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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Minjee Lee birdies 18 to win on her birthday

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:59 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Minjee Lee birdied the 18th hole Sunday for a one-stroke victory over In-Kyung Kim at the LPGA Volvik Championship.

Lee, who turned 22 on Sunday, three-putted for a bogey on No. 17, dropping into a tie with Kim, who finished her round around the same time. So Lee needed a birdie to win on 18, a reachable par 5. Her second shot landed a few feet to the right of the green, and she calmly chipped to about 3 feet

She made the putt to finish at 4-under 68 and 16 under for the tournament. It was the Australian standout's fourth career victory and first since 2016.

Kim (67) shot a 32 on the back nine and birdied No. 18, but it wasn't enough to force a playoff at Travis Pointe Country Club.

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Spieth: Improvement is 'right around the corner'

By Al TaysMay 27, 2018, 10:50 pm

Not that Dallas native Jordan Spieth didn't enjoy the two-week home game that is the AT&T Byron Nelson and the Fort Worth Invitational - he certainly did. But he's eager to get out of town, too.

"It was a great showing these last couple weeks by the fans," Spieth said after closing with a 2-under 68, a 5-under total and a T-32 finish. "Obviously extremely appreciative here in DFW. Wish I could do more. These couple weeks can be a bit taxing, and it's awesome to kind of have that support to carry you through.

"So, you know, I had a great time these couple weeks on and off the golf course as I always do, but I'm also really excited to kind of get out of town and kind of be able to just go back to the room and have nothing to do at night except for get ready to play the next day."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth will have that experience this coming week in Dublin, Ohio, site of the Memorial. He's hopeful of improving on his T-21, T-32 finishes the past two weeks, and he thinks the main thing holding him back - his putting - is ready for a turnaround.

"I think good things are about to come," he said. "I feel a good run coming for the second half of the season. Today was - each day I've felt better and better with the wedges and the putter and the short game; today was no different. My only bogey being just kind of trying to do too much on a par-5; 3-wood into the hazard.

"So, you know, I'm getting into where I'm not making bogeys, and then soon - the not making bogeys is great, and soon I'll get back to the five, six birdies around and shoot some low rounds.

"So I know it's right around the corner."

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Broadhurst fires 63 to easily win Senior PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:45 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Paul Broadhurst shot an 8-under 63 on Sunday to win the Senior PGA Championship by four strokes and match the best 72-hole score in tournament history.

The 52-year-old Englishman finished at 19-under 265 at Harbor Shores for his second senior major victory. The 63 was the best fourth-round score by a winner. Rocco Mediate also shot 19 under at Harbor Shores in 2016.

Also the 2016 British Senior Open winner, Broadhurst led the field with 26 birdies and passed third-round Tim Petrovic and Mark McCarron with a 4-under 31 on the back nine.

Petrovic was second after a 69. McCarron had a 70 to tie for third at 14 under with Jerry Kelly (65).

Broadhurst earned a career-high $585,000 for his fourth PGA Tour Champions victory. He won six times on the European Tour and has three European Senior Tour victories.

BYU men's golf team BYU

Sunday rule proves no advantage for BYU at NCAAs

By Ryan LavnerMay 27, 2018, 10:06 pm

STILLWATER, Okla. – For all the kvetching about the advantage BYU would gain by not playing on Sunday with the other teams at the NCAA Championship, one small thing was conveniently forgotten.

What happens if the Cougars were actually disadvantaged?

That’s what appears to have happened here at Karsten Creek.

Because the Mormon-run school prohibits athletics on Sunday, the NCAA accommodated BYU using its “Sunday Play” rule for the first time in the match-play era. (It was the team’s first NCAA berth since 2006.) That meant that BYU played its practice round last Wednesday, before the start of the final match of the NCAA Women’s Championship. The next day, the Cougars played their Sunday round – the third round of stroke-play qualifying – a half hour after the other 29 teams completed their practice round.

Some coaches grumbled about the issue of competitive fairness: What if BYU played in calm conditions for its third round on Thursday, while everybody else competed in rain and 30-mph winds come Sunday?

BYU coach Bruce Brockbank has been on the NCAA competition committee for the past four years, but even he was curious about how it would all play out.

For the practice round, the NCAA informed the Cougars that they needed to be off the course by 1:30 p.m. local time, a little more than a half hour before the start of the women’s final between Arizona and Alabama. All six players got a look at the course in 5 hours and 30 minutes – or an hour and 15 minutes less than the official Thursday practice round – and needed to run between shots on the 17th and 18th holes to finish on time.

Brockbank tried to prepare his players for what they would face Thursday. It’s a different experience without a playing marker – not seeing another shot affected by the wind, not watching another ball break on the greens, not falling into a rhythm with pace – but perhaps no amount of simulated rounds would have helped.

Playing as singles, with only a rules official and a walking scorer by its side, BYU began its NCAA Championship at 4 p.m. local time Thursday. The Cougars got in only a few holes before the horn sounded to suspend play. It turned out to be a two-hour weather delay, and players slapped it around a sloppy, soggy course until dark, with their last single on the 11th hole.

They returned the next morning, at 6:55, and wrapped up their round in an hour and a half before turning around for another 18.

Their final tally? They shot 24-over 312 – easily the worst third-round score of any team.

“We obviously didn’t handle it very well,” Brockbank said, “but it definitely wasn’t an advantage.”

BYU rebounded the next two rounds, with scores of 298-286, putting the team squarely inside the top-15 cut line.

“And six or seven hours,” he said, “we were right there with the best teams in the country.”

But then the third-round scores got posted, and it was clear that they had no chance of advancing past the 54-hole cut.

“It was pretty frustrating to watch our guys,” he said. “We just didn’t handle it very well.”

The same was true for the team’s best player, senior Patrick Fishburn. With just the first and second round counting, Fishburn (67-72) was in a tie for second, one shot off the individual lead, heading into Sunday. Then his third-round 78 from Thursday was posted, and he tumbled down the leaderboard, needing help just to advance to the final round of stroke-play qualifying.

“I’d rather have it this way,” Brockbank said. “If we had shot 5 under par and everyone else is over par, I don’t want to hear that wrath. The coaches wouldn’t put up with that. The fact that we’re not a factor, it’ll go away. But if the day did go well, it would have been a different story.”

Still, it was a strange dynamic Sunday, as a team competing in the NCAA Championship never even made it to the course – Brockbank preferred that the guys stay away from Karsten Creek, if only for appearances.

They went to a local church for three hours, then ate lunch and retired to the team hotel, where they watched TV and studied and played chess. Fishburn has another round to play Monday, but he didn’t even hit balls.

“I don’t think he’s even concerned about that – it’s just a nice, quiet Sabbath day,” Brockbank said. “But as a coach, it’s definitely a little odd.”