With its balmy weather, paradise beaches and memorable courses, the Caribbean is one of the finest golf travel getaways on the planet. But as much as players may love the seaside tracks, there’s far more to discover in this sun-kissed destination.
There’s no shortage of world-class courses on Barbados, but the best place to start is Sandy Lane resort (green fees from £60). An icon of the Caribbean since 1961, today it offers a choice of three memorable layouts. While the Country Club and Old Nine courses are hugely enjoyable, the highlight is Tom Fazio’s famous 18-hole track dubbed ‘Green Monkey’. Open exclusively to Sandy Lane guests, the 7,343-yard course was created from an old limestone quarry, and delivers an eye-catching contrast of dramatic topography, spectacular views and manicured fairways.
The par-3 16th, with a grass monkey hiding in the bunker, is unforgettable.
A short drive north, Royal Westmoreland (green fees from £155) is a luxury beach and golf resort ideal for extended stays. The rolling fairways here were laid out by none other than Robert Trent Jones Jr, whose par-72 track stretches to a shade over 7,000 yards from the tips. It’s a perfect resort course, an enjoyable yet challenging layout that’s forgiving of mid-handicappers. Many of the estate’s 250 villas are available for rent, with golf-inclusive packages on offer. Guests also enjoy access to a private beach club on iconic Mullins Beach, along with a fitness centre, tennis courts and vibrant social scene.
Off course: Sip on Caribbean rum
Modern-day rum traces its roots to Barbados, where sugar cane has been crushed and fermented into the spirit for more than 350 years. The island is home to some of the most famous distilleries in the Caribbean, with a handful welcoming visitors for distillery tours and tastings.
Mount Gay has been producing rum since 1703. That makes it the world’s oldest rum brand, and the modern visitor centre in Bridgetown offers a range of tastings, including cocktail workshops and buffet lunches with free-flowing rum punch. The Foursquare Rum Factory offers a less packaged experience, but visitors who make the journey out to the factory in rural St. Philip parish are welcome, with tastings offered for a small fee. Rum aficionados will certainly want to make a turn past St. Nicholas Abbey in the northern settlement of St. Peter. It’s a small operation, but this historic producer is turning out superb premium rums.
The Old Quarry Golf Course (green fees from £50) is regularly hailed as one of the Caribbean’s finest, with good reason. This superb layout from acclaimed architect Pete Dye blends stellar sea views with dramatic topography across 18 memorable holes. The first three holes play right alongside the sparkling Caribbean, before the course bends inland, framed by the dramatic Tafelberg mountain. The 7th is particularly special, a short par-3 playing downwind to a green framed by Spanish Water Bay. The back nine meanders amid the craggy interior, delivering distant sea views before a spectacular end at the seaside 18th. The adjoining 350-room resort has a wide range of facilities, including tennis courts and a spa, so plenty of choice for non-golfers. The pro-shop is also 30 minutes from the cruise terminal, enabling seafaring golfers to squeeze in a round.
Off course: Discover the chequered history of the Caribbean
While it was South American tribes, and later Spanish sailors, who first settled Curaçao, it was Dutch colonisers who made the greatest impact on the island. From the 1640s, under Governor Peter Stuyvesant, the island was laid out into bountiful plantations and the slave trade flourished here for nearly 200 years. This dark chapter in the island’s history is best discovered at the Museum Kura Hulanda in the harbour at Willemstad, Curaçao’s capital city. Then, move on to the Savonet Museum in Christoffelpark, a charming museum that neatly unpacks the history and settlement of the island.
It’s also situated in one of the historic landhuizen plantation houses that still dot the island. Around 50 landhuizen remain, and many are open to the public as galleries and museums.
Laid-back Jamaica is no slouch when it comes to golf holidays, with a surprising choice of top-notch courses, most of which are strung out along the north coast.
The White Witch Golf Course (green fees from £140) on the outskirts of Montego Bay is superb, with sea views from 16 of its 18 holes. This championship course meanders through the lush grounds of Rose Hall, a residential resort estate. It’s a forgiving layout, running to 6,758 yards and par-71, the wide fairways and generous greens making it ideal for high-handicappers to get into the swing of island life. The course is named for the 19th-century plantation mistress whose ghost is said to still haunt the estate.
Rose Hall is also home to Cinnamon Hill (green fees from £140), an 18-hole layout that makes full use of both the topography and history of the estate. The second tee swings near the estate’s historic Great House, once home to Johnny and June Cash, seaside greens offer memorable putts, while the tee-box
eyrie on the 17th delivers superb Caribbean views.
Little more than a solid driver out to the west is Half Moon Golf Course (green fees from £170), a seaside layout from Robert Trent Jones Sr. A past host of the European PGA Senior Tour and the Jamaica Open, this course offers plenty of challenges, from fickle sea breezes to numerous bunkers guarding the greens. Golfers looking for a low score would do well to hire a caddie, as local knowledge is key for navigating this tricky track.
Off course: Lace up those running shoes
Each December the roads of Jamaica are filled with happy runners, tackling the 26.2-mile course of the Reggae Marathon. Dubbed the ‘world’s happiest marathon’, it’s certainly a jovial affair, with reggae along the route and vocal support from the locals. The looped course begins at Long Bay Beach Park on one of the island’s best beaches, before threading through the town of Negril and out towards Green Island.
When the race is run, the victory party and live music kick off on the beach. The Reggae Marathon takes place in early December each year, with half-marathon and 6.2-mile races also offered.
St Kitts and Nevis
When it comes to dramatic seaside golf, few Caribbean courses can compete with Royal St. Kitts Golf Club (green fees from £128). First opened in 1976, the course was revamped in the early-2000s by the Canadian designer Tom McBroom. It’s a hugely enjoyable track with wide fairways and a range of tee positions ensuring an accessible round for all handicaps, despite the challenging greens. But this course saves the best for last, and McBroom has created an unforgettable sequence of holes to finish, with the last five fairways threading along the shores of both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Elevated tee boxes, generous bunkering and the ever-present sea breezes result in an endlessly entertaining final few holes. The on-site Royal Golf Academy has PGA professionals on hand
to help guests tweak their game.
While some guests report the conditioning of Royal St. Kitts to be slipping, there are no such concerns at the Four Seasons Nevis (green fees from £180). The course by Robert Trent Jones Jr makes full use of the volcanic topography, creating a challenging 18-hole par-71 layout. It’s a course where local knowledge is essential to scoring low, so caddies are key. Although only covering 6,766 yards the narrow fairways, heavy rough and elevation changes mean a cool head and club selection is crucial. At least, while searching for any wayward shots, the sea views are superb.
Off course: Hit the beach
Few Caribbean islands dish up unfiltered tropical beauty like St. Kitts & Nevis, with a welcome lack of commercialism and plenty of quiet coves to kick back on after a round. On Nevis, Pinney’s beach is widely known as one of the finest beaches in the Leeward Islands, with laid-back beach bars and safe swimming the length of the sands. On St. Kitts travellers are equally spoilt for choice: Cockleshell beach is a classic of the south-east peninsula, neighbouring Banana Bay is noticeably quieter but no less scenic, while adventurous travellers will love the seclusion of Turtle Bay.
For a one-stop golfing holiday in the Dominican Republic, Casa de Campo Resort & Villas (green fees £230) ticks all the right (tee)boxes, with a trio of golf courses all designed by acclaimed architect Pete Dye. Little wonder the resort bagged ‘World’s Leading Luxury Sports & Villa Resort’ at the 2017 World Travel Awards. The standout course is ‘Teeth of the Dog’, with a fearsome reputation for putting players through their paces. Almost half the course plays alongside the ocean, delivering stellar views to distract from the narrow fairways and endless bunkers. Once players have tamed the ‘Dog’ they can tackle The Links (£110) and the 27-hole Dye Fore golf course (£195).
Over on the east coast, players at Puntacana Resort & Club (green fees £136) can tee up for 45 holes of championship golf across two unique layouts. Corales Golf Course is another Caribbean design by Tom Fazio, an approachable resort-style course that takes full advantage of its seaside location, with a third of the course boasting oceanfront holes. The same goes for La Cana Golf Course, which has a 27-hole layout featuring 14 ocean-view holes. The pair of courses share superb practice and warm-up facilities.
Also not to be missed is Playa Grande Golf and Ocean Club (green fees £250), which overlooks one of the finest beaches in the Caribbean. With panoramic sea vistas and cliffside fairways it’s a dramatic day out, with a full 10 holes played with a front-row ocean view. A choice of six tee boxes stretch the course from an approachable 5,230 yards at the front to a fearsome 7,259 yards off the championship tees. Often dubbed the ‘Pebble Beach of the Caribbean’, it’s a course for any bucket list.
Off course: Get adventurous
The Dominican Republic is the ideal destination for travellers who like to combine a little adventure with their days on the course. Punta Cana is an excellent base for adrenaline junkies, with easy access to the myriad activities of the south-east coast and beyond. The lush forests in the region provide plenty of options, from zipline tours to quad bike and dune buggy excursions. Both can easily be combined with horseback rides through the Dominican countryside. End the day with a dip in the clear waters of Hoyo Azul in the Scape Park. There’s no shortage of watery excitement offshore either, from snorkelling and scuba adventures off Catalina Island, to surf lessons in the gentle rollers on Playa de Macao.