In The Bahamas’ South Abaco, Finding Golf and Rebirth

By: Alexander Britell and Guy Britton - January 29, 2020

The landscape on the Great Abaco Highway is raw and simple, one long road straddled by nature. 

And as you make the straight-line drive from Marsh Harbour to South Abaco, the trees and the brush begin to get taller, greener. 

And you can see how a few miles can mean everything, as leaves and trunks seem to reappear as if pages in a flipbook. 

It’s just a few dozen miles to the south, but that can be all the difference — a quirk of fate that left South Abaco largely spared from the wrath of Dorian. 

It also means that South Abaco is the center of Abaco’s rebirth – and, for now, its tourism future. 

The journey down the highway brings you to The Abaco Club on Winding Bay, the pride of South Abaco and what is the best golf resort in The Bahamas. 

The Abaco Club, as pristine and beautiful as ever, has long been something of a well-kept secret, a hidden-away, sought-after community that golfers talk about in hushed tones — the reason for which becomes immediately clear when you get here. 

And thanks to The Abaco Club’s fast-paced recovery from Dorian (it reopened back in November along with South Abaco’s Sandpiper Inn, it’s now front and center in Abaco’s tourism rebirth. 

And the Southworth Development property is embracing the role. 

As you drive in a golf cart past the lobby, you see dozens of RVs in a side lot — they were all acquired by the club to provide temporary housing for displaced employees — a continued relief and recovery effort that began in the days after the storm when helicopters packed with supplies were landing right on the driving range. 

You can also often see the mobile unit of Dr. James Hull, Abaco’s celebrated physician, the man who ran the former clinic on the island and, in the wake of Dorian, immediately sprang to action and set up a roving hospital working out of an office on wheels, creating Abaco’s all-purpose mobile hospital. 

The Abaco Club, you see, has reopened with purpose, serving guests and the island at once, delivering a world-class travel experience without forgetting the people and community who make it happen. 

And the experience here is a rather special one. 

Because this is the best golf resort in The Bahamas, a 600-acre residential resort community set around a challenging, spectacularly beautiful, invigorating and adventurous layout by Donald Steel and Tom Mackenzie that is the Caribbean’s only true “tropical links” course. 

And while the term links is often thrown about too liberally, it’s the quintessence of links golf here. 

You have all of the requisites: the undulation, the pot bunkers, the endless presence of wind and, on the iconic final three holes, a landscape straight out of the Scottish coast. 

bahamas abaco golf
The iconic 18th hole at The Abaco Club.

The latter is one of the region’s truly memorable golf experiences, a sweeping curve around cliffs and waves and sharp changes in elevation, the sort of touches on a course whose beauty and exotic quality can make even the most challenging afternoons unforgettable.  

Indeed, the Abaco Club is Scotland and New England and The Bahamas all mixed in together, a refreshing concoction that makes it rather unlike anywhere else in the country.

And its unique elevation gives you the kinds of downward views of the beach that you almost never get to see in The Bahamas. 

There are almost 100 homes already built here, a mix of cabanas and cottages and estate homes, with more lots and homes on the market and several new real estate projects in development.

This is the only Caribbean destination by Massachusetts-based Southworth Development, one of the world’s leading developers of luxury communities typically centered around golf, from Cape Cod to Scotland. 

What makes the Abaco Club unique for David Southworth, founder and CEO of Southworth, is the setting. 

“I’ve said many times that this ‘has everything money can’t buy,’” David Southworth, CEO of Southworth Development, told Caribbean Journal.

And when you gaze upon the 2.5-mile-long sugar-white splendor of Winding Bay, you’re immediately inclined to agree. 

bahamas abaco golf

Despite its privileged location, Southworth has cultivated a  refreshingly unpretentious feel, where you instantly are made to feel a part of the community. 

That’s in large part thanks to the staff, who expertly make the place go, from the always-bustling Flippers Beach Bar to the pro shop. 

Golf isn’t just an amenity here, or a perk. It’s a fully-integrated fulcrum of the resort. 

The golf course is just steps from the main beach on Winding Bay, in view of most of the cottages and something that makes it rather different than most golf resorts and golf options in the Caribbean — yes, a golf course right on the beach. 

bahamas abaco golf
The first hole is just steps from the sand.

The club, which long hosted the Korn Ferry Tour’s Great Abaco Classic until a temporary hiatus this year (the tournament moved to the Baha Mar as Marsh Harbour and the rest of Abaco recovers), is a favorite of some of the world’s top golfers, including Darren Clarke, the Irish golfer and 2011 Open Champion who is the club’s official golf ambassador. 

Because golf isn’t just an amenity here, or a perk. It’s a fully-integrated fulcrum of the community, its raison d’être and its global draw. 

But The Abaco Club is also more than that, whether you want to spend a week deep-sea fishing or exploring the Abaco National Park or simply lazing on what is one of the most beautiful beaches in all of The Bahamas. 

bahamas abaco golf
The newly-opened Abaco Yacht Club.

In November the club opened the new Abaco Yacht Club, the archipelago’s newest marina, adjacent to Abaco’s iconic Pete’s Pub (which is back and open again), the new gateway for boaters to Abaco, a new way to explore the wonders of this beloved archipelago in The Bahamas.

AT SUNSET, there’s a pink glow around the edge of the sand. Each day Winding Bay alights differently, offering up new oranges and purples and blues at twilight.

The natural beauty of Abaco always surrounds you here, whether you’re on the links or taking a rum on the terrace over the beach or performing the delicate windy dance at the ocean’s edge on 17.

To be sure, Abaco has changed since the storms of the summer.

It will keep changing.

In places like Marsh Harbour and Treasure Cay and Great Guana, the recovery continues. 

Here in South Abaco, there is rebirth, and at Winding Bay, a reminder: Abaco still has all of the things money can’t buy — and the things no storm can take away. 

For more, visit The Abaco Club on Winding Bay

See more in the latest CJ Video.

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