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|The par-5 finishing hole on the Championship Course at Trump International Golf Club in Puerto Rico. (Mike Bailey/TravelGolf)|
RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico -- One of the highlights of the Golf Channel Am Tour major championship schedule is February's stop at Trump International in Rio Grande, just outside of the capital city of San Juan. This is the same place where Michael Bradley won the PGA Tour's Puerto Rico Open last March in a playoff over Troy Matterson in what has become a well supported event.
The Golf Channel Am Tour's Puerto Rico Championship will be played Feb. 18-19 on all 36 holes at Trump International Golf Club -- the Championship and the International, both designed by Tom Kite.
Both courses are surrounded by mountains and the El Yunque Rainforest with plenty of ocean views, providing a true Caribbean tropical experience. The varied landscape gives players a nice selection of holes, some along the ocean, others through palm tree parkland and around lakes.
"I enjoy the golf course," Bradley said after he won last year. "It's tropical like Florida where I live. I like the greens. I like the layout."
Before the Trump Corporation got involved with the site a couple years ago, the courses were designed as four separate nine-hole layouts. The Palms, for example, is flat and built through a wetland area. The Mountain nine feature lots of elevation changes, and the Ocean and Lakes courses, as you might imagine, have plenty of water.
The Lakes and Oceans courses were combined to form the Championship Course, which can play as long as 7,600 yards. The Palms and Mountain courses became the International Course.
Right next to the golf courses, visitors will find the recently renovated Gran Melia Resort. It has 486 luxury casita suites, a variety of excellent dining options, indoor and outdoor lounges and plenty of meeting space. Most of the tour players stay at the resort during the Puerto Rico Open.
And you don't have to venture far from the resort to find all the culture that Puerto Rico has to offer. San Juan is just 15 miles away. There you can go merengue dancing, dine on traditional Puerto Rican dishes like mofongo (based on mashed plantain), or take in the classic architecture and crafts in Old San Juan. Of course, no trip to Puerto Rico, especially this time of year, would be complete without heading to the warm tropical waters and coastline. The island offers fishing, snorkeling, sailing and miles of white sandy beaches.
Puerto Rico is also the rum capital of the world, and players who get a little free time might want to venture over to the Bacardi rum factory in Cantano just outside of San Juan. You can get a couple of free drinks as part of the tour, or use it as a great opportunity to pick out that special rum for taking back to the Mainland -- or, better yet, to celebrate a major win on the Golf Channel Am Tour.
December 12, 2011
Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.
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