The Caribbean has never been known as a major golf destination. But in recent years several spectacular new courses have opened, some classic tracks have been refurbished and a number of exciting golf-oriented developments have broken ground. Suddenly, the islands are hot in the golf world. So hot, that in peak travel months tee times can be hard to come by and greens fees—well, if you have to ask how much …
To avoid the crowds and pay as much as 40% less for a round of golf, consider hitting Caribbean fairways in the off-season, generally from mid-April to late November. The air is just as balmy (temperatures range between 75°F and 85°F year-round), the trade winds just as steady and the fairways just as green—thanks, in part, to the increasing use of salt-resistant paspalum grass. Although the threat of hurricanes does grow as summer progresses (statistically, early to mid-September is riskiest for storms), the odds are the only tropical depression you’ll experience is the one you’ll feel when you miss that gimme two-footer for birdie.
Punta Espada Golf Course
Opened in November 2006, this is the first of three Jack Nicklaus–designed courses to be built at Cap Cana, a billion-dollar resort community and mega-yacht marina on Hispaniola Island’s easternmost point, just south of Punta Cana. About half the holes hug the rocky, wave-sculpted coast; Number 13 is a stunning par 3 that plays directly over the ocean. You can toast your shot-making ability at the club’s piano bar and cigar lounge.
Temenos Golf Club
This tony island’s first golf course, designed by Greg Norman, opened as part of the large St. Regis resort project. Completed in 2008, the complex includes a 120-room hotel, private residences and an expansive spa. The golf may be pricey, but it’s superb and scenic. The first tee-box looks out over the Caribbean to neighboring St. Martin—an easy 30-minute ferry ride away. The diabolical 10th hole demands great ball placement thanks to its sand and water hazards and 590-yard length.
Half Moon Golf Course
On Jamaica’s north shore, just east of Montego Bay, this venerable course was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. in 1961 and recently underwent a $2 million renovation. Revamped greenside bunkers and water hazards have raised the challenge quotient, while the repositioning of some fairways and tee-boxes has made the already pretty palm-tree-lined course—one of the best walking tracks in the Caribbean—even more scenic. In addition, the 19th Hole clubhouse bar has been relocated to afford views of the 9th and 18th greens, and the in-house Golf Academy led by Spencer Edwards has a new teaching tee and short game practice area.
Coco Beach Golf & Country Club
A half-hour drive east of San Juan, this 36-hole course on the island’s north shore has 4 distinct 9-hole stretches, all designed by Tom Kite: the Lakes, which weaves its way around 8 man-made lakes; the Ocean, bounded by the Atlantic and buffeted by breezes; the Palms, which meanders through groves of palm trees; and the Mountain, with elevated tee-boxes and views of the ocean and El Yunque rainforest. More recent additions include white silica sand bunkers, additional tee-boxes and GPS systems on all carts.
A million-dollar renovation expanded notoriously small greens, resculpted bunkers and improved fairway grass on this tight, hilly north shore 18-holer designed in 1980 by George and Tom Fazio—St. Thomas’s only course. Mahogany Run is popular with cruise passengers (ships dock in Charlotte Amalie, just 20 minutes away), who prize its Devil’s Triangle, a trio of high-drama cliffside holes where fluky winds play havoc with tee shots.
NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.