- Cherokee Road on Winding Bay, Marsh Harbor, Abaco, The Bahamas
- 242 367 0077
The Bahamas is synonymous with tropical beaches, warm turquoise water, and vacations in the sun – and the perfect spot for golf. You’ll find all this at the Abaco Club at Winding Bay, which is located on the east side of Great Abaco, one of the largest islands in coral-based archipelago that makes up the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. The resort is approximately 310 kilometers (193 miles) east of Miami or about 1 hours’ flight to Marsh Harbor International Airport.
Golfers are drawn to the championship course here – a Scottish-style links course that overlooks a white, powder-soft beach on one side and the North Atlantic Ocean on the other side. Renowned British architects Tom Mackenzie and Donald Steel designed the course over coastal dunes, including pot bunkers and slick, undulating greens. You may have to snap out of your tropical island slumber to score well here. The Abaco Club hosted the Bahamas Great Abaco Classic, a Web.com Tour event, in 2017. So, you may want to warm up on the practice range and short-game practice area before teeing off.
“It is not the typical, short Caribbean holiday course of the sort affiliated with most Caribbean resorts,” warned Head Professional Robert Blumer. “It requires thought, imagination, patience and skill to score well here.
“The course looks – and plays – like a links golf course, which is the ideal configuration for an island course where wind is almost always a factor. The pot bunkers, the swales in the fairways, the vexing greens, the hard-and-true nature of both the fairways and greens – these all provide a links golf experience, but in the warm Bahamian sunshine rather than the cold rain of the British Isles.”
The idea of heading back to the resort pool after a tough round here is appealing. But first you’ll be hitting along the shore of Winding Bay’s tranquil turquoise waters on the front nine, before the back nine plays along the cliff-top shoreline with the swell from the Atlantic crashing down next to you. It attracts some of the top players in the game, too, according to Blumer.
“PGA Tour members Darren Clarke and Thomas Aiken are both club members and residents of the club, both love playing the course (Clarke prepares every year for The Masters here), and the new practice facility with double-sided range and extensive short-game practice area help them stay at the top of their games.”
Keep your ball out of the pot bunkers. You may need to lower your trajectory if the wind gets up, too. The elevated greens require accurate and pure pitch and chip shots. Pro’s tips: “The key to scoring well at The Abaco Club is placing your approach shots on the right part of the greens – or if you do miss a green, not short-siding yourself. The greens generally have three or more contoured sections – finding the right one with your approach makes two-putting much easier.”
When to play: Perfect golfing temperatures allow the course to be open 365 days a year.
Yardage: 7111 yards, 6502 meters
The 312-yard (285-meter) hole 5 is a driveable par 4, but you must carry your tee shot over a beach. Miss the green and you could be playing from the beach or from a pot bunker. Lay-up and you must judge the wedge shot well onto a green that slopes sharply from right to left. There are some spectacular views of Winding Bay along the left side.
The pro says:
“One of the most scenic courses anyone will ever play … The course is a true championship course, as shown during play at the Bahamas Great Abaco Classic, a Web.com event featuring some of the world’s best golfers. What sets it apart from other courses, and particularly from other Caribbean golf courses, is that it is a bona fide links design.”
Robert Blumer, Abaco Club Head Professional
The resort experience:
The Abaco Club on Winding Bay is a private sporting club for homeowners and members that opens its doors to visitors staying at the resort. English entrepreneur and sailor Peter de Savary founded the club in 2004. The story goes that he sailed into the bay, hacked through the jungle for a spell with a machete and was mightily impressed by the location, which has two miles (three kilometres) of beach on the south side, and tall cliffs on the east side. Savary then spent a fortune building the luxury resort and golf course, opening the resort for members who wanted to get away from it all. This is the type of place where you’d expect that the bartender knows the drinks of the regulars, most of them rich and some of them famous. Celebrities such as Sean Connery, Annika Sorenstam and Rod Stewart have been known to visit. Club ambassador and Europe’s 2016 Ryder Cup Captain Darren Clarke loves the low-key nature of the resort.
“I love the relaxed atmosphere here,” Clarke said*. “It’s extraordinarily beautiful, and there’s no place I’d rather spend time, especially with my family.
“One of the things that I particularly like about The Abaco Club is the fact that, strictly speaking, it’s not a resort. Anyone can visit the Club (and I highly recommend that you do!) but in truth, it’s a private, international sporting club with members from all over the world.”
The resort’s infinity pool looks out onto Winding Bay, over the nearby Sugar Cay and out to sea. It’s not a bad spot for a cocktail. The full-service spa offers healing massages such as the Bahamian Rhythmic Touch Therapy. You can also employ a personal trainer in the fitness center to burn some extra calories.
The Abaco Club is about 25 minutes’ drive south of Marsh Harbor International Airport.
Dine and wine:
There are three options for catered dining. Flippers Beach Bar
serves fresh Bahamian fruit for breakfast as well as lunch in a part tiki hut, part café. Wednesday is barbecue night with live music, a bonfire on the beach and ‘s’mores’ for the children. The Cliff House overlooks Winding Bay from a ridge at Ocean Point. It specializes in fresh, locally-caught seafood, including grouper and lobster. You can also book a chef to come and cook at your rental home’s kitchen.
The difference at this resort is that instead of a regular hotel, you’ll be renting a vacation property. You can opt for a one-bedroom Cabana (570 square feet, 53 square meters), two- three- or four-bedroom Cottage or an Estate Home. The Cabana sleeps two in a compact dwelling that features modern furniture, a screened-in porch, high ceilings and air conditioning. It’s a short walk to the beach through the lush tropical bush. The Cottages have an open-planned kitchen, chic furniture, bathroom with tub and dual vanities, and living room area.
The resort attracts deep-sea and salt-water fly-fishermen. A boat ride of about 15 minutes will get you to the edge of the reef and a deep drop-off that is good for targeting tuna, mahi, marlin, grouper and other trophy fish. Alternatively, salt-water fly-fishing on the flats is world-class, too. Darren Clarke landed a 38-pound permit, just short of the world record, near the club. Some water sports equipment is provided free for guests. Snorkel off the beach to Sugar Cay and try to spot a sea turtle or large tropical fish. And take out a paddleboard or Hobie Cat. The Sea of Abaco is sheltered by shoals and cays, making it a good area for sailing and boating as well. Scuba diving can also be organized to explore coral dive sites. The club’s concierge can help organize your adventures. Tennis courts are also available.
* Source: theabacoclub.com