Imagine golfing in paradise on a variety of courses on different islands with your luxury hotel following you around. Rob Smith discovers that golf cruising offers exactly this…
Golf in the Caribbean
What could be better than visiting new and different courses playing the game you love in friendly company and the sun? P&O Cruises operate around the world, and last year I was lucky enough to fly out to Barbados to join their flagship, the huge and massively impressive Britannia.
I had assumed, naively, that it would be canteen catering and conveyor-belt service. I could not have been more wrong. The variety and quality of the restaurants and bars, and the entertainment and activities on offer, are massively impressive.
Old Quarry – Curaçao
Our first stop was Curaçao – part of the Dutch Antilles and home to Old Quarry on the Santa Barbara Plantation. Architect Pete Dye is famed for his distinct and stylish courses, and this scores very highly on both fronts. Opened in 2010, Old Quarry starts along the shore.
The course then heads round to a beautiful lagoon and marina which acts as a stunning backdrop throughout. Never before had I been watched by iguanas as I played, but these striking creatures have a significant presence here and really add to the tropical ambience.
Old Quarry is a serious test of golf, packed with strong holes, and a very special place to play.
Tierra del Sol – Aruba
Following a good night’s sleep, we awoke in Aruba where Tierra del Sol is an extremely enjoyable Trent Jones Junior design that is completely different to its neighbour. More forgiving off the tee, it runs over a gently undulating and quite vast sandscape.
There is both a desert- and links-style feel as the front nine runs to and from the lighthouse.
It is on the back nine, however, where the drama really unfolds. Fourteen is a fabulous par 5 running alongside beautiful marshland, and we were lucky enough to see one of the long-legged burrowing owls that live on the course.
The fifteenth is as perfect a par 3 as you will find; a mid-iron over water to the most wonderful and naturally-sited green.
And at the next, a 356-yard par 4, the strangest thing happened! Throughout the week I was playing with Dean Wingrove, the Head Pro’ at Wimbledon Park, and entertainer Jonny Wilkes, both perfect company. Here, perhaps for the first time in my 40-year golfing experience, my 3-ball all birdied the same hole!
Our final golfing port of call was the gorgeous island of St. Lucia where the course at St Lucia Golf Club is on rolling land through old rainforest and plantation. There are some excellent holes with the 8th being a picture-perfect par 3 over water.
The back nine is particularly strong and the eleventh is a wonderful long par 4 with an inviting drive from on high before a demanding approach to a narrow green with a large water hazard waiting on the left.
Doglegs abound, and the round finishes with the prettiest little par 3 over a pond that could sum up the whole trip; lovely, tropical, memorable.
There is no doubt that the Britannia is a first-class ship in every respect, and for any golfers interested in cruising – even more so if they have travelling companions who don’t play – this would be the perfect way to play some lovely and quite different courses all from the same wonderful hotel.