Which Caribbean destination is right for your golf vacation?

By Brandon Tucker, Jason DeeganDecember 20, 2012, 5:24 pm

So you've narrowed your winter golf trip down to somewhere in the Caribbean, but still not sure where? Here are six of the best options and their unique selling points: 

Luxurious new facilities and restored classics in Puerto Rico

Native legend Chi Chi Rodriguez has been out of the golf spotlight for awhile, but Puerto Rico has upped its golf and resort game in a big way recently. Those who want a luxurious resort splurge complete with championship caliber golf courses, many of which are either new or recently redone, will find its new breed is as good as anywhere.

On the island's northwest side is Royal Isabela, an ambitious, seaside development boasting luxury accommodations and golf course with dazzling views on several back nine holes hugging the cliffs. Closer to San Juan, Bahia Beach Golf Club debuted in 2009 and mixes a closing oceanside stretch of holes to go along with a lavish St. Regis Resort.

On the other side of San Juan, Chi-Chi's home club, Dorado Golf & Beach Resort, recently renovated the famed Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed East Course. This large resort and golf development dating back to the days of the Rockafellers is also set to open a six-star Ritz-Carlton Reserve Resort along with a renovated West Course in 2013.

Couple these new developments with elder statesmen like like Rio Mar's Ocean and River courses, 36 holes at Trump International Golf Club and hilly, jungly El Conquistador Golf Club, help round out a golf scene that makes for one of the Caribbean's most versatile.

View Puerto Rico tee times and travel information

Rich, historic golf in Bermuda

Though technically not in 'Caribbean' proper, Bermuda is a convenient, four seasons getaway for east coasters and Europeans alike. About 500 miles off the coast of North Carolina, it has an illustrious golf history dating back to the 1920s. Back then, steam ship companies looked for ways to lure tourists to this tropical oasis when New Yorkers were bundled up. It's emergence as a golf hotbed coincided with the golden era of golf course architecture. The most prestigious course is Mid Ocean Club, an innovative design by C.B. MacDonald and a regular in Top 100 rankings to this day.

Thanks to a uniquely shaped string of rocky islands that yields few flat spots, most holes throughout Bermuda aren't easy. Golfers can take on hilly and scenic Rosewood Tucker's Point. Or play the island's supreme challenge: PGA Grand Slam of Golf host Port Royal Golf Club, home to the country's most photogenic hole, the cliffside 16th.

For something more beginner-friendly, the Fairmont Turtle Hill Golf Club is home to one of resort golf's better executive courses - and it's even lighted on certain evenings.

View Bermuda tee times and travel information 

Resort golf buffet in Mexico's Riviera Maya

Playa Paraiso at IBEROSTAR

Resort golf courses stack up along the Riviera Maya, a vacation destination better known for its Mayan ruins and wild party scenes in Cancun and Playa Del Carmen before golf. These courses are set on mostly flat, sandy soil, a stark contrast to the most mountainous, cliffside designs on Mexico's west coast. That said, many are well-run, high-end facilities with courses designed by top names in the game.

Greg Norman designed the most high-profile of the bunch: PGA Tour host El Camaleon at Mayakoba Golf Club, as well as Playa Mujeres Golf Club. His old foe Nick Price contributed the Grand Coral Riviera Maya and the TPC Cancun, the first TPC facility outside the U.S. Nicklaus boasts his own foursome of designs: Moon Palace Spa & Golf ClubRiviera Cancun Golf Club, Cozumel Country Club and a well-regarded par-54 executive course called El Manglar Golf Course Riviera Maya. 

The Iberostar Playa Paraiso Golf Club by P.B. Dye remains the best of the two IBEROSTAR resort courses. Or, if you're feeling nostalgic, don’t overlook Robert von Hagge’s PlayaCar Golf Club.

View more tee times and travel information in Riviera Maya

A wealth of seaside splendor in Dominican Republic

No destination in the Caribbean does soul-stirring ocean golf better than the Dominican Republic. At Jack Nicklaus-designed Punta Espada Golf Club at Cap Cana, eight holes were routed so close to the shore, golfers can get wet if big waves crash in at the wrong time.

Of the 45 holes at the PUNTACANA Resort & Club, 10 of them straddle the Caribbean Sea, six at the luxurious Corales by Tom Fazio and four on the less exclusive La Cana Golf Course.

Near La Romana, Pete Dye's Teeth of the Dog at Casa de Campo, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2011, showcases the shoreline seven times, including three spectacular par-3s.

The Playa Grande Club & Reserve, a Robert Trent Jones Sr. creation that sits isolated along the northern coast, rides 60-foot cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Should the shuttered-yet-spectacular Roco Ki Golf Club ever reopen near Punta Cana, the course will add even more seaside marvels to D.R.'s resume. There are nearly 30 golf courses in total in D.R., more than any other Caribbean island.

Video: Golfing World showcases Dye' famous Teeth of Dog

Jammin' golf in Jamaica 

Sugar plantations, secluded beaches, great coffee and reggae music make for Jamaica's allure, but the island's golf scene has become pretty extensive, now with a dozen courses. In particular, Jamaica excels in all-inclusive resorts, where golfers can not only enjoy courses by the top designers, but bevy of other activities, too.

The hub of golf resort activity is in Montego Bay, where you'll find Half Moon Resort, home to the Red Stripe Pro Am and a David Leadbetter Golf Academy. 

Not far away is the mysterious (and many say, haunted) Rose Hall. Located next door is the Ritz-Carlton Golf and Spa Resort and the country's best-known course, White Witch. The Robert von Hagge & Rick Baril design is notoriously challenging, though views of the Caribbean from nearly every hole more than make up for it.

Monkey business in Barbados

The small, West Indies nation of Barbados boasts eight courses, including one of the most stunning newer designs in the Caribbean: Apes Hill Golf Club, built 1,000 feet above the coast overlooking both the Caribbean and Atlantic, while monkeys often serve as your group's gallery.

This new course is on top of the already terrific, Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed resort course at Royal Westmoreland. Nearby, Sandy Lane features three courses, including the famed Green Monkey Course and Tom Fazio-designed Country Club course. Golfers will also enjoy the course that put Barbados golf on the map, Barbados Golf Club, in the southern parish of Christ Church. Renovated in 2000, this Ron Kirby design has hosted a European Senior Tour event as well as the Barbados Open on several occasions.

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Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

It was too much “socializing.”

“I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

“Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

His plan for doing that?

“Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

So much for easing into the new year.

So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.

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McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”