By Alexander Britell
“I don’t want people to play golf while they’re in Jamaica,” Donnie Dawson says. “I want people to come to Jamaica to play golf.”
While for years destinations like the Dominican Republic have been at the forefront of the region’s golf industry, the island of Jamaica, particularly Montego Bay, is quickly turning into the next big Caribbean golf destination.
Indeed, Montego Bay, about an hour and a half from Miami, is home to four world-class golf courses: The White Witch, Cinnamon Hill, Half Moon and the transformed Tryall Club.
Now, Jamaica is looking to push itself as a golf destination, according to Dawson, the acting director of the Jamaica Tourist Board.
The plan is to begin truly capitalizing on its remarkable collection of hotels in a small area just 10 minutes from Montego Bay’s international airport, its lovely white-sand beaches and impressive golf product.
The plan, according to Rich Cortese, senior vice president for Caribbean operations at Aimbridge Hospitality, is to turn Montego Bay into Jamaica’s “Golf Coast.”
“We have a huge commitment to golf,” says Cortese, whose company just opened the major new Jewel Grande resort, which held its opening ceremony on Sunday night.
So what are the Golf Coast’s courses like?
There’s the White Witch, set on the 4,000-acre Rose Hall Estate, an 18-hole, 6,758 yard par-71 track designed by Robert von Hagge and Rick Baril with ocean views on 16 of 18 holes.
Then there’s the 18-hole, links-style, par-72, 6,828 yard Cinnamon Hill course, designed by H. C. Smedley, Robert von Hagge, Mike Smelek and Rick Baril.
That’s joined by the Tryall Club, home to the Johnnie Walker World Championship, an 18-hole, 6,836-yard golf course that’s the work of designer Ralph Plummer.
Montego Bay’s Half Moon resort boasts the eponymous Half Moon course, an 18-hole, par-72 7,141-yard championship course designed By Robert Trent Jones, Sr back in 1962.
It all means you can play four courses on a four-day trip, all within minutes of one another, all offering a mix of challenging design and spectacular vistas, all followed by late afternoons on the beach.
So if you’re planning a golf vacation, now’s the time to think about Jamaica.