The Caribbean's Best Golf Courses and Golf Resorts

Two golfers playing golf at Fountain Valley Golf Course, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Golfers in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Glowimages / Getty Images

The Caribbean has always been a popular golf destination, but today there are more choices than ever for golfers. The Dominican Republic has emerged as one of the world's best golf destinations -- Casa de Campo's Teeth of the Dog course is listed as #35 in the world by Golf Magazine, for example -- and you can even find golf in such unusual destinations as Cuba and Haiti. So pack your clubs for your next trip to the Caribbean and experience firsthand the fun of playing golf under the tropical sun!

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    Tenemos Golf Club
    Tenemos Golf Club. Torrey Wiley/Flickr/Creative Commons

    This links course at the Cap Juluca resort has 14 sea-view holes that distracts duffers with panoramas of the Caribbean and nearby St. Martin/Maarten. But keep your eye on the ball, because the course is full of lagoons and ponds, including one stocked with bonefish if you decide to throw down the clubs and pick up a rod and reel.

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    This par-71, 18-hole championship course in St. John's is located next to the Jolly Harbour Marina in a lush tropical setting and winds around seven lakes.

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    This Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed course is Aruba's only 18-hole championship golf course; it's a par-71, 6,811-yarder that highlights not the ocean but rather Aruba's arid outback of cactus and divi divi trees.

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    One&Only Ocean Club Golf Course, Bahamas
    One&Only Ocean Club Golf Course, Bahamas. Courtesy Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board

    The luxury One&Only Ocean Club neighboring the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island boasts a Tom Weiskopf designed resort course that will appeal to weekend warriors and serious golf fanatics alike. The course hosts the annual Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational.

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    The exclusive Lyford Cay gated community on the west end of New Providence Island is built around the the Lyford Cay Club, a members-only institution with an 18-hole championship golf course ranked among the world's best -- if you can get an invitation to play.

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    Greg Norman designed this championship 18-hole course on the Bahamas out-island of Exuma. The oceanfront fairways run past sand dunes and tall seashore grasses to end on a final hole at the end of a spectacular peninsula. Named one of the best resort courses in the Caribbean by Travel & Leisure magazine.

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    Terrace at Sandy Lane resort in Barbados.
    Terrace at Sandy Lane resort in Barbados. Courtesy of Sandy Lane

    Sandy Lane is where Tiger Woods got married, so need we say more about the quality of the golf here? The resort's Green Monkey course (named for the green Bajan monkeys you may see scampering across the greens) was designed by Tom Fazio on the site of an old quarry, the walls of which tower over some of the fairways and bunkers. Nine holes, par 72, 7,100 yards, and you can only play if you stay at the pricey Sandy Lane resort and are willing to shell out a greens fee in the $400 range.

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    This public course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. with perhaps the most famous hole in Bermuda: the par-3 16th where the water hazard is the Atlantic ocean (don't bother trying to retrieve your ball). That's just one of many challenges on this scenic par-71 course.

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    The members-only Mid-Ocean Club is one of the oldest golf courses in the region, opened in 1921. The championship 18-hole course in Tucker's Town can only be played by invitation or by members or their guests, but hotels owned by club members also may be able to get you a tee time on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays. Remember, if you're going to wear shorts to play, they must be modest "Bermuda-length"!

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    This recently redesigned course is acclaimed not only for its great resort course but also the fine dining to be had after a day on the links. Available to members and resort guests only, the course runs along Castle Harbour and Harrington Sound.

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    Bahamas: Grand Lucayan

    Grand Lucayan Bahamas
    Grand Lucayan Bahamas. Courtesy of Grand Lucayan Bahamas

    The Grand Lucayan resort on Grand Bahamas Island features Westin and Sheraton hotels and a pair of championship 18-hole golf courses, plus the Butch Harmon School of Golf. The resort also has a casino, kids' club, nightclub, multiple restaurants, and a nearby straw market. No wonder it was named one of the best resorts in the Caribbean for a family golf getaway by Travel & Leisure, as well as one of the best Caribbean golf resorts in 2006 by readers of Caribbean Travel & Life magazine.

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    This links-style course on Grand Cayman lays alongside North Sound and follows the island's natural terrain. It's a 6,605-yard par 71 near Seven Mile Beach, making it possible to play a morning round of golf and still be on the beach early enough to work on your tan.

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    Since Cuba doesn't consider cigars counterrevolutionary, I guess it's fitting that this last bastion of Socialism also should put up with the decadence of golf. Varadero is Cuba's premier beach resort catering to foreign visitors, and this 18-hole championship course (the first of its kind in Cuba) is located near all of the area resorts, including SuperClubs Breezes, the Melia Las Americas, Melia Varadero, Sol Club Palmeras, and Sol Club Sirenas. The course is a par 72.

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    Punta Espada Golf Course
    Courtesy of Eden Roc

    This Jack Nicklaus Signature Course is the first of three planned for the new Cap Cana resort: 15 of its 18 holes overlook the sea, and the landscape includes bluffs, beach, and jungle.

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    The Casa de Campo resort's Teeth of the Dog, Dye Fore and The Links courses already have become legendary among golfers. Designed by Pete Dye, the Teeth of the Dog (named for the jagged coral formations along the coastline) has been described as "labyrinthine" -- perhaps a warning to casual players -- but the Links may be the more challenging of the two. Many a ball has found the Caribbean on the Dog's fifth through seventh holes, on a course that ranks 35th on Golf Magazine's top 100 in the world. Dye Fore is the diabolical designer's latest Campo creation.

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    Located on the north coast of Hispanola near the Dominican town of Rio San Juan, Playa Grande is one of the last courses designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones Sr. The par 72 course sits atop towering cliffs overlooking the beach and sea, providing extraordinary views.

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    Rose Hall White Witch
    Courtesy of Visit Jamaica

    "Like [plantation mistress Annee Palmer], the legendary 'White Witch of Rose Hall,' the course is alluringly dangerous and unpredictable," says designer Robert von Hagge. "Just as her personality might shift without warning, so do the winds, turning a six-iron shot in the morning into a five-wood late in the day." The course is dotted with rock outcroppings and cut by ravines, with ocean views on almost every hole. It's a par-71, 6,859 yards long.

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    Another Pete Dye design, this course is 7,152 yards with four seaside holes. La Cana Golf Course is noted for Dye's signature pot bunkers, including the 21 that dot hole 7.

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    The nine holes at the Grenada Golf Course and Country Club represent the island's best golf experience; they also represent the only golf course on the island. Still, the course offers nice ocean views, and the greens fees are quite reasonable.

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    This public 18-hole, par-71 course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and is known for its windy conditions and multiple water traps, offering a serious challenge to all who play.

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    Only in Haiti would a club advertise on its website with a picture of a military helicopter on one of its fairways, ringed by paramilitary police toting assault rifles. Safety is clearly at a premium at the Petionville Club, whose members include a number of foreign diplomats. The club has a 9-hole course rated a par 66 for two go-rounds.

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    Abaco Club golf course
    Courtesy of the Abaco Club at Winding Bay

    Tiny Abaco is home to a wonderful seaside, Scottish-style links course (minus the harsh wind and stony soil), a par-72, 7,138-yard masterpiece.

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    The Tryall Club course features a tee shot through the stone pillars of a historic aqueduct -- part of a former sugar plantation -- but this 18-hole, par-72 course doesn't rely on gimmicks to challenge players. Your best shot at playing this course, which edges along the Caribbean and the Flint River, is in the summer months; winter play is limited to Tryall Club guests.

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    Half Moon Golf Course
    Courtesy of Half Moon Resort

    Montego Bay's Half Moon has been called the best golf resort in the region by Caribbean World magazine, and the golf course has been recently renovated to better suit the modern game. Also voted one of the Caribbean's most underrated golf resorts by Travel & Leisure magazine.

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    An all-inclusive stay at the Rose Hall Resort & Country Club includes golf at the resort's renowned Cinnamon Hill Ocean Court, which features great ocean and mountain views. Golfers can warm up on an open front nine before tacking the more challenging back nine filled with traps and dense foliage.

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    Guests of the Superclubs all-inclusive resorts can play on the 18-hole Ironshore Golf Course, one of three courses that make up the SuperClubs Golf Club. This par 72, 6,633-yard course is known for its tricky blind holes and traps.

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    El Conquistador Resort
    Courtesy of El Conquistador Resort

    This par-72 course features a 200-foot elevation change over its 18 holes and a final hole that compels players to hit their shot over a waterfall. A pretty resort course with views of the El Yunque rainforest and the ocean at one of Puerto Rico's most family friendly properties.

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    The Empress Josephine Golf Course in Trois-Ilets was designed by Robert Trend Jones Sr. and makes full use of banks, trees, lakes, bunkers and obstacles to provide 18 holes of challenging golf.

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    Who says you have to stay at a big luxury resort to get access to the best golf courses in the Caribbean? The resort complex on the former Blaauw plantation includes a moderate Best Western hotel but still delivers world-class golf alongside beautiful Blue Bay.

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    Four Seasons Nevis
    Four Seasons Nevis resort, St. Kitts and Nevis. Courtesy of Four Seasons Resorts

    From the sea shore to the slopes of Mount Nevis, this Robert Trend Jones Jr. course cuts through a former coconut plantation and tropical rain forest and around steep ravines. Monkeys may join your foursome as you make play your way along the side of an extinct volcano.

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    Double your pleasure with a pair of Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed championship courses, laid out on the grounds of former citrus and coconut plantations.

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    The Rio Mar has two courses; the Ocean Course, designed by Tom and George Fazio, tends to get more acclaim, notably its seaside 16th hole, but the River Course is also memorable: a Greg Norman design that follows the path of the Mameyes River.

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    St. Kitts Marriott pool
    St. Kitts Marriott. Courtesy of Marriott Hotels

    The Royal St. Kitts Golf Club at the St. Kitts Marriott has been called one of the most underrated golf courses in the Caribbean: its 18 holes are laid out alongside black-sand beaches and follow the natural terrain of the Kittsian coast.

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    Puerto Rico: Palmas del Mar Country Club

    The fun begins and ends at the Palmas del Mar's exquisite clubhouse, but there's plenty of great golf in between. The Rees Jones designed Flamboyan Course has been called the best in Puerto Rico, while the Palm Course is a resort course designed by Gary Player.

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    Sandals Regency Golf Resort & Spa
    Courtesy of Sandals

    The all-inclusive Sandals resorts on St. Lucia (the Sandals Halcyon and Sandals Grande) share a 9-hole course with complementary greens fees for guests. The course is set in a valley, making for a narrow, hilly and challenging course. You can watch the cruise ships out to sea as you ponder your tee shot from the elevated 4th green.

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    Trinidad and Tobago: Mount Irvine Bay Hotel and Golf Course

    Built in 1968, the 18-hole course at the Mount Irvine Bay Hotel provides a classic Caribbean golf experience, full of swaying palms and ocean views and aided by an attentive staff.

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    Billionaire Laurance Rockefeller gave golf-course design pioneer Robert Trent Jones Sr. a blank check to create the course at the Carambola Golf & Country Club, opened in 1966. Jones designed thousands of courses in his career but considered Carambola one of his best, and generations of golfers agree.

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    Provo Golf Club
     Courtesy of Provo Golf Club

    "Rugged" is the best word to describe this Providenciales course, which challenges golfers not only with water hazards and sand traps but also a variety of natural limestone outcroppings. Not for the faint of heart.