During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Charlie Pasarell was well known to tennis fans as one of the best professional players in the world and he was particularly successful in men’s doubles competitions, participating in four Grand Slam Finals.
Charlie has long since ended his tennis career but now he, his brother Stanley, business partner Edwin Perez and architect David Pfaff – a former associate of Pete Dye – have created an 18-hole golf course in the northwest of Puerto Rico as part of a private residential development.
The course is situated within a 426-acre site that lies along the coast from the 19th century town of Isabela and it’s configured with two distinct 9-hole circuits. The front nine has been described as “equatorial parkland” in nature and it includes a rather unique hole that allows golfers to target two different greens.
Hole 6 is appropriately named “Fork in the Road” and golfers tee off to a landing area from where they then continue to play to the par four to the right or head left to the par five fairway that eventually leads to a three-tiered green in front of the clubhouse.
On the back nine, the drama’s ramped up significantly from the par four 12th onwards as five of the remaining greensites – including the double green at 12 and 14 – are set along the edge of the jagged cliffs that run along the coastline.
The following edited extract by David W. Pfaff is from Volume Six of Golf Architecture: A Worldwide Perspective. Reproduced with kind permission. To obtain a copy of the book, email Paul Daley at [email protected].
“We spent a couple of years wandering around the property identifying natural features, finding natural locations for tees, fairways and greens. Normally, that process takes a couple of months, and then I go to my drawing board to create construction plans. But, here we decided this would be a course that would be designed not on the drawing board, but out in the dirt where we could better take advantage of vistas, specimen trees and the enthralling features that nature offered.
The results achieved prove the value of these original decisions. Other than the MiniVerde Bermuda grass on the putting greens, everything on the course was either already in place or grown at the on-site nursery, started years before golf construction began. Native grasses, natural sand dunes, and craggy cliffs have been preserved and are integral to the design. Fewer than twenty trees had to be transplanted during construction and we have more than forty thousand nursery-grown trees available.
Royal Isabela is, in my estimation, one of the most dramatic golf courses to be built in recent years. We sculpted it delicately along the top of rugged cliffs that soar more than two hundred feet above the Atlantic. Given the incredible natural beauty and abundance of the land, we were able to create one golf hole after another, many breath taking, overlooking the shoreline’s magnificent meeting with the sea. The landscape incorporates nearly every geographical feature found on the island: from sandy beaches and dunes, to rugged ravines and rocky outcroppings.”