Jamaica (my top spot)

This is without question my most overdue article, post, writing of all time. I usually go to Jamaica at least once a year, sometimes more. I can’t even guess how many times that I’ve actually been there. But I can guess that my lack of travel writing on Jamaica is because it feels so much like home for me.

Plantation Ruins in Jamaica by marktravel

Jamaica is relaxing. Everything moves slower there (except for Usain Bolt). If you are looking for anything quick, you’ve come to the wrong place. And that’s fine with me.

Golf in Jamaica

Jamaica is nicely warm (at least for a guy from Canada) and the temperature and breeze are constant. It’s almost always sunny. Clouds are actually a welcome sight because it is so warm and sunny. You could almost set your watch by their rainfall- most days at 3:30.

The South Shore of Jamaica by marktravel

Jamaica is incredible beaches, warm water and island scenery…

Appleton Sugar Cane in Jamaica by marktravel

Plantation Ruins in Jamaica by marktravel

Jamaica is also a proud people and culture. And great food (jerk chicken immediately comes to mind), good drink (Appleton and Red Stripe beer), and good times.

057

It’s a combination of all of the above and more. And a welcome trip at anytime (and my next visit to Jamaica is November 2014).

Jamaica at sunset by marktravel

Golf- Jammin’ in Jamaica

My Article – Reprinted from Golf Scene Magazine Summer 2011 Edition

When Canadians think of a beach vacation, the popular choices are Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Jamaica. All four destinations have golf, but only Jamaica combines a real laid back Caribbean holiday with some of the most spectacular golf courses you will find anywhere in the world.

Jamaica travel choices are plentiful. Air Canada has daily non-stop flights to Montego Bay from Toronto and seasonal non-stop services from other Canadian gateways. The list of Jamaican resorts could fill this entire article but a few of the better choices are Half Moon Resort, Ritz Carlton Resort and the Rose Hall Hilton Resort. There are also seven Sandals Resorts with access to Sandals Golf Club but you’ll need to stay at either the Sandals Royal Plantation or Sandals Grande Riviera to be anywhere near the Sandals Golf Club.

Caddies are mandatory on all courses in Jamaica. If you’ve never played with a caddy a word to the wise – ask the distance to the hole (instead of them telling you which club to play) and follow their putting suggestions – they are always right!

I have had the good fortune to play five of the following top courses in Jamaica:

White Witch This is definitely the most challenging course in Jamaica. Tom Fazio designed this course, which is 6,859 yards. The course was carved out of Rose Hall Plantation and features Caribbean Sea views on 16 of the 18 holes – some of the most spectacular golf course views in the world. Stay and play packages are available if you stay at the Ritz Carlton Resort.

Cinnamon Hill The course, which was designed by Robert vonHagge and is 6,637 yards, features several holes along the ocean coastline, and one can spot plantation relics and great views. It is also located in Rose Hall close to White Witch. The Rose Hall Hilton Resort is right beside the course, and offers golf packages.

Half Moon This course 7,119 yard course is classic Trent Jones, and is situated directly across the street from the Half Moon Resort. Half Moon makes a great vacation.

Tryall This classic old Jamaica course is about 30 minutes west of Montego Bay. Ralph Plummer designed, this course which is 6,772 yards, lush and well groomed but very much a “country club”. Be on your best behaviour – members rule.

Sandals Golf Club Formerly the Upton GC, Sandals purchased the club in 6,502 yards, 1992. Golf Digest four star rating for courses to play while on vacation. A nice course consisting of 6,502 yards and located in Ocho Rios … Green fees are included with your stay at Sandals Resort.

With its unique and laid back culture, great scenery, tropical climate, and world-class golf, Jamaica really has it all if you are a golf enthusiast or want to hit a ball alongside the ocean and just enjoy the views!

Great “Holiday Golf” Value

Golfers are a serious people. If you belong to a club, you are a serious golfer by definition. You have a large investment in both time and money. If you play in tournaments, you and/or your team might get competitive. Maybe too competitive.

But something happens when you go on holiday. You begin to relax and you want to relax. The “holiday” mode prevails. Who needs a tee time? Just show up at the course and hope you can get out. Everything is relaxed. Your ball lands under a tree? Get out the “foot wedge”- kick the ball out from under the tree. And so it goes.

On a recent trip to Jamaica, I was in “holiday” mode. Sandals Grande Riviera in Ocho Rios was my perfect fix. I had been travelling so much, I only knew where my room was- I couldn’t even tell you the room number. Beside the nice tropical resort with all its amenities, Sandals Golf & Country Club is a quick 15 minutes away.

Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune to play the top courses in Jamaica- White Witch, Half Moon, Cinnamon Hill, Tryall, etc. While Sandals Golf is not the best (the aforementioned are better), it’s still very good. It’s the former Upton Country Club and at 6,404 yards (slope 128/125), it’s a nice blend of old and new. It has an elegant feel and charm like an old plantation. With its location up in the hills, it also offers some great views. Fairways and greens have recently been rebuilt with Tifdwarf Bermuda grass. Carts and brand new Taylormade rentals are perfect. A nice but not too challenging round of vacation golf.

The best news- no green fees when you stay Sandals in Jamaica (you do pay for the other services- carts, rentals, caddies, etc.. If you walk and bring your own clubs, you only pay $17 plus tip for a caddy).  And if you listen to your caddy- distances and putting- you’ll get even more value for your golf dollar.

Dscn3147