The Old Quarry Golf Course at the Santa Barbara Plantation lies close to Mount Tafelberg, a craggy slab of limestone where they still mine marble in the southeast corner of Curaçao. It’s an integral part of a resort development that Jack Marshall of the VIDA Group is delivering to owner Christopher Smeets of SFT Investments Limited.
When Pete Dye constructed Teeth of the Dog forty years previously, he faced challenges with a local workforce that knew nothing about constructing a golf course. Over time, the workers learned what needed to be done from a couple of experienced shapers and it was a similar story here in Curaçao where locals were trained, for instance, to mix their own topsoil in order to supplement the existing arid, rocky landscape.
And because water is such a scarce commodity, a state of the art irrigation system was installed to use effluent from an on-site treatment plant, mixed with salt water and fresh water from a reverse osmosis system, to irrigate the paspalum grasses on the course.
The round at Old Quarry begins alongside the Caribbean Sea where the opening three holes play along the coast to the south of the property before the course turns northwards for a couple of holes.The fairways between the short par four 6th and the 396-yard 9th sit next to the Seru Boca Marina in Spanish Water but this, unfortunately, is where the nautical proximity of the layout ends as the back nine is routed inland, around a couple of housing developments.
The Old Quarry Golf Course is routed from the waves of the Caribbean sea to the mangroves of Spanish Water and then inland through thorny bushes and cacti. While the views and terrain change, the course keeps its character with wide gently rolling fairways, little or no rough (although shots going too wide are almost always lost in water or prickly desert) and raised greens where shots off target will find deep trouble if you miss on the wrong side. Each hole is separate from the last, one of the few times you may see other golfers is when you share cart part going in different directions between holes (keep right when you meet someone!). Since I was basically alone on the course this was not a common occurrence.
The first two holes (par 4 and 5) have the turquoise sea on the right, thankfully the wind direction is mostly from the sea and into and there's plenty of space to the left to keep out of trouble. A good start, although the third par 3 is bit bland it quickly picks up again with two great par 4s where you have the Tafelberg in the background. The 4th is shorter with some large cacti sitting in between the rough on the left and the fairway to the right, with the green placed on the left side surrounded by deep grass bunkers. The 5th is the longest par 4 at 464 yards from the back tee, thankfully downwind most of the time, and if you're long enough there is a down-slope at 220+ that will help you along further. Holes 6 through 8 are along the Spanish Water bay, the best hole is #7, short par 3 at only 131 yards downwind, but surrounded by bunkers and mangroves on three sides you need to keep your tee shot on the slick undulating green to have any chance of par.
The tee shot on 9 moves inland straight into backdrop of the Tafelberg which gives a stunning view of your golf ball flying in the foreground and the bare rock in the background. The green is set into a hill-side with a steep drop-off both left and long, but once you do find the putting surface its rather benign. 10th, par 4, is another good hole, which rewards you with a good unobstructed line into the angled green the further left (and closer to the mangroves) you keep your drive. If you go too far right from the tee you need to hit over the bunkers short into the shallow green that drops off steep both long and right. From here on in it's all arid and dry, but to me these holes are as good as the first nine. #12 is best, long par five meandering along the bottom of Tafelberg, where a slight dogleg left allows you to cut some of the corner if you're long and brave enough to drive over the huge chunk of rock that lies just left of the fairway. The best three hole stretch is fittingly 16-18, first with a medium length downhill par 3 where the green again is tucked into the hillside, left and long is no no, then you will not see the green surface, and likely not the flag either. 17th is a reachable par 5 where you can choose to go left or right on the fairway split by a stretch of desert, and where the slope in the two tiered can act as a back-stop. Last hole is a downhill, downwind, par 4 with the Spanish Bay in the background, beautiful finisher to a good track.
The course conditions in mid March were excellent on all greens and majority of the fairways, but some tees and part of some fairways had areas either under repair, or generously dressed with sand, I assume after the high season of the previous three months. This did not detract from the experience in any meaningful way. Value was quite reasonable, costing about 180€ with rental clubs and golf cart.