A golfing Oasis in the Bahamas
By BRUCE VITTNER
Looking for a quick getaway? A place to play great golf, enjoy beautiful white sand beaches, and maybe even bet a shekel or two? Well if you don’t mind flying out of Boston or Hartford, Caribbean Golf Vacation has an excellent deal for you.
My wife and I recently traveled to Freeport, Grand Bahama Island for a three-day vacation that was just the tonic for the dreadful New England winter. Imagine leaving Boston at 8 p.m. and being already registered in your room and visiting the Royal Oasis Casino at 11:30 p.m.
The company is offering three or four-day packages to the Bahamas for great prices. You wouldn’t even have to play golf to get a great deal, as were about eighty percent of the people on our flight in February, but the fact that golf is available makes the package an excellent value. Sharon Martin, a travel agent from Dartmouth, said, “I found this package on the internet and it is a great deal.”
Often when the golf is part of a package the courses aren’t worth playing, but this is not the case at the Royal Oasis. They have two courses on the property, the Ruby and the Emerald and they are really gems. The corporation that owns them has done about five million dollars in renovations to the two courses and they are excellent. They brought in the Fazio Golf Design Company to completely refurbish the courses. All new bunkers, waste bunkers, greens and fairways were created, and the course was lengthened from the back tees. “We wanted to get away from the typical wide open look of the courses and give them more character,” said Jim Fazio.
They have succeeded. The Ruby course is more open than the Emerald, but it has an excellent flow. You hardly ever see other players. The Ruby has water that comes into play on five holes. Both nines start with par 5s that might be reachable for the long hitters, although number one has a pot bunker right in front of the green. Both nines end with very difficult par 4s that are the number one and number 2 handicap holes. If you are playing a match try to end it before the last hole to save a great deal of consternation.
The par-4 fifth hole requires you to drive the ball down the right side to avoid a large pond on the left. The green curves around the pond, so your second shot will probably be over water. The sixth hole is a pretty par 3 back over the pond to a green that is severely sloped back to front. The greens on both courses are rather large (about 6,500 sq. ft.) and have Tifdwarf Bermuda grass. The course measures 6,816 from the back, 6,405 from the white, and 5,693 for the women. I’d play the white tees unless you are a single handicap player.
I personally liked the Emerald course better, although the people I asked where about equally divided as to their favorite. It is much tighter than the Ruby. Most all fairways have heavy vegetation lining them. It is the tropics, remember. You will love the par 5 ninth hole. It measures 532 from the back (514 from the white), but a large pond that covers the last 125 yards to the green is a formidable obstacle to carry. The smart play is to lay up in front of the pond and hit a good third shot to the green.
The seventeenth hole is a very long and difficult par 3 to a narrow green. Par will be a great number. The last is a very long par 4 that will decide most matches. The course measures 6,679 from the blue, 6,402 from the white and 5,712 from the red tees.
Both courses were designed by Dick Wilson and Joe Lee back in the early 1960’s. They have been frequent sites of international tournaments. “It was time for an overhaul of the courses, and the Fazio Group did a great job,” said Golf Director Scott Coetzee. Bob and Pat Kaminski of Peabody, Mass., who are frequent visitors to the Bahamas and have played all five courses on the Island said, “This is a great golf vacation and we will be coming back soon. The courses have really been improved and we love them (Ruby and Emerald) both.
You will have a very enjoyable time playing both courses. Many people we talked to played 36 holes each of the first two days and 18 on the day they were flying out. Fifty-four holes in two and one-half days might be a little much, but it is available. You might be a little tired after spending time in the Royal Oasis Casino, a 20,000 square foot building that has every type of gambling available including a sports book.
Save time for a trip to Xanadu Beach. It is a complimentary five-minute bus ride from the hotel and it is very picturesque and warm. There is an international bazaar across from the hotel. The Bahamians are friendly and the island is very pretty.
The package includes a charter flight, transfers to and from the airport, hotel, and free golf carts. The cost for two afternoon rounds is $100. A non-golfer would pay $100 less than the golf package price. It doesn’t get much better than that. Plans are to continue the package until the middle of May and then start again in late fall. If you can get away right now, it’s a great deal, and hopefully it will be a great deal in the fall of 2003. To get information about the package, contact Caribbean Golf Vacations at 1-877-752-9247 or visit their website at cgvacations.com.