A Caribbean cruise is a wonderful opportunity to visit exotic islands, meet new people and learn about other cultures. For avid golfers, those 12-hour shore leaves are made even better when you know you can bring your clubs along and play some of the most beautiful courses in the world.
Following (in no particular order) are the best five islands for golf in the Caribbean:
Montego Bay in Jamaica offers a trio of options that will rival any island stop in the Caribbean. The Tryall Club is located just outside town and for many years hosted the Johnnie Walker World Championship. The course dates back to the late 50’s and isn’t long by modern standards but more than makes up for it with narrow holes routed through the hills above the sea and dramatic elevation changes.
On the other side of town, the White Witch and Cinnamon Hill owe their existence to the former owner of Rose Hall plantation, a witch named Annie Palmer, who apparently murdered three husbands and a number of slaves before being killed herself. Locals swear that Annie’s ghost still haunts Rose Hall. The two golf courses are built into the hills around the plantation and offer breathtaking views of the water and exciting holes that cascade downhill through the trees right to the water’s edge.
The Dominican Republic has established itself as a premier golf destination thanks to architects such as Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus, whose designs regularly top the lists of Best Caribbean courses. Casa de Campo resort features three Dye creations but Teeth of the Dog is world renowned and almost always listed as the #1 Course in the region. The stunning seaside layout, where the wind howls and the water is often in play, should be added to every avid golfer’s Bucket List. Punta Espada at Cap Cana is never far behind in the rankings. The Nicklaus design hugs the cliffs above the sea with occasional plunges to the beach below. Two more solid DR options are Punta Cana (Tom Fazio) and Playa Grande, one of Robert Trent Jones last designs.
In the northern part of the Caribbean, two islands weigh in with a variety of courses. First up is Puerto Rico with over 20 golf courses. A handful rank up there with the best in the region including TPC Dorado Beach, which has hosted two World Cups; and Coco Beach, which boasts a pair of fine layouts. The Championship course at Coco Beach annually hosts the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open while the International delights all levels of golfer with its scenic and challenging mountain layout. On the north-east corner of the island, not far from San Juan, is El Conquistador, an exciting Arthur Hills design built on the side of a mountain that offers stunning ocean views and breathtaking elevation changes. Puerto Rico’s busiest sports resort, Palmas Athletic Club, features another pair of fine courses: the Flamboyan, a championship layout designed by Rees Jones that skirts a 20-acre fresh water lake; while the Palm is a Gary Player design that is shorter and less demanding than its sister course.
Farther to the north, the Bahamas beckon. While some of the best golf courses are private and would need some pretty special connections, two of the must see accessible courses include the Ocean Club at Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island and Royal Blue at Baha Mar Resort in Nassau. The Ocean Club is a gorgeous sea-side layout with some greens and tees right on the beach and inland holes built around wetlands and lagoons. Royal Blue is a brand new Jack Nicklaus Signature with two distinct nines. The front is a traditional ocean course built along the table lands adjacent to the water with lots of sandy areas, while the back features dramatic elevation changes with great views of the water and fairways and greens that are framed by incredible limestone walls.
In the Southern Caribbean, Barbados is the premier spot to drop anchor for many reasons, not the least of which are its excellent golf courses. While some are private or exclusive to resort guests, the right on-board connections can often get you a tee time. That includes Apes Hill, which was built on an old sugar plantation 1,000 feet above sea level and offers majestic views of both the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. The par 3’s at Apes Hill will rival any in the region too. At Sandy Lane Resort, the Green Monkey course (Tom Fazio) is built on the remains of an old limestone quarry and blends rocky outcroppings with broad sweeping fairways, long winding bunkers and subtly contoured greens.
Further up the west coast is Royal Westmorland, considered by most to be the best golf course on Barbados. There are enough bunkers here to make you think you’re still at the beach and the challenging greens can leave you flummoxed. Ultimately though, this gorgeous Robert Trent Jones Jr design is a challenging but fair test of golf and will definitely be a course you add to your list for a return visit.
That’s our five best islands for golf but the good news is there seems to be no end to more amazing, unique courses all over the Caribbean. You can experience terrific golf on St. Kitts and Nevis, Tobago, Curacao, Aruba, the British Virgin Islands and many more.
Unfortunately, the bad news is that unless you have your own cruise ship, you’ll need to schedule more than one cruise to see them all.