DREAMSCAPES Fall/Winter 2017
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CARIBBEAN CRUSH
 
(2016 - Fall/Winter Issue)

Writer: IAN CRUICKSHANK



Nobody knows for sure when and where golf was invented.

Best guess is about 700 years ago, somewhere in Scotland when a couple of windswept and rain-soaked farmers inverted their crooks and knocked sheep dung into sandy rabbit holes. Not very romantic.

Those early Scottish golfers would flip their kilts if they could see how the game has been transformed, especially in the Caribbean, home to more than 50 of the world’s most stunning layouts. Courses in the Caribbean wind past jumbles of jasmine, through dense jungles, along sugar-white beaches edged in blue, blue seas, and all bathed in soothing sunshine. There are plenty of idyllic islands and courses from which to choose. Here are some of the best.

DOMINICAN DELIGHT

For a small spot, the Dominican Republic is a big-time player in the golf world. There are more than 20 courses sprinkled across the country. The ominous sounding Teeth of the Dog course at the Casa de Campo resort is considered one of the best warm-weather layouts in the world.

For pure looks though, it’s hard to beat the Punta Espada course at the Cap Cana resort on the eastern edge of the country. Designed by Jack Nicklaus, the course bends down to the edge of the Caribbean Sea, with white water spraying up across the jagged coral coastline. Make sure to have a chat with your caddie during the round. My caddie, Melvin, was a big fan of the Blue Jays, especially slugger Edwin Encarnacion, a proud Dominican. However, even with the recent changes, Melvin wasn’t so sure about the Maple Leafs’ chances this year.

A CANADIAN CONNECTION

Toronto golf course architect Tom McBroom has laid out golf courses from China to Finland. (He got the design job in Helsinki after meeting some golf-mad Finns at one of his son’s hockey tournaments.) His prettiest project though is Royal St. Kitts, which made its debut in October 2004 and is part of a Marriott hotel and casino complex, which is perched above the beach. Stretching over 6,900 yards from the tips, the course runs east to the water and then north toward the island’s mountain range, rising up through the foothills. A handful of fairways zigzag along the water, with a couple of holes on the front nine edging the Caribbean Sea and a series of holes on the back nine sitting on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. 

DOWN BY THE BAY

Originally opened as a Four Seasons property, the Sandals Emerald Bay Golf, Tennis & Spa Resort is now one of Sandals’ most popular spots. It’s easy to see why.

The Bahamian resort is fronted by a long, fluffy stretch of sand that overlooks an azure-tinged sea. The resort is also home to a terrific Greg Norman-designed course. It starts slowly, moving through a mangrove preserve but picks up momentum on the back nine with half a dozen holes clinging to the rocky cliffs that are pounded by the white surf. As a bonus, the resort can be reached by direct flights from Toronto.

MONKEY BUSINESS  

The No. 1 destination for golfing monkey business in the Caribbean has to be Barbados. After all, it’s home to both the highly ranked Green Monkey course at the tony Sandy Lane resort and the popular layout at the Apes Hill Club.

Both courses sport dramatic settings, curling through the palm trees and jungle and across former quarries. Green Monkey takes its name from the colonies of fuzzy primates that chatter and scamper along the west coast of Barbados—they arrived on the island on board slave ships from West Africa. The monkeys thrive on the local fruit and seem to take great delight in watching hackers slice balls into the bushes.

KITCHEN COUNTER

Cuisinart is famous for its kitchen appliances—everything from blenders to breadmakers. More recently, it has expanded its menu to include a golf course.

The company owns the CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa, on the tiny island of Anguilla, a British dependent territory tucked next to St. Maarten. The resort is home to the only golf course on the island, a very fine Greg Norman-designed layout that stretches more than 7,000 yards and zigzags between salt water lagoons. The first hole is a knockout—a par four that heads straight for the Caribbean Sea, with the mountains of nearby St. Maarten poking up on the horizon.

CELEBRITY HANGOUT

Many members of the rich-and-famous set have homes in the Caribbean but you’re not likely to run into Johnny Depp, who owns a private island in the Bahamas. You are, however, likely to bump into a paparazzi favourite on the putting green at the Ocean Club on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. The Tom Weiskopf-designed course is open to golfers staying at the adjoining One&Only Ocean Club Resort or the nearby Atlantis Resort.

Ranked as one of the very best courses in the Caribbean, this eye-candy layout juts out along a stunning peninsula. For several years the course hosted Michael Jordan’s Celebrity Golf Tournament where guests ranged from Bill Clinton and Boris Becker to Wayne Gretzky and John McEnroe. If you have time, check out the local real estate scene. Last time I was in the area, I saw a listing for a US$20-million home—fortunately the price included dockage for a 35-metre yacht.

A PRIVATE HIDEAWAY

The Abaco Club on Winding Bay is another Bahamas location that boasts super model looks. A private, international sporting club and residential community that allows non-club members the chance to come and stay and play, the Club is home to a links-style layout designed by Donald Steel and Scott Mackenzie. (Steel is best known in Canada for his design of Redtail Golf Course, an exclusive layout tucked quietly away in horse and farm country around St. Thomas, Ontario. Guests at the Ontario club have ranged from Sean Connery to Queen Elizabeth.)

The course at the Abaco Club is strong all the way through and is punctuated by a couple of stunning par threes on both nines. After the round, golfers unwind at the Club’s glistening white beachfront, which stretches out for three kilometres.

JAMAICAN JOY

The first time I went to Jamaica, I snuck away from my foursome, found a piece of virgin sand, snapped open a Red Stripe beer and cranked up Bob Marley on my iPod. Bob promised me that, “Everything’s gonna be alright” and I believed him.

Eventually though, I did rouse myself long enough to rejoin my pals for a round at Cinnamon Hill Golf Course on Jamaica’s Montego Bay. MoBay is dotted with terrific golf. Within a five-minute radius of

Cinnamon Hill are another three courses—White Witch, Half Moon and Ironshore. A fourth course, Tryall is about 35 minutes away on the other side of the bay.

CUBAN FLAVOUR

Good golf is all about rhythm so it was fitting to find a good course in Cuba. After all, this is the place where the cha-cha, mambo and bolero first crossed the dance floor and where such dreamy cocktails as the daiquiri, mojito and Cuba libre were invented.

The Varadero  golf course in Cuba was designed by Canadian Les Furber. It begins gently but on the back nine, Furber turns the screws, making golfers hit ticklish shots over salt water ponds. Even if you don’t play, check out the clubhouse. Built in the 1920s by the head of the wealthy DuPont family, Xanadú was a three-storey dream house perched on the crags overlooking the beach. The family lived in the home for more than 30 years and today it doubles as the clubhouse with a bar and restaurant, which is open to both golfers and non-players.

Travel Planner

For more information on the Caribbean’s classic courses and stay and play packages, try the following sites:

Atlantis, Bahamas: atlantisbahamas.com

Cap Cana, Dominican Republic: capcana.com

Casa de Campo Resort & Villas, Dominican Republic: casadecampo.com.do

CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa, Anguilla: cuisinartresort.com

Royal St. Kitts Golf Club: royalstkittsgolfclub.com

Sandals Emerald Bay, Bahamas: sandals.com

Sandy Lane, Barbados: sandylane.com

The Abaco Club on Winding Bay, Bahamas: theabacoclub.com

Varadero Golf Club: varaderogolfclub.com

 
 
 
 
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