Majorca has over 20 golf courses, compared with only one or two in Ibiza and Minorca. As a result, the island is the favourite destination for tourists who want to play the game.
Many of our guests (in the pre-Covid days when we had more guests to stay) were golfers. So I still keep three sets of clubs in a garden shed, one of them for left-handers, for visiting friends who don’t want the bother of booking and carrying their own clubs on the plane.
The oldest course on the island, opened by Prince Rainier in 1964, is Arabella Golf Son Vida. The second oldest is Club de Golf Son Servera, created in 1967, and lying between a range of pine-clad mountains with glorious views over the bay of Costa de los Pinos. Like most of the country’s golf clubs, it also boasts a high-class restaurant.
Every golfer on the island has his or her favourite. I have met people who swear by the course at Andraix, others by Son Muntaner, Son Quint and Poniente. The course at Bendinat is very dramatic.
A popular favourite is the legendary Santa Ponsa club, which boasts three courses. It has been the venue for many events on the European tour, testing the skills of golfing giants like the late Seve Ballesteros. On one of its courses some rare birds can be sighted.
Other outstanding venues are Son Antem, which has two courses, east and west, Vall D’Or, Pula, Canyamel (which features a huge strawberry tree), Capdera, Puntiro (designed by Jack Nicklaus), Son Termens, Golf Maioris and Son Gual. All have their own enthusiastic supporters.
In Pollensa we have a delightful nine-hole course. Although it looks scenically lovely, as though it wouldn’t hurt a fly, it holds some hidden terrors, especially for a so-called golfer like me. There was the time when I lost 14 balls trying to clear the lake that lurks dangerously on the left at one of the most difficult holes.
One day, when the lake was being drained and dozens of balls were exposed on the mud, I thought I was entitled to my fair share. I stepped gingerly onto the mud and made some progress, enough to reach out for a couple of balls. Suddenly, however, my feet gave way beneath me and they were sucked down into the muddy morass, and I lost one shoe in the process.
I extracted the other foot, shoe still intact, with some difficulty and crawled back onto dry land, my trousers and hands caked in the mud. Fortunately, I had left my mobile phone in my golf bag, so I was able to summon my wife to come to my rescue.
Meanwhile, I had to stagger back to the clubhouse to meet her – one shoe on and one shoe off – and face down the amused stares of the immaculately dressed golfers I passed on the way. When my wife arrived, she insisted on hosing me down before allowing me into her car.
Soon after, when I was in Palma with a golfing friend and bought some more shoes, he leaned over to the shop assistant and said: “He only needs one.”
One of the great joys of golf is that it can be played by people of all ages – unlike, say, football or rugby or even cricket. My father was taught to play by one of his teachers during the General Strike in 1926, when he was 15, and carried on into his 80s.
An American writer once said that he could spot the exact time when people reached middle age – that moment when you are “too young for golf and too old to rush for the net in tennis.” My only quarrel with that definition is that you are never too young for golf. Tiger Woods was shown on television playing golf when he was three.
The best golf course in our vicinity is Alcanada, a championship course designed by the legendary golf architect, Robert Trent Jnr. It stretches along the coast, so you can see the sea, as on an English or Scottish links course, from many of the holes.
It also has a splendid restaurant that commands a magnificent view, with a veranda overlooking a lighthouse on the water. I have played the course a couple of times with friends, but it is meant for better golfers than me.
If only I was 50 years younger (or even 40) I would enjoy nothing more than working my way round them all and possibly putting a book together about their unique or outstanding features. Sadly, however, the most I am likely to achieve in the short term is those nine holes at Pollensa.
The big question is: how many balls can you lose in nine holes?