The Caribbean has never been known as a major golf destination. But in recent years several spectacular new courses have opened, some classic tracks have been refurbished and a number of exciting golf-oriented developments have broken ground. Suddenly, the islands are hot in the golf world. So hot, that in peak travel months tee times can be hard to come by and greens fees—well, if you have to ask how much . . .
To avoid the crowds and pay as much as 40 percent less for a round of golf, consider hitting Caribbean fairways in the off-season, generally from mid-April to late November. The air is just as balmy (temperatures range between 75°F and 85°F year-round), the trade winds just as steady and the fairways just as green—thanks, in part, to the increasing use of salt-resistant paspalum grass. Although the threat of hurricanes does grow as summer progresses (statistically, early to mid-September is riskiest for storms), the odds are the only tropical depression you’ll experience is the one you’ll feel when you miss that gimme two-footer for birdie.
1. Dominican Republic
Punta Espada Golf Course
Opened in November 2006, this is the first of three Jack Nicklaus–designed courses to be built at Cap Cana, a new billion-dollar resort community and mega-yacht marina on Hispaniola Island’s easternmost point, just south of Punta Cana. About half the holes hug the rocky, wave-sculpted coast; Number 13 is a stunning par-three that plays directly over the ocean. You can toast your shot-making ability at the club’s piano bar and cigar lounge. Play here soon: When the massive development is complete (some time in the near future), the “private club” signs will go up.
Greens fees: June 1–Oct. 31, $220; Nov. 1–May 31, $320. 800-785-2198; capcana.com
Temenos Golf Club
This tony island’s first golf course, designed by Greg Norman, just opened last November as part of a large St. Regis resort project. When completed in 2008, the complex will include a 120-room hotel, private residences and an expansive spa. The golf may be pricey, but it’s superb and scenic. The first tee-box looks out over the Caribbean to neighboring St. Martin—an easy 30-minute ferry ride away. The diabolical 10th hole demands great ball placement thanks to its sand and water hazards and 590-yard length.
Greens fees: Apr. 16–June 30, $300; July 1–Aug. 31, $250; Nov. 1–Apr. 15, $415. Closed Sept. 1–Oct. 31. 264-498-7000; temenosgolfclub.com
Half Moon Golf Course
On Jamaica’s north shore, just east of Montego Bay, this venerable course was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. in 1961 and has just undergone a $2 million renovation. New greenside bunkers and water hazards have raised the challenge quotient, while the repositioning of some fairways and tee-boxes has made the already pretty palm-tree-lined course—one of the best walking tracks in the Caribbean—even more scenic. In addition, the 19th Hole clubhouse bar has been relocated to afford views of the 9th and 18th greens, and the in-house David Leadbetter Golf Academy has a new teaching tee and short game practice area.
Greens fees: Apr. 16–Dec. 14, $130; Jan. 1–Apr. 15, $150. 876-953-2211; halfmoongolf.com
4. Puerto Rico
Coco Beach Golf & Country Club
A half-hour drive east of San Juan, this 36-hole course on the island’s north shore has four distinct nine-hole stretches, all designed by Tom Kite: the Lakes, which weaves its way around eight man-made lakes; the Ocean, bounded by the Atlantic and buffeted by breezes; the Palms, which meanders through groves of palm trees; and the recently completed Mountain, with elevated tee-boxes and views of the ocean and El Yunque rainforest. Also new this year: white silica sand bunkers, additional tee-boxes and GPS systems on all carts.
Greens fees: June 1–Dec. 15, $140; Dec. 16–May 31, $160. 787-657-2000; cocobeachgolf.com
5. St. Thomas
A recent million-dollar renovation expanded notoriously small greens, resculpted bunkers and improved fairway grass on this tight, hilly north shore 18-holer designed in 1980 by George and Tom Fazio—St. Thomas’s only course. Mahogany Run is popular with cruise passengers (ships dock in Charlotte Amalie, just 20 minutes away), who prize its Devil’s Triangle, a trio of high-drama cliffside holes where fluky winds play havoc with tee shots.
Greens fees: June 4–Dec. 16, $115-$135; Dec. 17–June 3, $150. 800-253-7103; mahoganyrungolf.com
IN THE WORKS
TURKS AND CAICOS A new 18-hole course is slated for North Caicos and several others will debut in the next few years, including a 36-hole track to be built on the undeveloped Northwest Point of Providenciales.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC There will be three new 18-hole championship courses at the massive Atlantica hotel and marina development in Luperon on the north coast, and a Nick Faldo–designed track at the Westin Roco Ki Beach & Golf Resort, northwest of Punta Cana.
ST. LUCIA Four new courses are under way, including a Greg Norman layout carved into the cliffs of the Praslin Bay peninsula on the undeveloped southeast coast.
NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.