Nov 7th, 2018
GolfPunk goes to the Bahamas!!
Words: Tim Southwell Photography: Tim Southwell
Roger Wolfe (Proprietor, YUMAX Communications)
"Hi Tim, how do you fancy coming to the Bahamas next week?"
Tim (pulling a blanket over his shivering knees like a grandad, and looking out the window at a bleak January English day)
Get your golf boots on skinneeeyyy, the plane for the Bahamas is about to start boarding and it's got your name on it. Woaahh, I'm going to Barba.. the Bahamas! Whooh whooh!… in the tropical Caribbean sun. Yeah yeah yeah!! And then you come home.
It feels quite weird sitting here writing about the Bahamas. Two days ago I was basking in the glorious Caribbean sunshine, playing golf and generally living in a dream world.
The only trouble is, as I sit here typing, I look out of my office window and it's chucking it down. It's biblical out there - has been for days - and yet the hosepipe ban is still in full effect. Ahhh…, Exuma island, you are far from me now. How I wish that the… COME ON MAN, PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER, FOR CHRIST'S SAKE.
Bahamas HILF – the 4th at Emerald Reef
Right, where was I? Greg Norman. That's the fella. When Greg Norman first visited Great Exuma in the Bahamas, he found a stretch of coastal land that was, in his opinion, crying out for a golf course. It even looked like a golf course, there just weren't any flags or greens.
As far as Norman was concerned, he wouldn't have to do very much at all. God had created the template, all Norman had to do was sprinkle some extra magic dust. "We first walked here in 1997," says Greg. "It was a pretty tough walk because of the coral beating up your feet and ankles pretty bad.
"My responsibility was to make all 18 holes signature holes. We were lucky because the developers allowed us to put the golf course on the water. Most developers want the houses on the water and the golf course on the interior."
And boy, did the magic dust fly. The result, the Sandals Emerald Reef Golf Club, is an absolute belter. The first nine holes are played mostly inland but, from the first tee to the 10th green you're playing over and around the glistening, turquoise Caribbean. As you come around the corner to the 11th tee you'd have to have had a soul bypass not to scream, "Jeeeeeeezzz. LOOK. AT. THAT."
"It's the little subtle touches that make this course unique," says Greg. "The green complexes and the movement and the contour off the fairways, that's what really sets this place off. I integrated what was there before into what the fairways are now so it's kind of a seamless flow."
The ocean holes are amazing but the real jewel in the crown is the fourth. Greg's personal favourite (see HILF video somewhere around here) and a piece of genius. Measuring a mere 297-yards from the tips, it is a reachable par-four for the Boom Boom dudes.
However, as you stand on the tee you are immediately aware that you can barely identify any fairway. The green looks miniscule. Any drive marginally left is in the lagoon and anything mildly right will be lucky to catch the imposing cliff flanking the fairway.
The challenge of the 4th is typical of Emerald Reef. Each hole is every bit as treacherous, as it is stunningly beautiful. Misplace any shot on this golf course and you are almost certainly reloading.
If it's not sailing off into the ocean, it's off down some cliff or other. You have expect to see a siren sat on the rocks trying to hawk you 10 lake balls for $5.
And yet, as you plot your way round the course thanking God for those range balls you pilfered just in case, you are constantly gasping and praising the golfing gods for the magnitude of good fortune they have bestowed upon you.
The back nine is probably the finest stretch of links golf I've ever played. Put simply – and apologies for the lack of journalistic dexterity – I chuffin' loved it and cannot wait to go back some day.
Related to this article:
Hotel: Sandals Resort. All inclusive couples resort. Lovely.
Design: Greg Norman.
What’s on the card: 7,001 yards, par 74
Killer hole: What are you kidding? Oh, alright then. The 1st, 4th, 8th, 11th, 13th, 15th.. oh, ALL OF THEM!
Members Bounce: Smash it straight onto the green on the 4th. Forget the consequences.
Nosh: The burgers and veggie burgers are to die for. And they bring them out on the course for you!
Check out our Emerald Reef HILF video: