Top 50 Golf Courses of the Caribbean & Atlantic Islands 2020

19 February 2020 Respond to this article

Top 50 Golf Courses of the Caribbean & Atlantic Islands 2020

Welcome to the latest edition of our ranking chart for the Caribbean and Atlantic Islands. It’s a vast area of more than a million square miles, where most of the land mass lies to the southeast of the United States and northwest of South America.

Consisting of many hundreds of islands, cays and reefs that have all come under colonial rule by a variety of European countries down the centuries, the Caribbean and Atlantic Islands occupy a precarious geographical location which often suffers the devastating consequences of tropical hurricanes ripping through the region.

Indeed, we’ve temporarily lost Baker’s Bay at Great Guana Cay in the Abacos after it suffered serious damage when Hurricane Dorian swept through the Bahamas last September. Other places, like The Abaco Club in Great Abaco Island, are just re-opening after narrowly escaping the full wrath of the storm. Apes Hill in Barbados also drops out of the Caribbean Top 50 as it undergoes a major renovation under a new owner.

For the statistically minded, 11 courses stay in the same place, 17 move up the table, 19 drop down and three drop out, replaced by another three debutants. The top four courses retain the same rung on the ladder from when we last revised our Caribbean Top 50, so Pete Dye’s iconic Teeth of the Dog course at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic is still our #1 layout. Our International Correspondent David Davis reviewed the course recently and had this to say about it:

Casa de Campo - Teeth of the Dog

Casa de Campo - Teeth of the Dog

“If Dye is great at one thing it’s instilling terror in the hearts of amateur golfers and Teeth of the Dog is well known to be a tough but fair test… Dye often takes one side completely out of play and basically challenges the player not to go left or right... Teeth of the Dog has been famous ever since it was built and has always enjoyed a solid position in the World Top 100… It’s Pete Dye’s favorite of his designs and, having played all of his best-ranked courses, I would have to agree with that.”

Three courses climb six places in our new standings.

The Robert Trent Jones Junior-designed course at Bahia Beach Resort & Golf Club (up to #21) is a 2008 production that overlays the site of the former Bahia Beach Plantation course. Situated inside a large maritime forest on the northeast coast of Puerto Rico, with fairways working their way round eighty acres of saltwater lagoons, the course comes to a thrilling conclusion with the final three holes played out along the Atlantic coast.

Bahia Beach Resort & Golf Club

Bahia Beach

Casa de Campo has three 18-hole courses that are open to the public – Teeth of the Dog, Dye Fore and The Links – but it’s the Pete Dye-designed La Romana Country Club course that advances to #28 in our new listings. You’ll not find this layout listed on the resort’s website as it’s a private track where guest players must be accompanied by a member. Initially established with eighteen holes in 1990, the club has since added another nine.

The course at the Blue Bay Golf & Beach Resort near Sint Michiel in Curaçao (up to #41) is an early 1990s design that winds its way through an expansive 300-acre residential estate on the south side of the island. Dave Elliott of Caribbean Golf Getaways posted a course review a couple of months ago and this was his verdict on his playing experience:

Blue Bay Golf & Beach Resort

Blue Bay

“Located just northwest of downtown Willemstad the capital city, the course plays along the Caribbean Sea... Designed by William ‘Rocky’ Roquemore, he took advantage of the steep elevation to create challenging holes… The pace at the course is quick [so] you won’t be playing a 4 or 5-hour round [and] holes 4, 5, 17 and 18 offer incredible views as they run toward, along, or over the ocean.”

There are three new entries in our revised chart.

The first of these is the Royal Blue course at the Baha Mar resort in Nassau (new at #5) which debuted in 2017. The first Jack Nicklaus Signature course to open in the Bahamas, the Royal Blue layout partially occupies the site of the old Cable Beach Golf Club, with water and sandy waste areas coming into play at many of the holes on the outward half before the back nine then transitions into more elevated terrain.

Royal Blue course Baha Mar

Royal Blue - Baha Mar

Managed by experienced OB Sports staff, the course enjoys a "freeform" teeing policy, where tee markers are adjusted every day to create the right mix of shorter and longer holes, depending on a number of factors. The club also operates a "better than your own clubs" rental program, offering latest equipment from all the top brands, so there’s no need to worry about transporting your own sticks if you plan to tee it up here.

Our second new entry arrives at #31 and it’s the course at Iberostar Bávaro Golf Club in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, where P. B. Dye fashioned this resort track early in the new millennium, at a time when he was involved in several projects on the island. A fair amount of soil was shifted to create contouring on a rather flat landscape which now incorporates water features in the shape of lakes, streams and an attractive cascade.

Iberostar Bávaro Golf Club

Iberostar Bávaro

The third newcomer is the Palm course at Palmas Athletic Club (new at #34), a 36-hole facility located within the Palmas del Mar resort in the southeast corner of Puerto Rico. Originally laid out by Gary Player and Ron Kirby in the early 1970s, the Palm course was subsequently remodelled by Rees Jones when he created the Flamboyán course for the club in the late 1990s.

Palmas Athletic Club

Palmas Athletic Club

For those of a certain age who can remember the Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf television series, one of the matches recorded during the 1995 season was played on the Palm course between local hero Chi Chi Rodriguez and Texan-born Lee Trevino.

Looking to the future, the two Tom Fazio ongoing projects at Christophe Harbour in St Kitts and Williams Cay in the Bahamas seem to be progressing at glacial pace, and the same can be said of Tom Doak’s Tropicalia course at Miches in the Dominican Republic. Instead, the next layout to make a chart impact might well be the much-anticipated Coore & Crenshaw course at Cabot Point in St. Lucia (mooted to open in 2021), where Ben Cowan-Dewar is extending his Canadian Cabot golf model into the tropics.

Cabot Point St Lucia

Cabot Point St Lucia

Rank/ Course Country Move
1 Casa de Campo (Teeth of the Dog) Dominican Rep No change
2 Mid Ocean Bermuda No change
3 Punta Espada Dominican Rep No change
4 Punta Cana (Corales) Dominican Rep No change
5 Royal Blue - Baha Mar Bahamas New entry
6 Abaco Club Bahamas Down 1
7 Royal Westmoreland Barbados No change
8 Playa Grande Dominican Rep Up 2
9 Tryall Jamaica No change
10 TPC Dorado Beach (East) Puerto Rico Down 2
11 Sandy Lane (Green Monkey) Barbados Up 3
12 Albany Bahamas Up 1
13 Royal Isabela Puerto Rico Down 1
14 White Witch Jamaica Up 2
15 Sandy Lane (Country Club) Barbados Up 2
16 Lyford Cay Bahamas Down 1
17 Casa de Campo (Dye Fore) Dominican Rep Up 1
18 Port Royal Bermuda Up 3
19 Ocean Club Bahamas Up 1
20 CuisinArt Anguilla Up 2
21 Bahia Beach Puerto Rico Up 6
22 Canouan Estate St Vincent & G Down 3
23 Coco Beach (Championship) Puerto Rico Up 1
24 Palmas Athletic Club (Flamboyan) Puerto Rico Down 1
25 Royal St Kitts St Kitts & Nevis Up 3
26 Punta Cana (La Cana) Dominican Rep No change
27 Cinnamon Hill Jamaica Down 2
28 Casa de Campo (La Romana) Dominican Rep Up 6
29 Four Seasons Nevis St Kitts & Nevis Up 3
30 Tucker's Point Bermuda No change
31 Iberostar Bávaro Dominican Rep New entry
32 Tierra del Sol Aruba Down 1
33 Coco Beach (International) Puerto Rico Down 4
34 Palmas Athletic Club (Palm) Puerto Rico New entry
35 Emerald Bay Bahamas Down 2
36 La Estancia Dominican Rep Down 1
37 Mahogany Run US Virgin Islands Down 1
38 Half Moon Jamaica Up 1
39 Old Quarry Curaçao Down 2
40 Casa de Campo (Links) Dominican Rep Down 2
41 Blue Bay Curaçao Up 6
42 El Conquistador Puerto Rico No change
43 Tobago Plantations Trinidan & Tob No change
44 Hard Rock at Cana Bay Dominican Rep Down 4
45 North Sound Cayman Islands Down 1
46 Belmont Hills Bermuda Down 5
47 Carambola US Virgin Islands Up 2
48 Cedar Valley Antigua No change
49 Provo Turks & Caicos Down 4
50 TPC Dorado Beach (Sugarcane) Puerto Rico Down 4

To view the complete detailed list of the Top 50 Golf Courses of the Caribbean and Atlantic Islands click the link.

Jim McCann
Top 100 Golf Courses