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The Ocean Club golf course on Paradise Island in the Bahamas is a Phoenix rising

Dale LeathermanBy Dale Leatherman,
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A redesign by Tom Weiskopf in 2000 transformed the Ocean Club golf course into an entirely new track. (Courtesy of Ocean Club, Bahamas)

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas -- History on Paradise Island, a sliver of very precious land a bridge away from Nassau, can be measured in pre-Sol and post-Sol. Sol Kerzner, that is, the incredibly imaginative and canny South African developer whose Sun International Hotels is an international leader in family entertainment and gaming destinations.

Kerzner took the island by storm in 1994, scooping up several major hotel properties owned by Merv Griffin. In less than a year, he opened the doors on Atlantis, a spectacular 1,136-room resort with a 14-acre waterscape park.

Four years and $650 million later, the soaring Royal Towers more than doubled Atlantis' guest capacity.

The world's largest outdoor open-water aquarium became even bigger -- 11 million gallons, 100,000 species. New attractions were added - The Dig, an interactive underground replica of an archeological site with windows onto the underwater world of the lagoon; and a huge likeness of a Mayan Temple with five-story waterslides into a shark lagoon.

It is a fantasy land - pricey, but who can put a price on feeling like a kid again -- or acting like a kid with your own children? It's not all about kids, either. There are 38 restaurants, an impressive spa, a huge casino, a world-class marina, and more.

While Atlantis was being built, a much quieter project was underway at another Kerzner acquisition, the Ocean Club, the 1960s private enclave of Huntington Hartford II, heir to the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company fortune. It was Hartford who convinced the government to give Hog Island a new name -- Paradise Island.

Hartford built the Ocean Club, a luxurious 52-room hotel and four two-bedroom cottages, and commissioned architect Dick Wilson to create an 18-hole course for the pleasure of his guests. In the 1960s the Ocean Club was the place to be seen with the likes of William Randolph Hearst, Burl Ives, Benny Goodman and a host of earls, dukes and ambassadors. When Hartford's fortune and interest waned, the club passed into other hands.

I visited the Ocean Club in 1994 when the Kerzner purchase was being finalized. Hartford's idyllic playground was down-at-the-heels, tended by a dispirited and careless staff. But the place charmed me nevertheless. The two-story hotel encloses the Courtyard Restaurant, a romantic dinner setting complete with candlelight, fountain, reflecting pool and overhanging palms.

I fell in love with the swimming pool, set in gardens designed to resemble Versailles. Stone steps climb a quarter-mile from the pool through seven grassy terraces with fountains and statuary imported from Europe. At the very top of the steps lies a twelfth-century Augustinian cloister, purchased in France by William Randolph Hearst and shipped piece-by-piece to Florida, where it was bought by Hartford.

Six years later, approaching the hotel in a limo from the airport (standard treatment for Ocean Club guests), I worried that the place would have lost its charm. No need. The $107.5 million spent to restore and expand the hotel was well spent, and the staff members are attentive and understandably ebullient about their jobs. At 107 rooms and suites, the hotel is still small enough to be cozy and exclusive (Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan are among the frequent guests). And it has world-class amenities such as a full-service spa and a chic beachfront restaurant, as well as the historic Courtyard Restaurant. Two miles of beautiful beach front the resort.

The Ocean Club golf course, a classic Dick Wilson design, was also in poor shape when I saw it back in 1994, and the constant traffic of small planes into an adjoining airstrip was distracting. It was a pretty track, with occasional views of the ocean, and fairways lined with thick tropical vegetation.

A redesign by Tom Weiskopf in 2000 has transformed the course into an entirely new track (which encompassed the old airstrip). Much of the foliage that blocked the ocean views was removed to make way for seaside tees and greens, as well as 121 luxury homesites (all sold in a month) along the Atlantic Ocean and Nassau Harbor. Ernie Els is the Ocean Club's touring pro, and Michael Jordan stages his annual Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational here.

The wind gives notice on the first hole and can cause you to overshoot on this downwind, moderate par four. Then it's in your face on the long par five second hole, and water enters the picture in the form of wetlands along the right side, leading to a small green backed by the ocean. The third hole, a 176-yard par three to an elevated green, is also into the wind, which makes the large bunkers surrounding the green particularly menacing. Four, a long demanding par four that is ranked most difficult for men, also battles the wind, with a thread-the-needle second shot to a green protected by ocean two sides and sand on the other.

As this opening quartet foretells, wind and water turn out to be the prevailing threats on this 7,123-yard par 72 layout, and there's plenty of sand, to boot. With the seaside foliage removed, there is nothing to protect the course from gusty breezes off the ocean which play havoc with club selection and shot placement.

Lagoons large and small come into play on many holes. One of the prettiest of these is the 208-yard twelfth hole, "Spyglass." Shots must carry across an inlet to a forward sloping, well bunkered green.

Hole 17, "Pintail Crossing" is ranked the second hardest hole on the course for men, but that depends entirely on the wind. On a good day, the green is drivable. What makes it special is that a beautiful beach borders its entire length.

The Ocean Club golf course provides a good, fair test of Caribbean golf - dealing with wind that can change from moment to moment. The setting is somewhat marred by house construction along its perimeter, but it will only get better with time. Play it now, while it's still open to Atlantis guests. A time will probably come only members and Ocean Club guests will have playing privileges on what is one of the finest golf courses in the Bahamas.

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Dale Leatherman is a full-time freelance travel writer specializing in golf and adventure travel. For nearly 20 years her "beat" has been the Caribbean, where she can combine golf, scuba diving and other sports. She has also written about golf in Wales, Scotland, Australia, Costa Rica, Canada and the U.S., particularly the Mid-Atlantic region.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

 
Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Paradise Island Golf Review

    Karl wrote on: Jun 2, 2011

    Extremely disappointed with Paradise Island Golf !
    I am a long time owner at The Beach Club (next door to the Golf Course).
    Before the course was re-designed, I played at least once on every trip to Paradise Island. After the re-design I stayed away (the course looked like a moonscape).
    Now June '11 and despite the high $$$ greens fees and golf club rentals I made a reservation. I walked the 5 minutes from my Club and was stopped at the gate and told I could not walk in....I was only allowed to enter by shuttle or cab.!
    I pointed out I lived next door but they "Have a Policy" and arguing proved pointless.
    It was a step too far for me.....I will play 4 times in NY for the same money.

    Reply

      • RE: Paradise Island Golf Review

        Justin Griggs wrote on: Dec 7, 2011

        I am leaving to come down on vacation this week till next week. What are the prices for golf?

        Reply

  • looking for someone

    Mack wrote on: Nov 17, 2010

    I'm looking for my dad who lives on Ocean Club Golf course, his name is Robert (Bob) Martyn. Does anyone know how to find him for me?
    Does anyone know the exact address of the gold club, not the PO Box??
    Thanks,
    MM

    Reply

  • Ocean Club

    Bobby wrote on: Aug 11, 2010

    Thank You, Tanya. I had an awsome time playing golf @ the Ocean Club. It was the most beautiful course I have ever played and I live near Myrtle Beach! The course, facility, and the staff were 5++ Stars. Every view was post card beautiful. I spent as much time taking pictures as I did playing golf. This is an absolute must play when going to the Bahamas. I would absolutly play this course again and maybe I'll score better. LOL

    Reply

      • RE: Ocean Club

        Kevin wrote on: Sep 13, 2010

        Hello,
        We are thinking about going golfing when staying at Atlantis. Do you know the Dress Code for the course?
        Thanks,
        Kevin

        Reply

      • RE: Ocean Club

        Tami wrote on: Sep 13, 2010

        Hi Bobby!! How were you able to secure a tee time if you arrived on a cruise ship. I am cruising there in Dec and would love to golf at Ocean Club. Any help you could provide would be very much appreciated.

        Reply

  • Tee Times @ One and Only Club

    Bobby wrote on: Jun 2, 2010

    I'm cruising to the Bahamas in Aug. 2010 and looking to play the Ocean Club. The only reason I agreed to go on a cruise is that I could play a round. I live near Myrtle Beach and would rather stay home and play, but if I'm forced to get on a cruise I want to make sure I can play a 4 star course on the ocean. I would appreciate any help.

    Reply

      • RE: Tee Times @ One and Only Club

        Tanya M Bell wrote on: Jun 17, 2010

        Bobby, My husband, Tom, and I sailed on the Norwegian Sky, May 3-7, out of Miami. The cruise was a birthday gift for Tom and I booked tee times at two of the three ports a month prior to our sailing. We docked in Nassau on Wednesday, May 5th. I booked a 10:00 tee time at the Ocean Club Golf Course. We were quoted $260 for 18 holes and an additional $80 as a ride along (for me). When we docked in Nassau, we shared a taxi with our cruise passengers and were dropped off last. When we arrived at the Pro Shop, we were just charge a total of $210 for the both of us!! The course is fabulous, the weather was spectacular, I highly recommend it. I hope you're able to golf there. You can contact me at 719.248.3227 or email me if you have any other questions. Take care... TMB

        Reply

          • RE: RE: Tee Times @ One and Only Club

            Tami wrote on: Sep 1, 2010

            Tanya....did you book the tee times through the cruise lines or directly? We are cruising into Nassau in December and I was wondering if we would be able to play this course.
            Thanks in advance for any info!

            Reply

          • RE: RE: Tee Times @ One and Only Club

            Bobby wrote on: Jun 21, 2010

            Thank you for your help, I will be contacting you for more information. If you are ever in the Myrtle Beach area I can help you with tee times and ect. Again, Thank you.

            Reply

          • RE: RE: Tee Times @ One and Only Club

            KS wrote on: Jun 17, 2010

            Just played the OC course on Tuesday (6/15) with my son ... came as part of my Atlantis "Experience Pass" and we only had to pay for club rental - $70 each. Beautiful course and the water views of torquise clear water are unbelievable. Course played slow due to the heat, but fairways and greens were of the highest quality! My 11 year old son birdied #3 ... what a treat! Enjoy it and try to guess which manion is Oprah's!

            Reply

  • rates

    angie wrote on: Dec 1, 2009

    I am looking for the lowest price on green fees,cart, and club rental for 2 on Dec. 11, 2009.

    Reply

  • Private???

    Randy wrote on: Sep 15, 2009

    I will be Staying on Paridise Island in October and was wondering if this course is open to the public

    Reply

      • RE: Private???

        austin wrote on: Oct 25, 2009

        The ocean club is a private place to stay but you can play at the golf course mat $300 dollars. I have played there 4 times, my mothers boss has a house on the course and is a member so i played for nothing but ill tell you this IT IS WORTH THE $300!!!! if you get the chance go to the otherside of the island and play greg normans golf course its insanely AWESOME!!!!!!! beautiful hope this helps

        Reply

  • Ocean Club

    Dave Coey wrote on: Mar 3, 2008

    I played Ocean Club Feb. 25. One of my favorite golf courses ever. Stunning views from several holes. Great variety of terrain and hole design. Fantastic course conditions. Wain shower on #1 (what a way to start!) but it cleared off by #2 tee box and we had gorgeous weather from there on in. A fun track to play if you can forget about - or don't care about - the $260.

    Reply

      • RE: Ocean Club

        zak wrote on: Apr 11, 2009

        How much does it cost to play 18 holes at the ocean club?

        Reply

          • RE: RE: Ocean Club

            Percival Van Snerd IV wrote on: Apr 29, 2009

            ...it's like they said when I was looking at yachts...If you have to ASK...you can't afford it!! HA HA!

            Reply

      • RE: Ocean Club

        Bob Akalski wrote on: Jan 23, 2009

        Have a Tee Time for next Thursday. I'm looking forward ti it but I play to an 18! Hope this isn't too difficult.

        Reply

      • RE: Ocean Club

        Alby wrote on: May 19, 2008

        I played the Ocean Club in August '07 and the course is beautiful. Although very expensive. I opted for the After-4:00p $100 price.

        Reply

  • Rating or Slope

    Harry Bargen wrote on: Feb 7, 2008

    Feb 07, 2008
    I played the Ocean Club twice last week. Agree it is a great course. Did I get my money's worth, well maybe. I am trying to enter my scores for handicap purposes but I can not find the slope or rating for this golf course. Help,
    Harry Bargen Penticton BC
    realbargen@shaw.ca

    Reply

      • tee times

        monte wrote on: Jul 21, 2009

        How do you book tee time?

        Reply

      • RE: Rating or Slope

        Mike Mattox wrote on: Feb 15, 2008

        Just got done playing there earlier this week myself, extremely windy conditions but a wondeful track.
        Here you go:
        Black- 75.6 / 140
        Gold- 72.9 / 137
        Blue- 71.0 / 131
        White- 67.8 / 121
        Red- 69.2 / 118
        Hope that helps.

        Reply

          • RE: RE: Rating or Slope

            Harry Bargen wrote on: Jul 21, 2008

            Thanks Mike
            Harry B.

            Reply

              • RE: RE: RE: Rating or Slope

                john wrote on: Sep 1, 2008

                i just got a new shaft and i love to grip it. The ball washer actually comes with your cart!! thanks chad

                Reply

                  • Review

                    Tom Nyandoro wrote on: May 30, 2010

                    Ocean Club is an exclusive course and I had the pleasure of playing with guys like Micheal Jordan, Chris Tucker etc.
                    I played twice last week at BGF rates of $55 after 3pm. great deal and great views of the homes and expensive yatchs.
                    Tom Nyandoro in Paradise May 2010.

                    Reply

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