I get to play a lot of really good to great golf courses as part of this job, but every once in a while, I come across something that's simply marvelous. Such was the case last week when I visited the Golf Links at Royal Isabela on the northwest coast of Puerto Rico.
It was special on a number of fronts, not the least of which was the golf course, designed by brothers Stanley and Charlie Pasarell with architect David Pfaff. The course sits high upon the bluffs of a rugged coastline, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Laid out among the natural contours of the land, there are parts of the course that naturally draw comparisons to Cypress Point, Pebble Beach and the great courses of Scotland and Ireland.
More than that, though, my hosts were as interesting as the golf course. Stanley, who along with his brother carved out a pretty nice professional tennis career, has been widely successful in other businesses as well. They learned the game from their father, Charlie Sr., also an accomplished tennis player and businessman, and they are two of Puerto Rico's favorite sons. The head pro, Miguel Suarez, is a pretty good guy, too. He's largely responsible for building up junior golf in Puerto Rico, holds all the course records at the difficult Royal Isabela, and he competed in this year's Puerto Rico Open on the PGA Tour.
I got to know Stanley a bit in my two days at the soon-to-be open resort, and couldn't have been more impressed. A former standout on the Stanford tennis team for legendary coach Dick Gould in the late 1960s, Stanley has a way of forging and maintaining friendships and business relationships. He was even once roommates with Tommy Lee Jones at St. Mark's School of Texas, and would like to invite the actor to visit Royal Isabela later this year. And, by the way, Stanley's a pretty good golfer, too, holding a low single-digit handicap.
The golf course and development, which will include casitas, a spa and a restaurant as well as homesites and eventually more golf, has been decades in the making, and will undoubtedly go down as one of the best course developments in the Caribbean, if not the world. You can read my review of the course on GolfChannel.com here.
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