The Abaco Club in The Bahamas is a true paradise, Malcolm Campbell explains why...
The Abaco Club – Where You Won’t Want To Leave
In today’s lexicon of grossly abused words and crudely molested phrases, it seems that the noun ‘paradise’ has enjoyed a sudden surge from a disappointingly low rating to a point where it now finds itself in the higher echelons rubbing shoulders with the other victims of the current obsession with rampant hyperbole.
It is not quite yet at the top of the leaderboard, however, a position still held comfortably by ‘awesome’, now the standard description for just about everything under the sun from the arrival of the No 32 bus, if it turns up within 20 minutes of its scheduled time, to the golf commentator’s description of any metal wood shot that actually gets airborne and passes the ladies’ tee box.
Following a recent visit I find myself leaning towards the use of ‘paradise’ to describe a rather splendid outpost of barefoot golfing luxury in the Bahamas known to the wider world as The Abaco Club on Winding Bay.
Mindful of the fact that the Concise Oxford Dictionary would have us believe that ‘paradise’, in its most appropriate usage, suggests a state of supreme bliss, a garden of Eden, even a heaven, to actually lavish the word on a golf course development, however barefoot its luxuries may be, one has to be careful not to get too carried away.
Before running to final judgment on the ‘paradise’ issue there remains no argument at all, however, regarding the question of luxury.
And if one subscribes to the Frank Lloyd Wright philosophy of “give me the luxuries of life and I will gladly do without the necessities” the opportunity to forego the essentials in favour of the epicurean will not be more easily found than here at the northeastern end of the long string of islands that make up the archipelago state that is the Bahamas.
In the search for great golfing outposts with the power to rejuvenate and pamper the golfing soul, the Abaco Club on Winding Bay will find no embarrassment at all in staking a claim to be right up there with the best of them.
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A one-time Ritz Carlton development that has also had Peter de Savery’s name on the title deeds, The Abaco Club was recently acquired by David Southworth, that master of well judged acquisition, whose Southworth Development LLC is a leader in the international golf resort community with properties throughout the United States and notably the glorious Machrihanish Dunes on the Mull of Kintyre on Scotland’s west coast.
Given that the Abaco Club fits right into the Frank Lloyd philosophy, it was no surprise on my recent visit down there to find a rather decent bottle of claret in the company of former Open Champion and Ryder Cup Captain, Darren Clarke.
The game’s favourite bon vivant has owned a house at Abaco for more than a decade and spends a deal of time there, happily eschewing the necessities in favour of something rather more indulgent.
And why not? This tropical retreat lacks for nothing at all.
It boasts a very fine Donald Steel/Tom Mackenzie designed golf course, to which David Southworth’s people have recently given a bit of a makeover, with a practice ground that is nothing short of state of the art.
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“The range is one of the many great assets that the Abaco Club has to offer,” says Clark raising a depleting glass in its honour.
Very few take advantage of it more than the Irishman although he may soon have some competition from a couple of South Africans.
Thomas Aiken has recently become an owner and it will get even more crowded if Charl Schwartzel joins him as there is strong speculation that he soon will.
To even suggest that this island club is ‘exclusive’ is pitching the meaning of the word dangerously close the bottom of the superlative spectrum.
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And yet it remains accessible to the discerning golfing traveler ready to indulge the FLW philosophy.
Guests are made very welcome at the Club, where house rentals, and accommodation in cleverly designed and beautifully furnished cabanas, is readily available.
This is a true sporting club, offering a prize collection of activities.
Apart from the No 1 golf course in the Bahamas The Abaco Club offers a spa and fitness facility, water sports, tennis courts, gourmet dining and the club’s crown jewel, the spectacularly beautiful, two-mile long stretch of powder-soft beach.
In the surrounding waters, club members and guests have access to the area’s world-famous saltwater flats fishing, deep-sea fishing, and the serene boating and sailing waters of the Sea of Abaco.
In fact it’s the availability of salt flats fishing and the hunt for the famed and elusive permit fish that drew Daren Clarke to Abaco in the first place.
“I love to fish,” says the man from Portrush, raising that glass once more to reinforce the point. “And this is one of the best places for permit fishing anywhere. It’s sensational.”
So too is the golf. The Steel/Mackenzie layout has been described as a “tropical links”, which isn’t a bad designation, although allusions to “Scottish-style links” is pushing that particular fishing boat out a little too far.
However, the elements of maritime environment and wind are certainly common to both and the challenge is more than enough even for an Open Champion, as Clarke is swift to point out.
But if you are fortunate enough to make it there as a visitor, make the most of it. After three visits you need to join the Club or, like Darren, become a house owner.
And getting back to the original question; is it “Paradise”?
I don’t know, but if it isn’t you may just have to pass through The Abaco Club to get there.