Punch Shots: Best golf experience in the Caribbean?

By Brandon Tucker, Jason DeeganDecember 21, 2011, 9:12 pm

It's the thick of winter in the United States, so your mind may be wandering off, thinking about a golf escape in the sunny Caribbean. There are over 30 nations and countless ways to enjoy a golf vacation here. Writers Jason Deegan, Mike Bailey and Brandon Tucker have their own favorite golf courses. 

Jason Deegan: Punta Espada at Cap Cana, Dominican Republic

No other Caribbean golf course interacts more intimately with the ocean than the Punta Espada Golf Club at Cap Cana.

Crashing waves actually almost forced my playing partner to back off his tee shot on the 17th hole. If you love seaside golf, the Dominican Republic is your place. The Teeth of the Dog by Pete Dye and Corales by Tom Fazio are two other oceanfront stunners, but Punta Espada in Punta Cana is my favorite of all the Caribbean courses I've played.  

Say what you will about Jack Nicklaus as a designer, but the Golden Bear nailed Punta Espada. He routed eight holes directly along the ocean. It's good enough to test the best - the 7,396-yard course hosted the Champions Tour's Cap Cana Championship from 2008-10 – and playable enough to be enjoyed by the rest.

There are so many signature spots. The view from the elevated second tee reveals a gorgeous par 5 that runs to the shore. Its peninsula green button hooks right into a bay.

I still can't get over the fact that Nicklaus birdied the dramatic par-3 12th from the tips at the club's grand opening in 2008. The club's staff encourages everybody to attempt this epic shot, a 250-yard carry over the ocean to the green on the cliffs above. I was thrilled just to have made it across safely, even though my ball was never close to the green. It's a shot I'll always remember. Punta Espada is a place you'll never forget.

Mike Bailey: The Golf Links at Royal Isabela, Puerto Rico

When it comes to views, a course that's still under the radar might be hard to beat. The Golf Links at Royal Isabela, perched high above the cliffs on the northwest coast of Puerto Rico, offers stunning views and an intriguing layout over 21 holes.

Yes, you heard right, 21 holes, because there are actually three optional holes, meaning you can change this course up from time to time to get a different experience.

Royal Isabela isn't your typical big-name designer resort course. It was actually designed by the owners, Puerto Rican tennis brothers Charlie and Stanley Pasarell. They got a little help from architect David Pfaff, whose resume includes being the associate architect with Pete Dye on Teeth of the Dog at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic. But really, as the Pasarells will tell you, this course was laid out by a higher authority.

This makes Royal Isabela akin to something you see on the coast of Scotland, naturally fitting the land. Signature holes? Take your pick; there are so many, but the 200-yard par-3 17th, that spans from a tee on the cliff over the deep blue surf and rocks, would probably suffice.

The greens complexes will catch you off guard as they follow the natural contours of the land, with natural false fronts and tricky reads. There are blind shots, plenty of native areas, and a double green for the 12th and 14th holes that overlook the ocean. And for good measure, the course can play to more than 7,600 yards to challenge the best players of the world.

Golfweek has Royal Isabela ranked as the 42nd best course in the Caribbean and Mexico. I haven't played all the courses ranked ahead of it, but I've played more than a dozen of them and can honestly say that few are as good as or better than Royal Isabela.

Brandon Tucker: Sandals Emerald Reef Golf Club, Great Exuma Island, Bahamas

I've spent more time cruising around the Caribbean than playing golf. But among the handful of high-profile resort courses I've played, I'm most impressed with the Sandals Emerald Reef Golf Club on Great Exuma Island. 

Compared to busier parts of the Bahamas and other islands in the Caribbean, Great Exuma is a secluded and quiet retreat with world class waters for scuba, snorkeling and boating. It's technically the Atlantic Ocean, not the Caribbean Sea, but the remarkable water clarity and color is as good as anywhere. 

I generally favor courses with more elevation change, and other Caribbean islands have more of that than the flat, sandy Bahamas, but the Greg Norman-designed Emerald Reef has plenty of great holes regardless. 

The front nine, while further inland, is still a great test. But it's the back nine that's the real treat: Six holes that tip-toe along clear, emerald waters, that steals the show. Waves crashing on rocks add to the nerves standing on the tee box. 

With a championship-caliber design, I'm surprised its not higher-ranked in some Caribbean golf course polls, but that's probably because a lot of raters haven't made it down since Sandals took the course over the property and put some real work into it, clearing out native areas and widening playing corridors, giving it a clean, open look.  

Sandals also built a traditional English pub onsite, where golf groups will surely spend most of their time.- and drinks are included at this all-inclusive resort, so bottoms up to one of the Caribbean's best golf experiences. 

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Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.