Dream Destination: Play links golf in The Bahamas at The Abaco Club
The pot bunkers were all neatly raked. The sloping fairways immaculately groomed. The roly-poly greens were set to run at 10 on the Stimpmeter – as fast as anyone would ever want them. And the wind was up – gusting to 40 knots.
At first glance, it may have looked to Golf Channel viewers around the world like the 2017 Scottish Open was being contested but for a few things. The January date, for one. The warm sunshine, for another.
And then there were the palm trees... But no, this wasn't the Scottish Open – it was the inaugural Bahamas Great Abaco Classic, a new Web.com Tour event, which played out in thrilling fashion on the Scottish-style "tropical links" course at The Abaco Club on Winding Bay.
Over 150 of the game's top players teed it up here, all looking to enhance their resumes and move them one step closer to playing on the PGA Tour. But first, they'd have to tackle the Donald Steel-Tom Mackenzie- designed course at The Abaco Club.
The week began with a festive players' party on the beach in which the players hit from the strand toward a rowboat (actually the club's floating bar), which had been stationed 85 yards offshore in the pristine, aquamarine waters of Winding Bay.
Later there would be a barbecue featuring southern-style ribs, live music, and a Junkanoo performance by a troupe of Bahamian locals.
[[Note: people in The Bahamas know how to party, and if you're not on their level when you arrive, you will be by the time you leave.]]
Strong winds were evident throughout the first three days (with a brief tropical rainy spell thrown in for good measure) – so the 7,011-yard course gave the players all they could handle.
Only a few broke par on Day 1, but by the time the final round kicked off, several players were double-digits under-par and the wind had abated. The course could be had by these sharpshooters then – and it was.
One player who proved that he knows a thing or two about scoring in such conditions was Jimmy Gunn, the 36-year- old journeyman pro from Dingwall, Scotland who finished second at 13-under.
"It was designed by a Scotsman, so I could see the similarities to links courses in Scotland," he said. "I loved the links-style bunkering and the links feel of the course. "It's a great test of golf in a beautiful setting by the ocean."
Gunn's massive drives made mincemeat out of The Abaco Club's dog-leg holes and par 5s, and it took a feat of magic to beat him. That magic was provided by Andrew Landry.
Remember him? The young Texan came into the 2016 US Open ranked 624th in the world, but on the final day teed off in the last pairing with Shane Lowry.
Neither player prevailed that Sunday at Oakmont, but Landry's stretch run at The Abaco Club was the stuff of legend. He proceeded to go seven-under for his last 11 holes (including two eagles) and outshot Gunn by three. Naturally, Landry had nice things to say about the course, too.
"The Abaco Club is a great mixture of holes from short to long," he said. "Precision is key on the approach shots, and you have to put yourself on the right shelf. It's a straight beauty of a course."
Whether Landry will be back to defend his title next year remains to be seen. He's hoping he'll earn his way onto the PGA Tour in 2018. But if he does come back, it won't just be the course he looks forward to.
"It's a fantastic place to come with family or friends to enjoy golf, and there were plenty of activities on one of the greatest secluded beaches I've ever seen. "I'd like to have a home here."
Fifth-place finisher Jack Maguire echoed Landry's sentiments: "The whole Abaco Club is awesome," Maguire said.
"From the great layout to the condition of the course, it's as good as it gets in the Caribbean. I could have used an extra week there to get everything done off the course that I wanted to, but we got to do a lot of snorkelling, paddle boarding, kayaking, spear fishing, and off-shore fishing. It was very cool..."
If you're looking for a golf destination that offers a bit of Scottish flavour, along with the very best of everything tropical, you'd do well to visit The Abaco Club, too.
With a course like this, a beach like this, plus the freshest seafood on the planet and tropical drinks galore, you'll feel right at home. Even if you don't hail from The Bahamas.
Want to find out more?
t: (242) 367 0077 e: info@TheAbacoClub.com w: theabacoclub.com
HOW TO PLAY ABACO
You can stay at this private club up to three times as a visitor. After that, International Membership has a join fee of $10,000. All members get 20% off accommodation and reciprocal privileges at Southworth properties including Mach Dunes. Fly to Marsh Harbour (MHH) via Atlanta, Miami, Orlando and many more