Mention The Caribbean and the usual clichés spring to mind: powder soft sands, friendly locals and lashings of rum cocktails. It goes without saying that the white sand beaches are Bounty bar perfect but arguably the region’s biggest draw is its genteel golf courses: Pringle wearers have come to rate the Caribbean’s beautifully manicured courses as among the best places to play a round anywhere on the planet. Here’s the low-down on 10 great greens
CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa (Anguilla)
Designed by Australia’s Greg Norman, this $50 million 18-hole, 7,063 yard course - the first on the island - has been hailed as the Caribbean equivalent of Pebble Beach thanks to its gorgeous ocean views and water features on no fewer than 13 holes. The vibe is laid back - advanced booking isn’t required - and for those who like to stay where they play, the prestigious neighbouring resort with its five restaurants and first rate spa, should fulfill every desire imaginable. And then some.
(Green fee $225 guests, $250 non guests; www.cuisinaartresort.com; www.ivisitanguilla.com)
Cedar Valley Golf Club (Antigua)
Opened in 1977, Cedar Valley maybe Antigua’s only 18 hole championship golf course but it can claim to be one of the prettiest in the Caribbean. Little wonder then, that the 6,157 yard Cedar Valley has clocked up more magazine covers than a supermodel... But while Cedar Valley’s beauty - mature tropical trees flank the fairways - has always dazzled, it’s not the club’s only draw. Situated a stone’s throw from Antigua’s key hotels, Cedar Valley is also easily accessible from the cruise ship port and the capital: St. John’s.
(Green fee $49; www.cedarvalleygolf.ag;www.antigua-barbuda.org)
Tierra del Sol (Aruba)
The oldest of Aruba’s several internationally-acclaimed courses, this Robert Trent Jones Junior designed course is conveniently located only 5-10 minutes from all major resorts. It’s enviable locale isn’t all that Tierra del Sol has going for it: surrounded by panoramic ocean views, spectacular cactus studded desert scenery and the island’s indigenous flora - such as the swaying divi divi tree - the par 71, 6,811 yard course is a visual feast. Furthermore every hole has at least four sets of tees and approach angles to provide a wide variety of challenges for all skill levels.
(Green fee from $129; www.tierradelsol.com;www.aruba.com)
Blue Shark Golf Course (The Bahamas)
A mere 10 minute drive from Nassau International Airport, this par 72 golf course was redesigned by Greg Norman back in 2008. Happily the Aussie ace has preserved the natural topography, native vegetation, ocean views and local history in a celebration of the culture of the country. Case in point? Blue Shark is centred around a British colonial house while the links are surrounded by scattered Bahamian broadleaf coppice handwoods. The course offers a cornucopia of challenges for more experienced golfers: the ‘Shark’s Teeth’ (holes 10, 11 & 12) would test Tiger et al owing to their strategically placed bunkers and treacherous terrains.
(Green fee varies; www.blueshark.com; www.gngcd.com; www.bahamas.com)
The Green Monkey at Sandy Lane (Barbados)
The creation of Tom Fazio - famed for designing world class courses from his Florida home since the 70s - the par 72, 7,343-yard Green Monkey is world renowned. And rightly so: carved from an old limestone quarry, the exposed rock faces form dramatic contrasts to the lush, rolling greens of the fairways and offer tremendous elevation change. All 18 holes elate but the 16th hole, with its bunker featuring a grass island carved in the shape of a Bajan green monkey, ranks as the most photographed. One caveat: golfers need to be staying at Sandy Lane to play here and the cost can be as breathtaking as the views.
(Green fee $300; www.sandylane.com/barbados-golf.php; www.visitbarbados.org)
North Sound Golf Club (Grand Cayman)
Grand Cayman is often associated with offshore banking, stingrays and scuba diving but, back on dry land, the largest of the three Cayman islands is a great destination for golfers. Golf masters, Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman, have both used their talents to create excellent nine hole courses (Britannia and Blue Tip respectively) but for a standard round of 18 holes, seek out North Sound. The signature hole here is no 11 - a long par-3 playing into the wind, with the majestic North Sound serving as a backdrop that’s sure to make a suitably smug Facebook update.
(Green fee $80 afternoon, $130 morning, $175 weekends and public holidays; www.northsoundclub.com; www.caymanislands.co.uk)
The Grenadines Estate Golf Club (The Grenadines)
Formerly The Trump International, this Jim Fazio designed course is nothing if not dramatic: spanning some 60 acres, half of the course is set on sloping hills and half along the ocean’s edge. Its spectacular layout earned the club a ‘Best Golf Course’ rating by Robb Report. Regardless it’s the 13th hole that is arguably the jewel in The Grenadines Estate Golf Club’s crown: expect 360-degree views of both Mustique (to the north) and Mayreau (to the south).
(Green fee $200 +guests; $250 non guests; www.canouan.com/golf.asp; www.discoversvg.com)
White Witch (Jamaica)
Designed by American architects Robert von Hagge and Rick Baril and ranked by Conde Nast Traveler as the number one course in the Caribbean, the 6,758-yard, par 71 White Witch course is situated on a former sugar plantation. The course, now part of the Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort, is named after the plantation’s beautiful but wicked 19th century mistress, Annee Palmer, whose spirit is said to still haunt the estate...
Those that don’t scare easily can enjoy native stone laid walls shoring up greens and teas plus spectacular ocean views: all but two of White Witch’s fairways offer arresting vistas of the Caribbean sea.
(Green fee $99; www.whitewitchgolf.com/-home; www.visitjamaica.com)
Four Seasons Golf Course (Nevis)
Robert Trent Jones II’s championship golf course at Four Seasons Resort Nevis is not for novices. Duffers must rise to the occasion as they climb 450 feet above sea level to the signature hole (no 15) before creeping back down towards the finishing seaside hole (no 18). Over the mountain and through the rainforest, players will encounter any number of demanding tee shots and dramatically dipping fairways. But the beautiful scenery - think calming views of the Caribbean Sea and St Kitts, the ruins of an old sugar mill and ‘surprise’ appearances from green velvet monkeys - should help cure any spinning slices or bruised egos...
(Green fee from $150+ outside guest, $160+ Four Seasons guest; www.fourseasons.com/nevis; www.nevisisland.com
Provo Golf Club (Turks and Caicos)
The only 18 hole course on the exclusive Turks and Caicos Islands, Provo Golf Club was recently voted the top activity (behind the beach) in Providenciales by US News Travel. Provo Golf Club certainly looks the part: pink flamingos can be spotted near the greens while more than 1,000 palm trees and indigenious plants adorn the fairways. Further thoughtful touches include tee markers made from Turks and Caicos conch shells. Tee-off times are available from sunrise (7am) until sunset.
(Green fee $185; www.provogolfclub.com; www.turksandcaicostourism.com)
When to go
If you’re of the belief that there is no bad time to play a round in the Caribbean, think again. June to November is the ‘official’ hurricane season and while full blown storms are rare, the weather tends to be wet - and hot (29°C). November, early December and May are all ideal times to take to the greens - temperatures are balmy not blistering and costs are significantly less. High season begins in mid December and ends in April. The weather is lovely during this period, but prices are at a premium and golfers will need to be prepared to battle for a tee time - especially over Christmas, New Year and Easter.
UK citizens don’t need visas for visits of less than 90 days but some countries may require you to complete a tourist card on arrival or show an onward air ticket.
At the time of writing, no vaccinations were necessary for the Caribbean. However it’s a good idea to check with your GP or a travel vaccination clinic, at least eight weeks before travelling.
Average fight time
You can reach most Caribbean destinations non stop from London in under 10 hours (as a guide, it’s eight hours to Barbados and nine hours to the Bahamas). The exception is Anguilla which involves a 10-12 hour flight (including a stopover in Antigua) and the Cayman Islands (12 hours including a brief stop over in Nassau or Miami).
Local buses and mini-vans are safe, cheap and frequent although they are not always convenient: it can take forever to get from A-B, because the driver keeps stopping to pick up friends and relatives. Taxis are plentiful but hard on the pocket. Renting a car remains the best way to get around thanks to the independence it affords: car hire allows visitors to tee off at a time of their choosing. To rent a car, you need to be over 21 and show a valid driver’s licence.