As northern golfers growl through thicker piles of leaves as fall tightens its grip on their local courses, many islands are heading into peak season.
Of course, “island golf” can be applied to courses and resorts from the Maldives to Hawaii to Scotland and Japan. Yet to start with more focus, we will focus on the western Atlantic stretching from the southern Caribbean to northern Bermuda.
True to the traditions of the friendly locals living on island time, these golf experiences offer beautiful courses played at a relaxed pace. No one is going to rush to a class in Jamaica to tell you to tuck your shirt on. You’d be hard pressed to find a Bahamian willing to yell at you for some slow play. You head to the island’s golf course to enjoy the game, the sun and the atmosphere.
Five Forts Golf Club — Bermuda
The newest among Bermuda’s golfing stars, the Five Forts Golf Club is attached to the brand new St. Regis Bermuda Resort. As the paint dries on the immaculate new hotel, full-service spa and BLT Steak NY restaurant, the 18-hole track right outside the front door offers countless ocean views and a glimpse of Fort St. Catherine, the closest of the five titular fortifications left behind by the forces of the British Empire.
Showcasing a resort golf friendly design by legendary Robert Trent Jones Jr., Five Forts is strictly an executive setup (no par five) and offers players of any age or skill level a good shot for a good game. This season is prime time to get out and visit Five Forts before it hits the global radar and becomes much more popular as a luxury golf destination in Bermuda.
The Sandals Golf & Country Club in Ocho Rios — Jamaica
Presenting a more provocative challenge with narrow fairways and elevation changes around 700 feet above sea level, Sandals Golf & Country Club invites players to return for repeated rounds to master its 6-inch design. 404 meters, par 71. Originally laid out by PK Saunders, the Ocho Rios space never loses sight at the top of a cliff-side green. The club also offers a driving range, a putting green, a chipping area, a pro shop, a restaurant and a snack bar around the corner.
Provo Golf Club — Turks and Caicos
For golfers, there is good news and bad news about the Turks and Caicos Islands. Unfortunately, there is only one golf course in a destination best known for its warm waters and white sand beaches. The good news is that the Provo Golf Club, designed by Karl Litton, is an excellent, full-length 18 hole course that interacts beautifully with the topography and local islands. Be sure to stop by the clubhouse restaurant after the 18th to chat with the sweet locals and try the conch chowder.
Turtle Hill Golf Club — Bermuda
A charming 18 hole par three course, Turtle Hill is an enjoyable journey through the realm of focused golf. Go from tee to green cleanly and you will get a good score. Hang, slice or poke your way on the course, and it’ll be a scramble. Previously connected to the now-closed Fairmont Southampton, this Ted Robinson design remains in operation while the new owners renovate the old hotel. Players need to be prepared for all manner of weather conditions as the Bermuda gusts mix with the bright sun to change the conditions from hole to hole.
Links at Royal Isabela — Puerto Rico:
Surviving the changes in management and hurricanes that have ravaged Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, the Links at Royal Isabela is the main attraction of a resort offering luxury villas in a tropical forest rich in wildlife. Designed by the Pasarell brothers and Pete Dye disciple David Pfaff, the Royal Isabela Course brings elements of links golf with rolling hills and elevation changes to its seaside setting. Of course, you can go to the resort’s extensive tennis center, but the golf course is a star.
The Mid Ocean Club — Bermuda
A semi-private and complete championship course, this design by Charles Blair Macdonald opened in Tucker’s Town, Bermuda, in 1921. It is historically known as a venue for major international events, such as the key meeting of Dwight Eisenhower after the Second World War. and Winston Churchill. Yet golfers know the Mid Ocean Club for twice hosting the PGA Grand Slam of Golf tournament.
The course itself offers generous sea views, challenging elevation changes and enough blind shots to test a good golfer’s instinct. Its 18 holes encourage multiple visits.
Dog’s teeth — Dominican Republic
Known as one of designer Pete Dye’s great masterpieces alongside Whistling Straits and TPC Sawgrass, Teeth of the Dog at Casa de Campo Resort is a staple on ‘World’s Best’ class lists. Naturally, he shows off his dogs when discussing island golf.
Teeth of the Dog takes its name from the jagged shore dotted with the first nine of the course. Before the turn you’ll find Seven Heaven, seven holes running along the windswept Atlantic that require the player to stop, snap a photo, and enjoy a deep breath of sea air.
Sandals Emerald Bay — The Bahamas
Designed by Sandals Golf Ambassador Greg Norman, Emerald Bay is another sunny track taking full advantage of its oceanfront location on Exumas in the Bahamas. The last nine weave their way around the adjacent bay of the appropriately colored resort town. Despite playing at a championship length and designed by a hall of fame, there is a laid-back Caribbean vibe permeating the course, and its staff never allow a tense country club atmosphere to settle in. island air.