Golf, resorts and iguanas: What's coming and going on Puerto Rico

By Travel ArticlesMay 24, 2012, 7:35 pm

With more flights and high-end resort properties coming, such as Ritz-Carlton Reserve and Royal Isabela, golf has never been hotter on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico.

RIO MAR, Puerto Rico -- Tourism in the Caribbean is a competitive business, and few destinations have been as aggressive with upgrades and new initiatives compared to Puerto Rico.

The mission to increase the standard of its resorts began in 1994, when the island's government embarked on a mission to increase the amount and standard of hotels.

Today, it's easy to see the initiative is paying off. Each year, 1.2 million cruise ship passengers visit Puerto Rico.

But with new resorts and golf developments, the island makes an even stronger case for visitors to come and stay awhile, with 15,000 hotel rooms on the island.

One of the Caribbean's busiest islands, access -- or 'lift' -- is also getting better. Puerto Rico receives 450 flights each week from as far away as central Europe, which helps keep air travel costs usually much less expensive compared to other golf-heavy islands in the Caribbean such as the Dominican Republic. British Airways, in fact, recently announced a new non-stop to London Gatwick Airport for the first time in 10 years.

Puerto Rico's new and renovated luxury resorts and golf courses

Just west of San Juan is Dorado Beach, one of the pioneers in Puerto Rico's resort and golf scene. Founded by Laurence Rockafeller in the 1950s, the resort and residential development is home to four golf courses, plus new resort and vacation units.

Dorado's Rock Resort closed in 2004, but a new Ritz-Carlton Reserve is set to open at the end of 2012. Dubbed the Caribbean's first 'six-star' hotel, it will be one of the Caribbean's most exclusive golf and beach retreats.

Meanwhile, Dorado Beach Resort & Club East Course, one of the flagship courses designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., reopened after extensive renovating. Now Kemper Sports managed, improvements included nearly tripling the amount of sprinkler heads and the clearing out of bush that was impeding on playing areas, plus long, 'runway' tee boxes. The result is a much cleaner, open look that also helps to improve playability and conditioning.

For now, the West Course is closed for renovation, but Dorado's Plantation Pineapple and Plantation Sugarcane Courses remain open.

On the eastern side of San Juan located next to Trump International Golf Club, Bahia Beach Golf Club opened in 2008. Part of a 483-acre, eco-friendly development with a St. Regis-brand hotel, the Troon Golf-managed resort course is a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design that plays through a dense forest and lagoon system before finishing with three holes beside the sea. Nature steals the show at Bahia, home to miles of hike and bike trails, canoeing and other water sports, plus three miles of beachfront.

Puerto Rico is also debuting a brand new, exclusive club on the northwest side: Royal Isabela, led by Puerto Rican brothers Charlie and Stanley Passarell (with design assistance from former Pete Dye associate David Pfaff).

Click here to learn more about the golf, rental units and real estate at Royal Isabela.

Iguanas' days are numbered on Puerto Rico

You can see the food chain in action on many of Puerto Rico's golf courses. Iguanas, not native to the island but now overrunning them (to the tune of an estimated 4 million strong) are hunted by packs of wild dogs, who do their best to corner them in a dry area.

While iguanas are shy creatures, you will soon enough find yourself close to one on the island. And if that happens, ??'They whip you,' said Rafael Prestamo, golf professional at Rio Mar Beach Resort.

It's a passive alternative compared to the alligators back in the United States that seem to take a limb or two from golfers each season.

While the roaming iguanas are always sure to get a visitor's camera out, it's easy to tell that their novelty has worn off with locals. In fact, the Puerto Rican government is finalizing a policy that will allow volunteers to capture, kill them and have their meat processed for export. Iguana meat can fetch up to $6 a pound and is often fed to horses.

Changes in store for the Puerto Rico Open?

A mainstay on the PGA Tour since 2008, the Puerto Rico Open, presented by, recently announced it has received financial backing thru 2013-2014, and Trump International Golf Club will continue to serve as the host site.

However, having been staged opposite a World Golf Championship event since its inception, there is speculation that it is in line to receive its own date should an event be dropped from the schedule in 2013.

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.


Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”

Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)

Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.