The old grass has been burnt off and has been over seeded with new Bermuda and the course re-opened in late October 2016. Playing in mid-November, it was clear that the course has been re-opened far too early – I understand the need to generate green fee revenue but the course was not ready in November. I worry that opening ahead of time may cause issues that could be avoided. Current conditions aside, the design is pretty good with a number of strong holes; starting at the opener. An elevated tee to a dog-legging to the right fairway with sand and water trouble short and left of the green – a good start. The 2nd and 3rd holes are little ‘up and down’ ; the 2nd is long par-5 with a very slim fairway and water on the right and then the par-4 3rd comes back with the water on the right again – so watch the cut tee shot on both holes. The 4th is my favourite hole in the first few – here is a big par-4 with great bunkering at landing point and a barranca to cross around 80 yards short of the long green. The best looking par-3 on the front nine comes at the 7th – a mid-iron, downhill and a tree amphitheatre. The (stronger) back 9 starts with a long par-4 with an old wall crossing the fairway at driving point – nice to see. Not a big fan of the par-3 11th as it is just too long – close to 250 yards and will need your Sunday best to get close to the green. The 13th is the next par-3 and so much better, 150 yards at most, slightly uphill and with trees behind, strong bunkering and a step in the green makes this probably the best short hole at Son Muntaner. The 15th and 16th holes are par-5’s – both obviously have the length but what I like about the holes is the bunkering at the greens and also more bunkering around 60 yards short – these are made to catch many second shots for the better players trying to hit the green from way back. The final hole is strong; around 400 yards with a drive coming out of a funnel of trees (think 18th at Augusta National) to a narrowing fairway; the approach is slightly uphill to a long green, pointing slightly right, with bunkers in just the right spot (short and right) – this hole is certainly one of the best on the course.
Son Muntaner’s clubhouse is in the perfect position above the 9th and 18th greens and a great place to eat and drink. The course is worth a visit but as I said earlier, I worry that the course condition will be an issue – I hope not and will take another look in a couple of years … 3rd on Mallorca? probably not for me – I think I would have Puntiro (to the east of Palma) ahead, although it was around five years since I was last there.
Why is this course ranked no 3 on the island? It certainly gets a lot of play as both hotel guests and members have a choice between Son Vida, Son Muntaner and Son Quint and there is no contest there. But is it worth the 120-odd euro greenfee for the rest of us who belong to neither category? No way! Not even by Mallorcan standards (mediocre courses priced as championship layouts elsewhere) can it ever be regarded as value for money. I would rather play Alcanada or Son Gual for the same money or play Puntiró for quite a bit less. All those courses are better than Son Muntaner in my opinion.