Picture yourself teeing it up and gazing down a pristine emerald fairway with a backdrop of crashing waves and turquoise seas. Golfing in the islands of the Bahamas is an exhilarating experience, enhanced by the sights and sounds of tropical bird calls and ocean winds rustling through palm trees.

With a good choice of high quality courses already open to visitors and several more coming soon, the Bahamas is poised to become a world-class golf destination.

Big names – including Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman and Tom Fazio – have been busy planning and creating new courses throughout the islands in some of the most stunning locations imaginable. Fresh and often unpredictable sea breezes can create their own special challenges as you play with the sun on your back, from tees fringed with colourful bougainvillea, hibiscus and giant flame trees.

Upon arrival in the Bahamian capital of Nassau, head for the Tom Weiskopf course at the One&Only Ocean Club, which sits on a striking peninsula of Paradise Island, flanked by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Nassau Harbour on the other. Wide fairway landing areas and large greens ensure the course does not intimidate higher handicappers, while there are plenty of risk and reward opportunities for longer hitters.

Nassau’s newest course – due to open before the end of 2008 – is Blue Shark, freshly redesigned by Greg Norman and featuring three tough back-to-back holes aptly named the “Shark’s Teeth”. Well-placed bunkers, water hazards and natural wetlands challenge players on every hole as the course winds its way around the ruins of a former 400acre colonial plantation.

A short hop away on the island of Abaco is a delightful links course designed by Scottish architects Tom Mackenzie and Donald Steel. It is kept in superb condition by course superintendent Mark Aitken, who helped to sculpt the course from dense jungle undergrowth in 2003. Offering ocean views from almost every tee, the Abaco Club on Winding Bay is flanked by wide sandy beaches along the front nine and features dramatic rocky crags, crashing ocean and an intimidating quarry on the finishing holes. The brainchild of British entrepreneur Peter de Savary, this beautiful club is now managed and run by the Ritz-Carlton hotel group.

Just a few paces from the pro shop is a unique 19th watering hole. Busters Beach Bar overlooks the entire length of Winding Bay’s crescent-shaped, white sand beach and across the turquoise waters to the world’s third largest barrier reef. Not bad at all.

Visitors to the island of Abaco are also welcomed at Treasure Cay, a mature 1960s parkland layout by Dick Wilson, with vibrant bougainvillea surrounding the greens and dense rough lining several tight dog-leg fairways. Treasure Cay is such a well-kept secret that tee times are not required. Just turn up, pay and play!

Greg Norman’s first course design in these islands is at the Four Seasons Resort at Emerald Bay on the island of Great Exuma. The views here are spectacular as several holes play right along the oceanfront while others wind through seaside dunes.

On the island of Grand Bahama, golf has been established as a core activity for almost half a century. Wilson designed the Lucayan course in 1962 as a tight parkland layout, and as it has matured it has got even tighter. Dog-leg fairways, elevated putting surfaces, well-placed greenside bunkers and thick stands of tropical foliage challenge players on every hole. Bring plenty of balls to this course as the rough can be extremely penal.

Close by is the newer Our Lucaya Resort Reef Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Junior in 2000. The Reef is a more open and forgiving layout where the main hazards are sea winds and tricky carries across lakes and streams.

In the West End of Grand Bahama Island at Ginn Sur Mer, work is well underway on the construction of two new courses – the first designed by Arnold Palmer and the second to be a Jack Nicklaus Signature course. The Palmer track is expected to be ready for play by the end of 2009 according to course architect Wayne Smith, who is creating course elevations of up to 40ft on an island that sits just 8ft above sea level.

Away from the course, the islands of the Bahamas are a tropical playground offering everything from Las Vegas-style casinos to fine dining, barefoot beach bars, reggae music, limbo dancing and some of the world’s finest deep-sea fishing.

Abaco has great bonefishing and throughout the islands there are opportunities to go reef diving, snorkelling, sailing and kite surfing. There are several equestrian centres and visitors can rent bikes, scooters and cars from most resort hotels.

CONTACTS BOOK

WHERE TO PLAY

OCEAN CLUB GOLF COURSE

T: +1 242 363 2501

W: ww.oneandonlyoceanclub.com

STATS: 7,159 yards, par 72

BLUE SHARK GOLF CLUB

T: +1 242 363 4546

W: www.bluesharkgolf.com

STATS: 7,200 yards, par 72

THE ABACO CLUB

T: +1 242 367 0077

W: www.theabacoclub.com

STATS: 7,165 yards, par 72

TREASURE CAY GOLF COURSE

T: +1 800 327 1584

W: www.treasurecay.com

STATS: 6,985 yards, par 72

FOUR SEASONS RESORT, GREAT EXUMA AT EMERALD BAY

T: +1 242 336 6800

W: www.fourseasons.com

STATS: 7,001 yards, par 72

OUR LUCAYA RESORT REEF COURSE

W: www.ourlucaya.com

STATS: 6,920 yards, par 72

WHERE TO STAY

ONE AND ONLY OCEAN CLUB

T: +1 242 363 2501

W: www.oneandonlyoceanclub.com

THE WESTIN GRAND BAHAMA ISLAND OUR LUCAYA RESORT

T: +1 242 373 1333

W: www.ourlucaya.com

FOUR SEASONS RESORT, GREAT EXUMA AT EMERALD BAY

T: +1 242 336 6800

W: www.fourseasons.com