Royal Isabela: Bandon Dunes meets Pebble Beach in the Caribbean

By Travel ArticlesApril 26, 2012, 5:11 pm

Imagine Bandon Dunes crossed with Pebble Beach and relocated to the tropics -- with just a handful of homes -- and you begin to grasp what makes the new Royal Isabela project in Puerto Rico so special.

Like Bandon Dunes, you have a developer obsessed with quality golf who discovered a previously unknown site perfect for the game and puts golf above all else. Like Pebble Beach, there are going to be people living alongside the course, which sits on cliffs overlooking the sea, reminiscent of the great links courses of Scotland and Ireland minus the dunes.

All of this is in a relatively undeveloped corner of Puerto Rico, offering buyers all the security and advantages of American law and government with a tropical island setting you cannot find in the continental U.S.

Brothers Stanley and Charlie Pasarell were born and raised in Puerto Rico, and as golfers they long imagined this hidden gem piece of coastline could hold a world-class golf course.

That's why they took an unusual tact to their development. They built the course first and then dealt with the other infrastructure, marketing memberships and real estate sales, so would-be members and owners could see the quality for themselves.

'We believe that for people to understand our vision, what we want Royal Isabela to be, they have to experience it, and to experience it they have to be able to stay here, and now they can,' said spokesperson Stuart Siegel.

While residential sales and construction are just beginning, the lodging opens this month and the course has been open for two years. Golf Digest has called it 'a heavenly getaway,' while the highly critical subscription-only Golf Odyssey called it the 'Pebble Beach of Puerto Rico.' It has not gotten much exposure, but it has all been good.

Royal Isabela is a luxury, boutique golf resort with a small real estate component. The 'hotel' consists of 20 luxury casitas -- all terraced into a hillside overlooking the ocean -- from 650-800 square feet with private plunge pools. These casitas are owned by the developers and are not for sale, but they are available for nightly rental to guests.

They share a small, main lodge that includes a bar, library and the adjacent La Casa restaurant, the first thing after the course to open. The rest of the resort's facilities consist of a small, Colonial-style clubhouse with a cocktail terrace overlooking the 18th hole, and just across the road the owners have a plantation with organic farms that produce food for La Casa. The river plantation also has active facilities for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding, with a network of paths and converted rail trails, plus a river offering stand-up paddle boarding and other water sports. There is also access to two miles of sandy beach. That's about it, a small, secluded club lifestyle with the main focus on golf.

Royal Isabela's golf course

The course itself is spectacular, set 300 vertical feet above the ocean with sweeping views of the Atlantic throughout. Four holes are perched right at the edge of the cliffs. The inland holes are also dramatic, with an island green for the third hole and old stone plantation ruins throughout. It is evocative of a links, both due to its setting, the effect of wind on play and the deep sod-faced bunkers throughout. The design by David Pfaff, one of Pete Dye's original assistants on Teeth of the Dog at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic, is the highest-ranked golf course in the Caribbean Basin.

Real estate offerings at Royal Isabela

Royal Isabela's real estate offerings are in scale with the resort, limited to just 10 villas and eight lots for custom homes. The villas are being built by the developers, with groundbreaking this month, and are expected to be ready to move into by the first quarter of 2013.

Despite almost no marketing some have already been sold, mainly to Puerto Rican residents who have fallen in love with the course. They will range from two to four bedrooms, starting at $1 million. The villas all overlook the sixth hole, span more than 3,000 square feet and have private pools plus an abundance of outdoor covered living space. The estate lots overlook both the golf course and ocean and range from one-and-a-half to two acres.

Royal Isabela is located in the far northeastern corner of Puerto Rico, 73 miles from the San Juan International Airport and approximately 10 miles from the Aguadilla International Airport. The latter is physically very convenient but has very few scheduled flights.

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.