St. Kitts/Nevis –When the national flower and tree are one and the same, carrying the name “Flamboyant,” you know it’s a fun and pretty exotic place. At the Royal St. Kitts Golf Club, Rikki Tikki Tavis dart among exotic tropical bushes while gentle trade winds fan the palms. Number 15 is one of the most photographed holes in the Caribbean where the blue sea kisses the dark volcanic sand with crashing white mist waves.
The island of St. Kitts is drivable in a day. Brimstone Hill Fortress is the place to explore its history. Kittitian Hill is a master plan community with a philosophy of sustainability for distinguishing residents and guests. Built into the rain forest on the highest allowable spot of the island, the panoramic view is nothing short of incredible. The Irie Fields Golf Course there has become a must play on the island. Christophe Harbour, the only private marina community with a beach club is developing a Tom Fazio course scheduled to open in 2017.
The downtown capitol, Basterre is abuzz with eager visitors. Board the ferry in this seaside village for a short, beautiful ride to Nevis. Spa and play golf at the Four Seasons Resort. The course rises and falls among the exotic foothills of Nevis Peak around a sugar mill column with many cart paths dipping into dark rain forests, then emerging onto elevated tee boxes beholding the Caribbean Sea. It takes your breath away. Green vervet monkeys provide comic relief as you ponder shot strategies.
For a perfect trip ending, the Shiggidy Shack on the beach of St. Kitts serves rock lobster with fire dancers, a masquerade parade and local band.
The Abacos – If Ryder Cup Captain Darren Clarke needs to make good on the fishing bet joked by Davis Love III, he has the perfect spot at The Abaco Club on Winding Bay in Marsh Harbour. The Abacos are part of the Outer Islands in the Bahamas, which means they are still pristine tropics with the finest ocean fishing. Visitors may register at this exclusive, private Abaco Club on Winding Bay and pick up their golf cart to commute between restaurants, rental homes, beach and spa. No tee times are required at the golf course that winds through the island bush of Abaco and out by the serene blue sea. The sun rises over the Cliff House, illuminating the turquoise hues of ocean along the two-mile creamy beach. Wade out with the green sea turtles to the little island, Sugar Cay for lounging or snorkeling on the reef.
Or go by a glass bottom kayak or stand up paddleboard. Sail on a Hobie Cat or glide silently on the electric powered Funcat with fingertip control. All water toys are inclusive. A few minutes away Little Harbour has dedicated slips for Abaco Club members’ boats. At Pete’s Pub and Gallery Charlie might take you fishing on his dingy to catch some conch. Or call his buddy Captain Mark at the Treasure Cay Beach, Marina and Golf Resort for a charter cruise. Stop by No Name Cay to feed the pigs or by Guana Cay to hand feed the manta rays as their velvet skin tickles your toes. You never know day to day what you’ll see in the sea, perhaps dolphins or whales or flying fish. Our biggest thrill with Captain Mark was deep sea trolling. Wahoo! -We caught two very impressive wahoo fish that the chef prepared for us. Treasure Cay suites are more affordable and the inland public course is a fun run but golf might be secondary in the Abacos where sugar white sand beaches make for romantic strolls. And like Darren Clarke says, “Fishing is more fun.”
Dominican Republic– In Punta Cana, the Tom Fazio designed Corales Golf Club manifests Caribbean golf with 6 of the holes on bluffs overlooking the Bay of Corales. The last three are aptly named the Devil’s Elbow. Punta Espada Golf Club is often the number one rated exotic course in the Caribbean and Mexico. This Jack Nicklaus Signature beauty lies where the Atlantic and Caribbean Sea embrace with beaches and rugged rock outcroppings. Eight holes are directly oceanside with glimmering sea views from 15 of the 18. On the other side of Punta Cana, the Iberostate Bavaro Golf & Club winds through the inland native jungle with lakes, streams, and extensive stonewalls and barriers. Flamingos welcome guests to the palatial all-inclusive IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Bavaro where accommodations, night shows and fine restaurants surpass all needs. Sail, windsurf, snorkel, lounge, or play games with other guests initiated by the energetic Star Friends.
At Casa de Campo Resort and Villas in La Romana, a personal golf cart is your magic carpet ride to explore over 7,000 acres in the kingdom of Campo. Alto de Chavon is an enchanting artists’ cove perched cliff side way above the Chavon River next to the Dye Fore Chavon nine. On the Dye Fore Lagos, devoid of housing, lakes are all intricately laced with rocks, variegated succulents and ferns. The Dye Fore Marina nine has views, naturally of the marina and The Links course is shorter on distance but long on personality. The best is the Teeth of the Dog. After being bitten and smitten by our round there, “The Mechanic” Jimenez was teeing it up and Yankees catcher Rick Cerone shared a drink at LaCana Bar & Lounge which features live music and Merengue. Playa Minitas’ has a creamy sand beach and a rock sea wall enclosure for all the aquatic activities from snorkeling to windsurfing and sailing. At the Equestrian Center you can play or watch traditional Polo on horseback or donkey back, like the donkey basketball games of yesteryear.
Los Cabos, the safest place in Mexico is exploding with 30 km of beachfront luxury from Cabo San Lucas to San Jose de Cabo. Open-air receptions are like paintings that come to life. Every room at the all-inclusive, adult only Marquis Hotel and Spa Resort has an ocean front balcony. Infinity edge pools overlook the deep blue Sea of Cortez. Great golf is minutes away in either direction. Two Nicklaus courses stand out among the many. The Troon managed One and Only Palmilla Golf Club with three nines – the Mountain, Ocean and Arroyos, is challenging and thrilling. The Ocean climax is where number 3’s green teases the beach with perhaps a yacht on the water and mansions perched above.
As the sun rises at Quivira, golfers warm up with burritos on the range, watching the Cabo armada of fishing boats speed out to sea. A long curvy mountain climb of 275 feet seems almost endless to the top of the granite cliffs and number 5 where the only visible point of the layout is a postage stamp green far below, jutting over the water. Quivira shares a private golden beach with two of the four all-inclusive Pueblo Bonito Pacifica hotels. Only members and guests of these hotels are permitted to play the exclusive Quivira.
For ultimate modern luxury, The Cape a Thompson Hotel is set in a surfer’s cove encircled by stone outcroppings with a sunrise/sunset view of the famous arch and lover’s beach. Sail or boat around the arch, snorkel, dive, fish and whale watch from November to April. Unique artisan gifts abound in several art and shopping districts. In San Jose del Cabo a 1730 Mission is the focal point of the plaza. In Cabo San Lucas, the Glass Blowing Factory is a show and market of Murano quality crafts and the Tequila Museum is a mega store and study of their iconic elixir. Cabo Travel is the best in Los Cabos for arranging high-end golf, corporate and special events, with access to all public courses and some private, even Chileno Bay which is coming soon.
Jamaica- At the IBEROSTAR Grand Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica, swim up bars and exquisite lounges welcome vacationers to the all-inclusive getaway. Golf in Jamaica eliminates any vegetation depravation. The jungle bursts with exotic foliage, flowers and birds framing ocean views on the White Witch Golf Course. At Cinnamon Hill Golf Club, the par 3 waterfalls were highlighted in the film, “Live and Let Die.” Ian Fleming, famous author of the James Bond series, lived and wrote in his Jamaican home and country music legend Johnny Cash spent more than 35 years on his estate tucked into the lush hillside. Moses, the caretaker for all of those years gave us a guided tour of the estate, singing along the way.
The Tryall Club was once a sugar cane plantation. Renovations have restored this seaside course to its original glory complete with a water wheel. This is where the Johnny Walker PGA tournament was held. Half Moon Bay has a full golf package to include the White Witch and Cinnamon Hill just minutes from one another. The best nineteenth hole is on either resort’s creamy sand beaches. At IBEROSTAR on the beach or poolside, Star friends entertain with activities, song and dance with all food and beverages covered. Blue Mountain coffee wakes you up, made with the purest water. Jamaican rum mixes with fresh coconut and juices. Drink in Jamaica where the people are friendly and happy to share their history and culture. It is a spicy island with home grown pimento, cinnamon and nutmeg flavoring fresh cuisine. The reggae of Bob Marley that united the island with one love resonates – yah mon! Once you go, you know you must return.
Puerto Rico is an island roughly the size of Connecticut with over 20 golf courses.
The Gran Melia is an elegant and exotic seaside resort in a natural reserve close to all activities and adjacent to the Trump International Golf Club, where the Puerto Rico Open was previously held. Comical Chi Chi Rodriquez was the ambassador for that event and for all of Puerto Rico. He asked us, “How do you keep a blonde in suspense?” And then he answered with, “I’ll tell you tomorrow.” Ba dump bump. Robert Trent Jones II is a friend of Chi Chi’s and designer of the course at Bahia Beach Resort and Golf Club where he joined us for a few holes sharing his philosophy and poetry. Rio Mar has challenging, yet fair designs with iguanas throughout. El Conquistador is perched overlooking the Arthur Hills designed roller coaster course with 200 feet elevation changes. It follows the contour of the jungle forest with sporadic views of the sea and Palomino Island.
The brilliant Belt of Orion illuminates the Puerto Rican night sky while Bio Bay delivers water luminescence in Laguna Grande. A nighttime kayak journey under the mangroves is a real life Disney thrill as millions of microorganisms flash florescent through the water.
Perhaps the best of the island is Royal Isabela, a golfer’s paradise set on the cliffs by Stanley and Charles Pasarrel of tennis fame in collaboration with David W. Pfaff. Mother Nature is also listed under “designed by” on the scorecard, and rightly so as panoramic views 300 feet above the roaring waves and native landscaping deliver golf with unbridled fury. This is a private tropical Scottish link treasure with membership by invitation only, but luxury ocean view casitas are available for guests to stay, play and enjoy this extraordinary retreat. No passports required, Puerto Rico has the only rain forest in the U.S., great golf and ocean activities.
The Azores is a group of Portuguese islands in the middle of the Atlantic. A couple scenic courses mix here with bio and cultural diversity for an alluring exotic destination. Ancient stonewalls artistically delineate perimeters of past and present boundaries, on the green carpeted hillsides above the deep blue shoreline of Sao Miguel. Batalha Golf Club is where Kapalua meets Chang Mai, Thailand with elevated sea views and green-forested mountains penetrating the blue sky as cook pines intermingle with Pampas grass and morning glories. Furnas Golf Club is a horticultural wonder with volleyball sized rich
blue hydrangea blossoms and towering Japanese firs. Hot springs bubble up from the volcanic origins of this archipelago. Swim at the Terra Nostra Garden in the immense circular stone tiled pool filled with silky thermal iron water. Inhale the floral aroma of the gardens for a sense of healing so intense that you might think your slice has been cured. The panoramic sea cliff views at the Caloura Hotel Resort invoke romance that carries over to the otherworldly Quinta de Pico de Cruz horse show. After a traditional Portuguese dinner, tableside windows open to reveal a green arena sparkling against the dark mountain. Passionate music, harmonic partnering of man and equestrian athleticism of the Lusitano horses put “Dancing with the Stars” to shame.
Bermuda is considered the “Jewel of the Atlantic.” An African beat blends with British colonial history for visual and aural entertainment calling us for a trip next month at the Fairmont Southampton. Perched high on the hill with 100 acres overlooking Horseshoe Bay, the lush paradise exterior leads to an ultra plush interior where both service and food are hyped as extraordinary. We’re imagining the miles of soft pink sand and restoring our energy on the beach or at the Willow Stream Spa. We’ll improve our short game at the on site Turtle Hill Golf Club with 18 par 3s and be ready to complete the golf media invitational that includes play at Port Royal Golf Club. This is Bermuda’s finest according to the NY Times with ocean views from most holes. We’re looking forward to nailing the 16th hole, “a 235-yard crescent-shaped beauty with nothing but the Atlantic Ocean between the tee and the pin.” Then we’re off to Mid Ocean Golf Club with breathtaking views of Tucker’s Town Cove, where President Eisenhower and Prime Minister Winston Churchill met. We must rent a scooter, conveniently right at the Fairmont to tour the island of Bermuda and/or if time permits, we’ll hop on the complimentary ferry and check out the town of Hamilton. Flights to Bermuda are pretty reasonable during the winter since the warmest weather might be a gamble and water activities somewhat limited. _____________________________________________________________________
Thailand delivers royal treatment. Happy uniformed caddies, with large brimmed hats greet golfers at every course, a mandatory program that distinguishes Thailand. Thai Country Club counts among the panoramic plays and a swimming caddy retrieves water balls at Bangkok Sports Club. Arriving in Bangkok is like stepping over the rainbow. We never felt so tall or blond, but by sharing their greeting, we blended in – “savadeekah” for females or “savadeekup” for males, bow slightly with hands formed in the prayer sign – an act of respect and harmony when coming and going. A midnight stroll at arrival set the cultural stage with authentic street cooking and vendors. Massage parlors are abundant, and broad in offers. Be careful what you ask for. The tamest traditional Thai massage is performed in silk pajamas.
The Siam Kempinski Hotel was dramatically regal with Miss Thailand contestants parading through. By day, the exotic Chao Phraya River is filled with colorful boats delivering passengers and products. By night, a Marriott dinner cruise was the most impressive in the world, a light parade of vessels and glittering gold palaces.
Beauty belies all the golf in exotic Thailand. Tropical vegetation proliferate courses in Pattaya, such as Laem Chabang, Siam Country Club and Burapha Golf Club. En route, The Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens is a marvel of horticultural artistry and filming site of many Asian themed movies.
Chiang Mai, “The Rose of the North,” is rich with temples and shrines. Elephant farms demonstrate pachyderm talent in sports and painting with rides through the jungle. Gold neck bands define women’s beauty at the Long Neck Hill Tribe Village, a step back in time. Thick, colorful topography outlines fairways and greens at Chiang Mai’s Alpine and Highlands courses, located at the base of the mountains bordering Burma.
South Africa has knockout coastal views, over 400 wineries, leisure diversity, and lots of game, both golf and wildlife type to make it the ultimate, exotic destination. We were the first humans to spot a baby rhino with her single mom, the dad having been poached. Our sunset safari cocktail party was enhanced by a parade of giraffes that brought tears to our eyes. We witnessed the entire life cycle of jackass penguins and experienced more unimaginable wildlife encounters. Golf encounters were just as extraordinary. Pinnacle Point for example is one of the most intimidating and exhilarating courses with shear rock cliffs against the roaring Indian Ocean for scenery that surpasses both Bandon Dunes and Pebble Beach. Pezula Golf Resort is another seaside thriller in the town of Knysna, a word meaning “straight down.” Many of the holes are vertical drops bringing golf to new heights. Arabella Golf Resort and Spa sits above the Bot River lagoon below Mount Heron. The par 5, 8th tee box delivers a 360-degree view. Fancourt is becoming a household name as the iconic resort graces the chest of PGA Pro Brendan Grace.
Seafood and sweet, not gamey antelope with fresh and healthy accompaniments on every menu are exquisitely prepared. Five star accommodations are over the top in luxurious, comfortable settings in the city, by the courses or in the exotic reserves. The Mother City, Cape Town is the oldest city in South Africa and has a cultural heritage spanning more than 300 years. It is in Cape Town that the Rainbow Nation really covers the spectrum. The Waterfront is a central harbor district of luxury hotels, artisan shops, restaurants, aquarium and upscale mall. “Thank you very much” translates as “Baie dankie,” pronounced Buy a Donkey. It became our mantra.
From Table Mountain overlooking Cape Town to the parading giraffes at sunset and all the views in between, South Africa calls for our return.
Bogota, Colombia has not topped many exotic bucket lists, but will surely climb higher with awareness through PGA events and President Santos’ Nobel Peace prize. Elevation elation is the natural high in the tropical altiplano of the Andes. More flowers are exported from Colombia than anywhere except Holland. San Andres Country Club, where a Gran Telenovela (soap opera) was being filmed is a parkland style course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. A spa like aroma of the tall eucalyptus and cedar trees wafts through the air. After nine beautiful holes, enjoy “refrigerio.” No dog at the turn here, rather scrumptious entrees and exotic fruit juices for the standard ten-minute break. The elegant facilities, fine chefs and equestrian center create an elitist country club at Guaymaral. Play golf in the morning; tour in the afternoon. Ride the cable car to the monastery of Montserrate for exquisite dining above the city lights. Contrasting the 8600 feet altitude of Bogota, journey to the center of the earth, or at least 280 feet below to The Salt Cathedral where Stations of the Cross are carved into the cavern. Brides are carried down by cart while the groom walks the long path symbolizing the burden he is about to bear. Funny sentiment but the sculptures and lighting are inspirational.
Stay at The Grand House, a short walk to Parque 93 where Notah Begay and associates hit balls from a makeshift driving range atop a high-rise hotel. Don’t try this prank at home. Save La Cima Golf Club, the second highest course in the world at over 10,000 feet, for last when your body is well adjusted to the altitude. You don’t have to tee it high to let it fly. Enjoy the distance and panoramic views of the Andes. Wake up and smell the Colombian coffee. It’s not just about romancing the stone, though the emeralds make sweet souvenirs. Golf courses are private but booked for travelers by tour companies.
Hawaii seems like an international exotic destination. The Four Seasons Resort Lanai will put a lump in your throat and fill you with peace and gratitude. Paths of tropical tendrils of orchids, lilies, and the shave brush tree that looks like a flower from Avatar lead to your room. Jack Nicklaus must have been giddy by his design opportunity on the Manele Golf Course. It is an island climb of prime vantage points rising and falling with the hilly terrain creating blind shots. Bill and Melinda Gates chose the 12th tee box for their matrimonial site and vow renewal after 20 years. The 19th hole is named views with exquisite food as in all the restaurants. The Holo’poe Bay below is an archeological site and a marine preserve. Coral ravines in the rocky cove and so much fish action make this the Grand Canyon of snorkeling. Spinner dolphins perform their natural show. An Ipad by the bed advises when they arrive. Manele Bay delivers magical moments for all.
At the Kea Lani Fairmont in Wailea on Maui an “Aloha” greeting includes a traditional floral lei for the wahines, a manly thick-beaded lei for the kanes, and tiki sea turtle necklaces for the kiddies. Feel the sand between your toes or take the higher trail above, smooth for walking or jogging. This is ritzy row alongside Four Seasons, The Grand Wailea, The Wailea shops and homes selling for $28m, all with access to the Wailea Golf Club, where three courses reflect the beauty and ruggedness of tropics along the foothills of Mount Haleakala. In native garb, the conch shell is blown and a torch is carried to ignite the flames throughout both resorts. Don’t worry; no one is voted off either island.WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?