|Continuing our series on the Caribbean, this week we
feature the island of Jamaica. The following is taken from a Nov 2001 article called
"Jamaica: Caribbean's Top Golf Destination" By Dale Leatherman, Associate Editor
for TravelGolf.com. Photos by
New courses and refurbished classics make this island one of the Caribbean's
top destinations for golf vacations.
Like the lazy rhythm of island music, Jamaican vacations are meant to be easy-going and
worry-free. You have to look for trouble. However, if your idea of trouble is bunkers as
big as beaches, water hazards stretching to the horizon, and wind blowing fresh off the
sea -- no problem, mon. Jamaica has plenty of trouble for you, including two new courses
in Montego Bay and old classics that have been upgraded. And getting to the island, less
than a two-hour flight from Miami, is no trouble at all.
Here's what's Jamaica has in store for the vacationing golfer:
The White Witch Course
at the Ritz Carlton Rose Hall, Montego Bay
One of Jamaica's most famous legends is the White Witch of Rose Hall, the wicked
19th-century mistress of a 4,000-acre sugar plantation who abused her slaves and killed
three husbands. Locals are quick to say that Annee Palmer still haunts the Rose Hall Great
House and the estate grounds - including the two new golf courses built there. And maybe
she does. Golfers are already blaming her for lost balls and wayward putts.
The White Witch Course, designed by the international architectural team of Robert Von
Hagge, Rick Baril and Mike Smelek, opened in August 2000 as the centerpiece of the new
Ritz Carlton Rose Hall Resort. Instead of traditional tropical terrain, the layout is
mountainous and rugged. The 6,718-yard course sticks to the high ground where there are
cool breezes and ocean views on 16 holes. This elevated route can be intimidating, with
its carries over jungle-like terrain.
The signature par three seventeenth hole is 161 yards downhill to a lush green
surrounded by white sand bunkers against a blue ocean backdrop. Behind the green stands a
lone windswept tree, silhouetted against the sky.
The golf experience is decidedly top drawer, from the attentive white-suited
golf "concierges" (caddies) to the pewter bag tags inscribed with your name to
the elegant dining on the verandah of the White Witch Clubhouse. The hotel itself, a
shoo-in for five-star status, contains 428 guest rooms (each with a balcony) wrapped
around a precisely landscaped courtyard. The property fronts on a 1,500-foot beach, a
large free-form swimming pool, and an open-air bar and restaurant. Dining in the hotel is
a delightful mix of international cuisines in a variety of comfortable settings.
Cinnamon Hill Course
at Wyndham Rose Hall, Montego Bay
"Cinnamon Hill is unlike any other seaside course we've designed," says
designer Robert Von Hagge. "There's no question that its holes are among the most
varied in the Caribbean."
What the architect refers to is the split personality of the 6,798-yard, par
71 layout. The gently rolling front nine opens under the gaze of the 18th-century Rose
Hall Great House, then rambles past the walled graveyard of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's
family and down to the ocean. Holes seven and eight are so near the water that a cranky
sea breeze can easily whip your ball into the deep.
In contrast, the back nine (which follows the route of an old Wyndham layout) takes to
the remote hills of the plantation, making its way through narrow canyons and across deep
chasms. The par-three fifteenth hole drops dramatically to a green next to a waterfall
(James Bond was here in the movie Goldeneye). At seventeen, the route opens with an ocean
panorama, then descends to the eerie ruins of an 18th century aqueduct.
Designed with the resort player in mind, Cinnamon Hill nevertheless has
enough character and variety to keep any player beguiled.
The Wyndham Rose Hall is a comfortable resort with a family-friendly atmosphere,
several good restaurants, and a great new water park just off the beach.
SuperClubs Golf Club, Montego Bay
The former Iron Shore Golf and Country Club has been referred to as Jamaica's gem in
the rough. Since January 2000, SuperClubs, the Caribbean's all-inclusive resort giant, has
been polishing that gem, now the SuperClubs Golf Club Montego Bay. A beautifully decorated
new clubhouse is in place, and a massive course renovation has been completed. The greens
are in their best condition in 20 years, locals say.
Keeping in mind that this is a 30-year-old resort course, the 6,570-yard layout
delivers what is expected - an entertaining golf experience, with several water encounters
and a number of interesting blind shots. Fairways are separated by tall, frilly Australian
pines, as well as flowering hibiscus and bougainvillea.
Greens fees are waived for guests at SuperClubs resorts, including nearby Grand Lido
Braco, a charming luxury property with an "old Jamaica" village design and
The Tryall Course at the Tryall Club, Montego Bay
Over the past two years, diligent management has brought the Tryall course
back to world-class form, with a second driving range and other practice facilities.
See this week's Course Review for a full report.
Half Moon, Montego Bay
Like Tryall, the historic Half Moon layout has an international tournament
reputation. The 1961 Robert Trent Jones design is relatively flat, but long (7,115 yards)
and subject to constant, sweeping winds. Nine holes play into the wind, nine against. A
caddy is a must, since his advice can mean a difference of two or three clubs to
compensate for the wind.
Half Moon's fairways are generally wide and unobstructed, but the course's length takes
its toll, as do the deep bunkers around the greens. The course's toughest test comes on
the third hole, a 570-yard par five with a double dogleg. The second shot must carry a
group of bunkers or leave an over-the-bunker pitch shot to a fast green.
Since its opening in 1954, Half Moon has expanded throughout its 400 acres into a
stunning resort serving every possible vacation desire. Guests stay in a variety of
elegant rooms, suites and villas, many with private pools. At the heart of the resort is
the Seagrape Terrace, a shady oceanside dining area serving nouvelle Caribbean dishes.
Next to the golf club is the highly regarded Sugar Mill Restaurant, which serves great
Jamaican and international fare under the stars.
SuperClubs Golf Club, Runaway Bay
Nowhere is the evolution of the all-inclusive resort concept more apparent than at
SuperClubs Breezes Runaway Bay, which began more than 20 years ago as Jamaica Jamaica, a
magnet for party-happy college students. While it's still a bargain, Breezes Runaway Bay
now appeals to all ages and is decidedly upscale in accommodations, facilities, dining,
and activities. Situated 42 miles from Montego Bay on one of the North Shore's best
beaches, the resort has a PGA-quality golf course that hosts international tournaments,
but is still a pleasure for resort players.
Designed by British commander John Harris in 1960, the 6,870-yard layout has been
periodically upgraded to meet modern demands, and is well-maintained, with mature trees
and flowering plants, lending color to lush fairways. There is a first-class golf school
on the grounds, overseen by personable course professional Seymour Rose, a former
international tour player.
Runaway Bay's first hole is a long par three with an elevated, undulating green ringed
by deep bunkers. This opener sets the tone for a succession of windswept fairways with
cleverly placed bunkers. The greens are all mounded and well guarded.
The back nine climbs into the foothills, and finishes with some unique, challenging
holes. The signature fifteenth hole, a 355-yard par four, follows a ridge so narrow that
only a precise shot will avoid pitching down to impenetrable rough. The plateau green
overlooks the course and distant ocean. Sixteen, a par three, drops through a tricky chute
lined with dense vegetation. Eighteen is the longest par five on the course.
Guests at Breezes Runaway Bay and other SuperClubs resorts along the North Shore enjoy
free greens fees.
The above photos & information were supplied by TravelGolf.com.
If you are considering a golfing holiday in the Caribbean, call (US toll-free)
888-383-3633 or visit www.caribbeangolf.com
for a FREE Caribbean package quote.