By Alexander Britell
ROSE HALL — As you move up the circular driveway, past bougainvilleas, peering at white columns, it reminds you of a place in Georgia, even if for only a moment.
This is the Half Moon Golf Club, the most famous 72 holes in Jamaica, five decades young and a legendary stop on the Caribbean links journey.
The Robert Trent Jones Sr circa-1961 track is a treasure, a relic of another age in golf.
It isn’t the longest, the most challenging (although it’s by no means an easy course), the most state of the art — but make no mistake – this is a course worth traveling for.
This is another experience, a club that feels at once pristine and elegant, the sort of course that teems with that special kind of energy that transcends your score.
It’s a rarefied place, one with ceremony.
And isn’t that what the best golf courses are about? That you’ve entered some kind of sanctum, some kind of enlightened plane, a grass-filled chapel?
That’s Spencer Edwards’ question to me.
Where would you rather play, Pebble Beach or Augusta?
Sure, the former European Tour pro and current Half Moon Director of Golf says, Pebble has the “wow.”
“But I would pick Augusta,” he says, speaking to the mystique, the history.
That’s how I answer, too.
“What you have here is potentially Jamaica’s Augusta,” he tells me “The clubhouse has that Augusta feel, the flowers and the color all over the golf course, lined with pinks and reds.”
It’s a feeling that only strengthens you more the walk the course with your caddy (every golfer is joined by a caddy, a wonderful offering special to Jamaican golf), from the elevated, sloping greens (greens that can play with your head) to the seemingly endless number of hues that dot the sidelines of the fairway.
Playing here is a beautiful journey on an historic course, a rare thing especially in the Caribbean.
The 18-hole signature of the iconic Half Moon resort was updated in 2002 by Roger Rulewich, a protege of Robert Trent Jones, and there are plans to further modernize it (and hopefully lure a PGA Champions Tour event, with tour consultants Pete Davidson and John Scott leading the way on that effort).
The other hope is to make more travelers realize how Half Moon and greater Montego Bay are one of the region’s great golf destinations.
It’s a common trope in Montego Bay, home to four world-class golf courses within 15 minutes of each other and a golf community anxious to get the wider world to see that.
“Jamaica is a true golf destination and it’s just unfortunate that not enough golfers know it,” he says. “We’re starting to make a little headway, with people seeing that we’re an undiscovered gem.”
Indeed, in a small area you have Half Moon, Cinnamon Hill, the White Witch, and just a little bit further away, the Tryall Club, all beautiful and unique.
Edwards says these are all the ingredients of being a great golf destination.
“You need that mini-hub of golf courses, and we have that,” he says. “I can hit a golf ball from each one onto the other one.”
“I think the perception has been that the Caribbean is a beach destination that has some golf courses,” he says. “But we have some amazing golf courses and we’re starting to expose that to the world.”
And no course in the Caribbean blends beauty, history and charm better than Half Moon.
“Half Moon is a classic,” Edwards tells me.
It’s something you can spot the minute you enter the driveway.
For more, visit Half Moon.