The most interesting course in the Caribbean
This double green is shared by the 12th and 14th holes at Royal Isabela in Puerto Rico
ISABELA, Puerto Rico – There's a new kid on the northwest coast of Puerto Rico that's already becoming legend. It's called the Golf Links of Royal Isabela, and it's perched on the cliffs above the Atlantic. The golf course actually has 21 holes, although you play 18 at a time to make up the round.
That's right; there are optional holes, and it totally works. Royal Isabela is definitely the best golf course in Puerto Rico, very likely the top course in the Caribbean, and possibly the most interesting golf course in the world.
The 426-acre golf course and development is primarily owned by two of Puerto Rico's favorite brothers, Charlie and Stanley Pasarell. After years of trials and tribulations, the Pasarells are finally seeing their dream come to fruition, and what a dream it is. Royal Isabela, which was designed by the brothers and architect David Pfaff, is located on one of the most striking locations on the planet.
Pfaff, who was the associate architect on Pete Dye's famous Teeth of the Dog Course at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic, guided the two former professional tennis players through a design process that followed the natural contours of the land -- even on the greens. Royal Isabela is Scottish links and Caribbean weather and scenery all wrapped into one. Set on meadows, dunes and cliffs that rise some 350 feet above the surf, the course really routed itself.
'There are all types of bunkering, all types of greens,' said Stanley Parasell, who also serves as president. 'It's just what the setting allowed it to be. Most of the features we found there and just utilized them in the course.'
Depending on which holes you pick to play, it's either a par 72 at 7,538 yards or a par 73 of 7,667 yards. From the tips, or the Natural tees as they are called, we're talking a rating/slope of 80.3/155 -- especially evident if the tradewinds are strong. But don't let the difficulty scare you. It gets a little easier, and just as beautiful, from the other five sets of tees.
And it's more than length that presents the challenge. Players must be precise off the tees, hit the right spots on the greens, have a deft short game and putting touch and not be afraid to lose a ball. With native vegetation bordering the holes and cliffs awaiting poorly struck tee shots and approaches, the chances for lost balls are numerous. It's not uncommon for a player to duck into the club's modest golf shop after nine and buy another dozen -- and do it with a smile on his face.
The obvious signature hole is the 17th, a 200-yard par 3 from one cliff to another, with the green perched a couple hundred feet above the rocks. But there are so many other great visuals on the course, too, including a double green that shares the 12th and 14th holes, also backed up against a cliff over the ocean.
The truth is, though, that there's not a boring hole on the course, whether we're talking about the treacherous false front on the par-3 fourth (nicknamed Tear Drop), the hellish sod-faced bunkers on the 10th that were inspired by the Old Course at St. Andrews or the green complexes similar to Carnoustie.
One of the unique aspects of the course is the options. The sixth has two greens and fairways -- one of which is a par 4 designed by Stanley; the other is a dogleg-left par 5 designed by Charlie. There's also an optional par-3 11th that runs along a cliff and a short par-4 extra hole, perfect for settling playoffs.
Forecaddies are required and necessary for first-timers. Not only are there several blind shots, but knowing how to approach the greens in terms of landing it short, long or to one side is also critical. Future plans also call for a walking caddie program.
If you're wondering how to get an opportunity to play Royal Isabela, well, it isn't easy. The club will be a high-end retreat for the captains of industry and those who buy lots and build homes on the property.
Carefully screened candidates are getting sneak previews of the course right now, but there will be a limited resort aspect to Royal Isabela as well. Construction is feverishly underway on 20 casitas, a restaurant and other amenities that will have the Royal Isabela up and running as a resort by this summer. Similar to Pebble Beach, golf opportunities will be reserved for members and those who stay at the resort with rates running somewhere in the neighborhood of $600 to $1,000 per night.
Long-term plans call for more incredible golf -- as many as four more courses -- and other amenities such as a spa, tennis courts and more. For more information, check out RoyalIsabela.com.
Fitzpatrick one back in 2018 Euro Tour opener
HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia had six birdies and a bogey Thursday for a 5-under 65 and a one-stroke lead at the Hong Kong Open, the first event of the 2018 European Tour season.
Playing in sunny but breezy conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the greens had the players struggling to gauge the approach.
''Very tough conditions today,'' Chawrasia said. ''It's very firm greens, to be honest. I'm just trying to hit the second shot on the green and trying to make it like a two-putt.''
Shubhankar Sharma and Matthew Fitzpatrick (both 66) were one shot behind, while seven others were tied for fourth a further stroke behind.
''Hit it great tee to green,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''I think I had like seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it's so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, yeah, it was a good day.''
Justin Rose, who won the title in 2015, shot was 2 under with five birdies and three bogeys.
''I think the course played a couple shots harder than it typically does,'' Rose said. ''I like this course. I think it offers plenty of birdie opportunities.''
Masters champion Sergio Garcia, Rafa Cabrera Bello and defending champion Sam Brazel (69) were in a group of 16 at 1 under.
Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open
The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:
Leaderboard: Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)
What it means: Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.
Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.
Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.
Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.
Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday.
Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one
Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.
Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia
SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.
Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.
''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.
But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.
In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.
''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''
Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.
The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.
''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''
NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.