A decade or so ago, let’s face it, golf in the Caribbean was a distinct afterthought. With only a few true championship courses, most visitors were more interested in snorkeling the gin clear waters, searching for the best Mojito and maybe parasailing on a whim.
Oh, how things have changed.
New, phenomenal golf courses have been springing up regularly in the Caribbean and many of them capitalize on stunning ocean settings. I’ve traveled to the region several times in the last couple of years and here’s my list of top oceanside courses to play:
Bahia Beach Golf Club (Rio Grande, Puerto Rico)—Designated a Certified Golf Audubon International Signature Sanctuary Course, this Robert Trent Jones, Jr. designed course weaves along two miles of scenic coastal beach surrounded by patches of coastal forests, within view of El Yunque National Rainforest.
Corales (Punta Cana, Dominican Republic)—Opened in April, the oceanside beauty will undoubtedly take its place as one of Caribbean’s best. Dramatic panoramas, ocean cliff-side holes, a rock quarry and lake-front green sites are just a few of the elements that make this Tom Fazio designed gem a memorable, challenging and fun golf experience.
Emerald Reef Golf Course at Sandals Emerald Bay (Great Exuma, Bahamas)—A Greg Norman design that features six signature holes framing the perimeter of Emerald Bay’s peninsula overlooking the Caribbean Sea. An added bonus: the course uses an environmentally friendly seashore paspalum grass, which creates a lush, verdant turf to play on.
Faldo Legacy Course at the Westin Roco Ki Beach & Golf Resort (Punta Cana, Dominican Republic)—Nick Faldo is a very underrated golf course designer. He’s got several courses around the world, but this one has to be at the top of his resume. The Legacy winds through a lush mangrove forest and into highlands flanked by rocky cliffs and breathtaking azure Caribbean Sea.
Ocean Club at Paradise Island (Bahamas)—Designed by Tom Weiskopf, the Ocean Club has spectacular oceans views and several seaside greens and tee settings. If you want to know where your “wind game” stands, play this breezy beauty.
Ocean Course at Rio Mar Beach Resort (Rio Grande, Puerto Rico)—Designed by Tom and George Fazio, this venerable layout gets overshadowed somewhat by the resorts’ other course, the River Course, designed by Greg Norman. The Ocean Course with its ocean views, elevated greens and iguanas sunning themselves on several fairways is a Puerto Rican golf experience not to be missed.
Playa Grande (Dominican Republic)—Set high above the ocean it plays along 100-foot bluffs. It has 10 holes that play alongside the ocean. Hilly in spots, the course was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and opened in 1997.
Punta Espada Golf Club (Cap Cana, Dominican Republic)—Some golf publications are intimating that this Jack Nicklaus signature design is the best course in the Caribbean and Mexico. No doubt, it’s a stunner with 8 holes that play along the sea and fantastic views from just about everywhere on the course.
Teeth of the Dog at Casa de Campo (La Romana, Dominican Republic)—Perenially ranked as the number one course in the Caribbean by golf publications, this classic Pete Dye designed oceanside gem, with its holes lined by jagged and rugged coral rock, never gets old. It definitely has to be on every golfer’s “Bucket List”.
Tryall Course at the Tryall Club (Montego Bay, Jamaica)-Stretching from the oceanside up into wooded areas and past coconut groves, this classic course has some stunning Caribbean Sea panoramas. They’ve got some great caddies at Tryall as well.