By Ryan Asselta
Waist deep in the Atlantic Ocean, I gazed at the sight of the setting sun disappearing into the sea. The colors—pink, orange, turquoise—are stunning. That’s when it hits me—it truly is better in the Bahamas.
The saying has been used in advertising campaigns by the chain of Caribbean islands for decades, but following the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian last fall, there’s been a bit of a misconception.
Yes, the archipelago made up of 700 islands and cays suffered severe damage from the Category 5 storm. It was the worst natural disaster in the country’s history, but the destruction was mainly isolated to the outer islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama. The majority of the islands were virtually untouched, and when it comes to finding golf in paradise, the Bahamas is certainly open for business.
Millions of dollars have been raised to help rebuild the outer islands. Tiger Woods, who hosts his annual Hero World Challenge at Albany on the island of Nassau, teamed up with Justin Timberlake and the NEXUS Luxury Collection to create the ONE Bahamas Fund with proceeds directly helping people in Freeport and on Abaco. In fact, Grand Bahama reopened its international airport in November and is welcoming cruise ships back to the island.
Ask anyone on the islands how people can help, the answer is simple: Come visit the Bahamas. Enjoy the beaches, the golf courses, and the restaurants, and let everyone know the islands are open and ready for the tourism activity that locals and visitors alike have come to expect.
The Bahamas is mainly known for its glistening white-sand beaches, stunning resorts, and bustling night life, but the golf on the islands is world class and plentiful.
The realization of just how special the islands are came to me while soaking in the warm water following a round at Sandals Emerald Bay, on the island of Exuma.
A group of us took a day trip from Nassau to Exuma to experience the Greg Norman layout on the outer island. The course plays host to a Korn Ferry Tour event each year and weaves its way through forest, mangroves, and lakes until you get to the 11th hole. In fact, holes 11 through 16 play directly along the translucent teal ocean in one of the most magical golf settings I’ve ever played in.
Along with Emerald Bay, the Bahamas offers challenging yet extremely enjoyable golf options on the capital island of Nassau.
Set directly next-door to the newly opened Baha Mar resort is Royal Blue Golf Club. The Jack Nicklaus Signature course carves around and through limestone quarries providing players with a glimpse of what it might be like to play golf on another planet. Royal Blue’s signature hole is No. 16, a 165-yard downhill par three with Lake Cunningham protecting three quarters of the green. Fun, yet extremely challenging would be the best way to describe the course that opened for play in 2017.
Speaking of fun, a trek to Paradise Island and Ocean Club is well worth the 15-minute cab ride. Ocean Club opened back in 1962 and was redesigned by Tom Weiskopf in 2000. The course has played host to numerous tournaments including the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic and the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational. With multiple holes set along the crashing waves of the Atlantic and Nassau Harbor, Ocean Club does a wonderful job of producing everything vacation golf should be—an enjoyable, playable golf course in a memorable setting.
As good as the golf is in the Bahamas, what truly makes the nation so special, and what will certainly motivate me to return, are the people. People like Romeo, our taxi driver who told stories of appearing in the movie Jaws, and Kyle Jones, our barista at Bon Vivants whose passion for crafting cocktails was infectious. The locals exude genuine warmth and are happy to play a small part in not only welcoming you to their home, but also creating an authentic experience.
Floating in the warm waters of Emerald Bay, that is the feeling that overcame me. The beach is beautiful, the golf spectacular, the culture rich, but it’s the people who are “Better in the Bahamas.”
Pay them a visit—you won’t be disappointed.