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There are
three things you need to know about golf in Jamaica.
Firstly, you
must have a caddie with you for every round. It’s the policy of most, if not
all, golf courses in Jamaica.
Secondly,
you may find that caddie giving you swing advice whether you think you need it
or not. In most cases they can help those willing to listen.
And finally,
when the putting line is given to you on the green, no matter what your
eyesight tells you, you are best to believe the caddie. They are usually right
on.
While most
people who travel to Jamaica do so for the beaches and resorts, some of the
best golf courses you can find anywhere are clustered along the northern side
of the island, from the Montego Bay area to Ocho Rios.
My son Carey
and I have undertaken a golf discovery tour each fall for the past several
years.
With
non-stop flights starting early from Winnipeg to Montego Bay, an excellent
opportunity was presented to us to fly further afield than the U.S. based golf
trails we have followed in the past.
In Jamaica,
most of the golf resorts are tied into major resort properties. While open to
the public, guests who stay at the properties have preferred access and lower
priced or complimentary tee times.
The
following are the top five courses we recommend for golf enthusiasts
considering Jamaica, along with reviews of the resorts to which they are
attached.
White
Witch Golf Course
 
Reputed to
have killed at least three of her husbands, Annie Palmer, who owned the Rose
Hall plantation in the 19th century, became known as the white witch
for her evil deeds. She was also supposed to have cast an evil spell on her
slaves of the day.
The spell
may have continued into present times as golfers can often be heard cursing the
steep changes in elevation, frequent side hill lies and a mountainous terrain
that can shake the confidence of the most skilled golfers.
Forward tee
markers make it playable for the high handicapper, but it does require a good
deal more accuracy than would be required in courses here.
Nevertheless,
this is a must play course. Spectacular views of the golf course and
surroundings make it a pleasure to navigate, and views of the Caribbean Sea
from all but two holes create photo opportunities at every turn.
The
Resort
: The White Witch
course is attached to The Ritz-Carlton Golf and Spa Resort, Rose Hall Jamaica.
Find the
brand on any property in North America, South America, the Caribbean, or around
the world and you will be living in a lifestyle that shouts out service and
comfort.
Upon
checking in, we found we had somehow lost or misplaced one of our bags. On
their own the staff traced back our taxi driver, phoned the resort we had come
from earlier, and informed us that the driver was going back to have it picked
up immediately.
In most
places the Ritz-Carleton is known as a business hotel. As a result guests in
Jamaica can choose whether or not they wish the all-inclusive option. The
property is situated close to the airport and only a few minutes from the
Montego Bay Convention Centre.
Sandals
Golf and Country Club
 
When I first
played this Ocho Rios course many years ago, it was known as the Upton Golf
Club. After many additions and improvements it is now one of the most popular
tracks in the country.
Gently
rolling hills and occasional views of the ocean make it a pleasure to play on.
The fairways are reasonable wide, and the treed areas dividing holes are
cleared, leaving a decent ‘out’ shot for the wayward drive.
Views of the
Mountains behind the course offer a beauty of their own.
The first
day we were to golf this course we were deluged with a monsoon style rainfall
so heavy that the golf cart could scarcely make it back to the clubhouse.
Upon
returning the next day we were astonished to see how the course had been
completely drained of water and, other than in a few low lying spots, the golf
course was dry and completely playable.
The
Resort:
Sandals is
the original all inclusive resort, created by home grown entrepreneur, Butch
Stewart. From his first property near the Montego Bay airport he would build a
resort empire that stretched throughout the Caribbean.
Sandals
properties are all for couples only. Its sister resort brand, Beaches, was
added more recently to accommodate the ever expanding family travel market.
The four poster
beds at the Sandals where we stayed are a pleasure to sleep on. I had excellent
sleeps every night. But I had not slept with my son in the same bed since he
was five years old, and expressed that I was not about to start now.
 I don’t think Carey slept quite as soundly on
the small cot they provided.
Golf is
complimentary for guests at the Sandals and Beaches properties in Ocho Rios,
but there is an extra charge for both the caddie and cart. While walking is
permitted, unless you are in very good condition, traversing the course in the
hot humid temperatures of Jamaica can be a chore.
Half Moon
golf Club
 
While Half
Moon may be the flattest of all the courses we played, its degree of difficulty
is enhanced by greens that seem unreadable, plus a Robert Trent Jones design
that throws different angles at the player with each turn.
Like the
Sandals course, the treed areas are well kept and cut to create friendly
escapes for hook or slice.
At 7119
yards from the championship tees the course plays longer than its length would
indicate.
The
Resort: Half Moon Rose Hill
 
 
This is the
prime place to stay. With a guest list that includes the present queen and
future monarch, frequent visitor Paul Simon, Virgin Airlines founder Richard
Branson, and three Canadian Prime Ministers including our current one, it
clearly comes highly recommended.
It is also
the resort where the final episodes of the reality show America’s Top Model was
taped.
“We have the
reputation and expectation that every single staff member at every level is
committed to enhancing the guest experience,” Diandra Shand, Half Moon’s
Communications Manager underlined.
During our
stay we can attest to the fact that those were not empty words.
It is the
only resort in the Caribbean with its own dolphin pool. Other than almost
losing my swim suit as the dolphins pushed me through the water, it was a
highlight of the trip.
Half Moon’s children’s
play area is substantive, and is widely known to have one of the finest spas on
the island.
Accommodations
range from single rooms to one bedroom suites all the way to the six bedroom
villas where the stars and royalty often chose to stay.
Its dining
facilities are without parallel, and its sugar Mill Restaurant on the golf
course itself should be experienced by every guest that visits the area.
We dined
there on our last night before returning home, and toasted our good fortune in
deciding to choose Jamaica this year.
Tryall
Golf Club
 
As you move
past the seaside holes of the first nine, one gets the feeling of having moved
to another golf course. Its back nine traverses though this massive property’s
more forested hillsides, changing the personality of the course completely.
With the sea
at your feet and a mountain at your back, Tryall is another example of golfing
in Jamaica where the beauty of the environment transcends the challenge of the
course. But like most in Jamaica, this course throws in plenty of obstacles to
demand that concentration and strategy are as important as ensuring consistent
swing patterns.
The winds of
the Caribbean Sea are a factor on every hole on the front nine, while water,
sand traps, and hillsides keep your attention on the back.
The
Resort
The
Tryall Club
Doting the
hillsides overlooking the golf course and the ocean on 890 Hectares of land,
are over 80 villas for guest rentals.
Each villa,
from one to 8 bedrooms, comes with a chef and maid. Most villas come with their
own swimming pool, and the larger 6 bedroom units we viewed had appropriately
large swimming pools as well.
In June of
2010 Tryall was granted Green Globe Certification for its environmental
initiatives and sustainable practices.
Cinnamon
Hill Golf Club
 
Managed by
Robert Ames, brother of successful PGA Tour championship winner, Canadian
Stephen Ames, Cinnamon Hill is the only recommended course not attached to a
major resort.
The most
recent top rated reviews on trip advisor read “Very
nice course! 3 holes along the Caribbean, Johnny Cash’s estate, Elizabeth
Barrett Browning’s grave, and the James Bond waterfall. Beautiful views all
over!”
These comments encapsulate the Cinnamon
Hill experience. And while golf was our primary mission on this journey, there was
an infectious enthusiasm in the Jamaican people who we came in contact with.
They seem to have personalities that embrace
visitors and make you want to take heed when they say “Come bock soon mon”. And
we very well may.
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