Montego Bay’s World Class Golf

Photo by M. Timothy O'Keefe

Four spectacular public seaside courses in Jamaica

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If ever a city was designed for visiting golfers, it is Jamaica’s Montego Bay with its four world class golf courses located in and around the resort city. On a family vacation, by all means consider taking  everyone. The White Witch allows children under 12 to play at special hours for cut-rate fees as long as a parent is present.

Dress code for all area public golf courses requires a collared shirt and shorts or slacks made of anything but denim. No t-shirts of any kind permitted. Soft spikes only, and rental clubs are available. Caddies are not included in the greens fees but are to be tipped according to club policy. Some courses require tee time bookings 24 hours in advance. Look for special promotions at Rose Hall Golf for the White Witch, Cinnamon Hill and Half Moon golf courses.

White Witch of Rose Hall Golf Course

Located just 4 miles northeast of Mobay, the White Witch 18-hole championship course is Jamaica’s newest, built in 2000 and designed by Robert von Hagge and Rick Bari. The 6,758-yard, Par 71 course covers 200 acres of the massive 4,000-acre Rose Hall Estate. The course is named after legendary Rose Hall Great House mistress Annie Palmer, who murdered her husband to inherit the estate and then turned to killing her slaves. Her ghost is said to still haunt the Great House. Feel free to blame her for a bad game.

The course is known for the elevated first tee with a spectacular panorama of the Caribbean (just 1 of 16 holes that view the sea). The  hilly terrain is difficult, which makes the White Witch caddie concierge service particularly valuable. Every foursome is paired with two professional caddies who can offer tips on how best to play the course as well as give instructional tips. The caddie concierge service helps explain the White Witch’s higher than average green fees. Players wanting to improve their game can book basic instruction, full-day lessons or enroll in the Half Moon golf camp.

Cinnamon Hill Golf Course

Also part of the giant Rose Hall Estate, the 400-acre Cinnamon Hill was built in 1969 and redesigned in 2001 by Robert von Hagge and Rick Bari. Renovation work of the 18-hole course included extensive re-routing and replanting, which created an entirely new landscape with greater challenges. Considered one of the world’s finest, Cinnamon Hill is both a mountain and seaside course.

Depending on which of the three starting tees played, the options range from 5,162 yards to 6,828 yards, all par 72. Cinnamon Hill begins with an open, windswept front nine where the wind may play either for or against you. Moving to lower elevation, the grounds hug the coast where ocean breezes are common. The course closes higher with tight fairways and strategically placed bunkers. The main  highlight comes at the 17th hole where you have a high vantage point 350 feet above sea level. The caddies are known for their professional expertise; do not be reluctant to ask for their advice and pointers.

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Half Moon Golf Course

Although the Half Moon lacks the dramatic scenery of other area courses, it always has been and still is considered one of the Caribbean’s best. The 7,141- yard par 72 course is known for its rolling  greens and a “figure 8” layout that allows the wind to impact play from two different directions. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., Half Moon was modernized by Roger Rulewich who maintained  its classic undulating qualities.

Players wanting less than the full 7,141-yard championship course are able to shorten the distance by choosing from several sets of differently placed tees. Other facilities include grass practice bays, bunker chipping green and putting and chipping greens. Full caddie service available, with the club’s golf academy offering an impressive range of instruction from small groups to individual coaching for those playing 9 or 18 holes. Half Moon is close to both the White Witch and Cinnamon Bay courses.

Tryall Club Golf Course

Tryall is the only golf course situated to the west of Montego Bay, a short dozen miles from Mobay’s international airport. The 18-hole, 6836-yard par-71 Tryall is a true championship green, having hosted the Johnnie Walker World and the Mazda Championships. The layout of the 200-acre Ralph Plummer designed Tryall is especially demanding due to the constantly changing trade winds.  The course starts out by descending to the sea and then rises up to 180 feet on the final eight holes.

Several hazards are noteworthy. On the tricky 4th hole, golfers have to clear the Flint River located short of the green while also avoiding the Caribbean on their left. The historic 7th hole is an uphill dogleg where the ball must go through the stone pillars of an old plantation aqueduct. At Tryall, caddies are mandatory and well qualified to offer tips and opinions about playing each hole. Individual instruction and practice greens are on hand.

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