There’s so much to recommend Jamaica as a travel destination that you really shouldn’t need much convincing. Warm temperatures, balmy breezes and a relaxed vibe make Jamaica one of the most popular spots in the Caribbean. For golfers, there’s the added bonus of a handful of courses that offer challenging tracks, great conditions year-round and breathtaking views of Jamaica’s mountains and beaches. If you like salt air, sunshine and tall rum drinks on the course, Jamaica golf is the ticket, mon.
Here are some “insider” tips to make sure that your Jamaica trip is smooth sailing:
Direct flights are available from major East Coast cities to Montego Bay and Kingston, and connections are available from anywhere. Prices are low during U.S. Spring and Summer.
Bring lots of $1s, $5s, $10s and $20s in U.S. dollars. Carry your money in a fanny pack until you get a safe (make sure your room has safes…some don’t) and once you get your room and key to your safe, put the money and your airline and ID stuff in the safe and take out what money you’ll need for the day. If you need JA money, just exchange what you need when you need it. Most everyone will take U.S. money.
As far as day trips, the best thing is to hire a taxi for the day and agree on a price before going. You can check the prices for tours out of your B&B and compare them with a taxi for the day to the same places. I wouldn’t book any day trips before you leave.
If it’s $50 is for two people and luggage to and from the airport, I would say that’s a pretty good price…depending on how far the B&B is from the airport. If it’s only about three or four miles, I’d hire a taxi to go out and another to go back. Taxis are everywhere.
Bus and transfer services are available once you get to Jamaica, but the smart move is book ahead of time to avoid unnecessary trouble and strife. Check online for reputable and highly-rated options. It takes a little while to get from one side of the island to the other so plan your trip so that you don’t spend hours navigating the roads.
When you aren’t on the golf course, Jamaica has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and there are great venues for reggae music listening. The atmosphere can be intoxicating, but whether you prefer you’re fun in a glass or in a pipe, make sure that you use common sense.
Suggested Golf Courses
White Witch Rose Hall Golf Course: The White Witch Golf Course is built on the countryside of Jamaica’s historic Rose Hall Plantation and is an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Robert von Hagge and Rick Baril. This 6,758-yard, Par 71 treasure is named for the plantation’s beautiful but wicked 19th-century plantation mistress, Annee Palmer (her ghost is said to still roam the property). The newly launched tour, Annee’s Escape, combines the Great Houses with golf, the beach, and the rich cultural history of Jamaica.
Cinnamon Hill: Designed by von Hagge and Rick Baril, Cinnamon Hill gives visitors a chance to take in the best of Jamaican golf. Learn about the rich history of the Johnny Cash estate on the Cinnamon Hill Great House Tour and visit the 15th green where scenes were shot for the James Bond movie, “Live and Let Die.” On the Cinnamon Hill Great House Tour, journey into the lives of Country and Western greats, Johnny Cash and his wife June Carter-Cash. Experience their home that captured the essence of the life they lived in Jamaica, not as superstars but as warm individuals.
Half Moon: Designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and modernized by Roger Rulewich, Half Moon resort provides a country-club atmosphere with an award-winning 18-hole par-72 championship course. The course includes 20 grassed practice bays, a bunker practice green, putting green and a 50-yard pitching green. Golf tournaments frequently held at Half Moon include the Jamaica Open. It is the perfect blend of social event and exercise. The renowned golf course is one of the best walking courses creating a masterpiece of beauty.
Runaway Bay Golf Club: With an 18-hole championship golf course, the Runaway Bay Golf Club was designed by Major John Harris from Britain and offers a one of a kind experience. You can perfect your game while swinging across long rolling fairways, large flat greens protected by grassy mounds and sand bunkers. Following a lively round of golf, unwind and relax in open-air pavilion restaurant and bar. Its hosted many major tournaments including the Ryder Cup-style match between the United Kingdom and West Indies, The Jamaica Open, The Brinks (JA) Classic, The Heineken World Cup Qualifier, CNBC Nations Cup and numerous JGA Qualifiers.
The Myrtle Beach World Amateur: At 35, it’s better than ever
When I was a kid, my best sport was basketball. I started off playing at school and established myself as one of the best there. But I didn’t know how much I had to learn until I started playing at the big, well-known playgrounds around DC that were the incubators for great players. It was on those playgrounds that I learned how to compete and also how competition makes friendships for life.
Golf is the same way. Sure, it’s fun to beat up on your friends and relations on your home course but you won’t know how good you are or how good you can be until you get into a real competition.
There are a lot of choices for that but perhaps the best and most popular competition is the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Championships. Held annually in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the World Am hosts thousands of golfers in a handicapped event that is played on some of finest courses in the state.
There are tight knit flights that accommodate a wide range of golfers’ abilities from scratch to 36 and over. Says Tournament Director Scott Tomasello, “The World Am has lasted 35 years by providing a proving ground for the everyday golfer. It also just so happens to take place in the Golf Capital of the World. Players of all ages, skill levels and backgrounds get together for 4 rounds of competitive golf. Some players use it as a chance to test their game while others use it to make friends for life, which is what makes the tournament a great time for everyone.”
I had heard about the event for years and finally had the opportunity to play last year for the first time. Even before the first ball was struck, I had an amazing experience. At the opening party I found myself standing behind a guy who was my boss during my summer internship in my senior year of high school, and his son, just happens to be the aforementioned tournament director.
It was a nice reunion and was the first of many happy accidents that week. I met people who grew up around the corner from me, and people that lived in Hong long at the same time as me. I met distant relatives and friends of friends. With the way that the tournament connects people, it could rightfully be called the Kevin Bacon open.
The tournament is four rounds and each golfer is assigned four different courses to play, including one “premier” course (I lucked out by getting exactly the course I was wanting to play, the Mike Stranz-designed Caledonia Golf and Fish Club). But all of the courses in the rotation are in great condition and set up to play challenging but fair. I must say that I didn’t play my best golf because I was also being a reporter, but I finished sixth in my flight and made a passel of new friends who I expect to see every year at the World Am.
Entry into the World Am includes the four rounds of golf, the famous nightly 19th hole that features unlimited food and open bar for you and a guest, huge gift bag and chance at over $100,000 in prizes; at only $535 (good until May 16) it’s a bargain bordering on a steal.
If you are looking for great golf, keen competition and the best of Myrtle Beach on and off the course then get registered now for the Myrtle Beach World Golf Am. Like me, once you play, you’ll have it as one of the fixtures on your annual golf calendar.
For details and to register, go to https://myrtlebeachworldamateur.com
Sea Pines Resort: Play like the pros, on and off the course
Each year the Harbour Town Golf Links at Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, challenges the best players in the world, including 2019 winner C.T. Pan. It’s also widely known that the destination is one of the most popular stops on Tour amongst the pros. It’s the perfect place to bring their families and decompress after the frenzy of the weeks leading up to the Masters.
Situated on the southernmost tip of Hilton Head Island, Sea Pines Resort’s best-in-class collection of golf courses, amenities and accommodations make it one of the most sought-after leisure and group destinations in America. It features five miles of unspoiled beaches, 20 clay tennis courts, 14 miles of bike and walking trails, horseback riding, eco-adventures, water sports, and the 605-acre Sea Pines Forest Preserve filled with wildflowers, wetlands, and more than 130 species of birds. As the first Eco-planned destination in the U.S., The Sea Pines Resort has become the blueprint for numerous beach developments around the country. And did I mention that there is golf?
Now you can play and stay in style with the “Play Where The Pros Play” golf package offered by The Sea Pines Resort – which includes taking your own shot at Harbour Town. The golf package includes one round of golf per guest on the island’s three top-ranked courses: Harbour Town and Heron Point, both designed by Pete Dye, as well as Atlantic Dunes, designed by Davis Love III, a five-time RBC Heritage winner. Harbour Town Links gets all the ink, but Heron Point is just more forgiving and arguably more picturesque. True diehards can enjoy complimentary afternoon replays on Heron Point and Atlantic Dunes.
Accommodations include the island’s premier hotel and my personal favorite, The Inn & Club at Harbour Town; it’s a Forbes Four-Star, AAA Four-Diamond boutique hotel with the luxury and convenience of guest rooms and a Fairway Suite overlooking the first tee of Harbour Town Golf Links. The vibe is a perfect combination of polished professionalism and Southern charm. Other options include luxurious private homes, Beach Villas, and Golf Villas with room for 2 to 12.
Three-night/four-day packages start at $255 (per player/per night) for Villa accommodations and $329 (per player, per night) for The Inn with these rates valid through October 2019. At these prices, you’ll want to book now get the best rooms and dates.
You spend a lot of cash building your bag to play what the pros play; at Sea Pines Resort, you can play where the pros play, on the course and off.
All photos courtesy of Sea Pines Resort/Rob Tipton
The deal abides! 5 ways to get the best deals during shoulder season
The dictionary defines “shoulder season” as “a travel period between peak and off-peak seasons.” For the savvy traveler, shoulder season means big savings on travel and golf some of the best destinations around. It’s the time when demand is at a low point for a course or resort, and they are willing to offer significant discounts to fill those rooms, tee times and barstools. We talked to some experts and found out the 5 keys to getting the most out of shoulder season travel.
1. Pick Your Spot Then Pick Your Dates
The first rule of shoulder season is to find out when the shoulder is in the places you want to visit. Shoulder season is related to when the peak and off-peak times are on the calendar in a given region, and those seasons are different depending on the region.
According to golf travel consultant Sarah Forrest, “The term shoulder season is a loose phrase as there are no defined start and end dates. From state to state and country to country the dates will change so do your homework. By being sensible you can travel the world from the Northern to Southern hemisphere and play the shoulder season for exceptional value almost year-round.”
For example, most areas that are warm during the months of December through February (e.g. Florida) have their shoulder seasons for the two months on either side of those months. To give some practical examples shoulder season for Bandon Dunes is March, April, and November. May is a great time to visit places in the Midwest like Sand Valley or Whistling Straits.
2. Shop Around
There are dozens of online sources of information on discount golf travel and they will all be busting with information on shoulder season travel. The destinations will be eager to get the word out about room and tee sheet availability, so all you have to do is find it. Resources like Trip Advisor, Golf Advisor, and even Kayak can give you the ability to comparison shop for the best overall deal for your family or group. Forrest adds, ”Be prepared to be flexible with your dates, if you can flex your dates, tell the resort and ask for more than one date price to determine the best price and of course don’t expect great weather, although you can be pleasantly surprised at times!”
3. Aim High
Shoulder season is the perfect time to check off a couple of those wish list experiences. From the golden oldies, like Pinehurst and the Greenbrier, to the new classics, like Bandon Dunes and Streamsong Resort. The lower prices will bring many of the elite destinations into a reasonable price range.
3. Go to the Source
There are any number of websites that will consolidate discounts and offers, and there’s no reason not to let them do the initial work for you . But once you decide on a location or two, contact the resort directly to find out if they have additional discounts that haven’t been published online. It’s also a good time to ask for the availability of rooms that may have a special touch like a great view, big bed or an in-room sauna or jacuzzi. Even if they say no, there’s no harm in asking!
5. Give and Ye Shall Receive
In the Internet age, golf courses, hotels, and resorts value positive feedback online as much as you appreciate a good discount. So it only makes sense to channel your inner Kardashian during your stay and post early and often to social media. Saying good things about the place you are staying will get you noticed, and may get you a few perks. Ask to take a picture with the head pro or the head chef, and definitely post pics of your meals and your rounds on the course. If the marketing department notices, they will find a way to show their appreciation.
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