Barefoot luxury in The Bahamas: The Abaco Club extends a warm, sunny welcome
There are times in every British golfer's life when he or she just has to follow the sun. Or more accurately, seek it out. For many sun-deprived sojourners, that means a budget flight to Spain or Portugal or Turkey, where the goal is to squeeze in as many rounds as possible before grudgingly returning to damp and dreary Britannia.
Other sun-seekers may decide that the solution lies farther a eld – leading them to explore the warm-weather golf options in Florida or the Caribbean. The problem with that course of action is that millions of other people have the same idea. And while the masses of humanity who annually flock to that region with golf clubs in tow may not quite rival those that descend upon Disney World, the Sunshine State's resort courses can often resemble factories whose chief product is sunburned golfers.
Fortunately, there's a destination where the sun almost never stops shining, the golf is spectacular, and you'll probably see more parrots than people: The Abaco Club on Winding Bay. The Abaco Club, located on Great Abaco Island in The Bahamas, isn't a resort. It's a private sporting club to which celebrities and captains of industry from around the world travel to get away from it all. Darren Clarke has a home here, and comes for weeks at a time whenever his schedule permits.
The all world 'Home' hole
But even though it's an exclusive private club, you can visit as a guest and enjoy the same top-drawer amenities and service that Darren does. Abaco is one of the larger islands in The Bahamas archipelago – and one of the most unspoiled.
If the word Bahamas conjures visions in your mind of bustling Nassau with its casino mega-resorts or Freeport and its all-inclusive hotel chains, picture the exact opposite and you'll have something like Abaco. It's less than an hour's flight from Nassau or Florida's east coast, but when you set foot on this pristine bit of beachfront paradise, you'll feel like you're a million miles away. Nestled on the sandy shore of Winding Bay, a peaceful and protected inlet teeming with sea turtles, rays and tropical fish, The Abaco Club is part playground and part nature preserve. The resident Abaco Parrots will be your constant companions as you stroll along the beach, its white sand soft as talcum powder, or take on the club's mighty golf course – home to the Web.com Tour's Bahamas Great Abaco Classic.
There are many nice beaches in the world, and a lot of good golf courses, too. But you'd be hard-pressed to find a location that offers a combination as magnificent as this one anywhere else on the planet. Let's start with the golf. The club bills its course as a Scottish-style tropical links. That may seem like a non sequitor until you play this Donald Steel/ Tom Mackenize design and realise that its tumbling fairways, vexing greens, and constant trade winds do add up to a very links-like experience (only with a lot more sunshine and never any rain of the bone- chilling variety).
The hilltop villas
The course plays along azure Winding Bay on the front nine before climbing a ridge and finishing at the edge of the pounding Atlantic. In between, you'll find a great variety of holes featuring pot bunkers, rm and fast playing conditions, a surprising amount of elevation change, and scenery so spectacular you'll want to tear up your passport. The club also boasts one of the best golf practice facilities you'll ever set foot on, including a short-game area designed to let you prep for every conceivable short-game situation you might encounter on the course. Don't be surprised if you end up working on your pitch shots next to Darren Clarke or another PGA Tour player.
After golf, and a conch fritter lunch overlooking the blindingly blue water from your table at Flippers oceanfront bar and grill, it's beach time. Maybe you wish to just relax and work on your tan with a tropical rum drink in hand. Or maybe you'd like to spend an hour introducing your toes to the club's 2.5 miles of powder-soft sand. Or maybe you want to partake of one of the club's many water sports and beach activities, like snorkelling, kayaking, paddleboarding, or sailing – all provided at no additional cost. Like fishing? The Abacos are world- renowned for their saltwater flats fly fishing (one of Clarke's favourite pursuits). World- record bone sh and permit are caught within minutes of the club. The bluewater deep-sea fishing for big-game is equally stellar. Just a mile from shore, you can hook into marlin, tarpon, wahoo, tuna et al.
If you're feeling a bit lazy, or just want some pampering after a long day on the links or beach or water, the club's signature spa will be happy to welcome you and revitalise your body and soul with one of its soothing Bahamian spa treatments. When the day is finally done and dinner beckons, The Cliff House restaurant becomes the main locus of activity.
This charming octagonal dining venue offers spectacular views from every window and some of the world's freshest seafood, along with exquisite steaks and other chef's specialities. Wednesday nights are Rake 'n' Scrape Ribs nights, so named for the local "Rake 'n' Scrape" music that is performed live at Flippers on the beach.
Eventually – particularly if you are imbibing an acceptable amount of the local rum and beer – you'll want to catch some shuteye. And when you do, The Abaco Club will cradle you in luxury. Choose from its king bedroom suite cabanas, located within steps of the beach, or its two-, three-, and four-bedroom oceanview cottages that are perfect for families or groups travelling together. If you have a large party or just really want to splurge, you can rent one of the grand estate homes located right on the beach. You can even arrange for private chef services.
The one thing you won't find at The Abaco Club is a towering monstrosity of a hotel. And that's by design. The club is a community of members who know each other, enjoy doing things together, and love introducing guests to their little corner of paradise. A big impersonal hotel like the ones tourists have to endure in other parts of the Caribbean wouldn't work here at all. The Abaco Club offers a more intimate experience, and is all the better for it.
Chances are, you'll be sorely tempted to become a club member yourself by the time you leave, and with international memberships starting at just $10,000, it's easily done. Or you may decide that you never want to leave, in which case the club's real estate sales director will be happy to show you how affordable owning a home here can be. But whether you venture to The Abaco Club for a weekend or a lifetime, one thing is certain. After you've tasted its many offerings and basked in the warmth of its welcome, your outlook on life will be a lot sunnier. No matter what kind of weather you have to come home to.
Want To Know More?
For more information on The Abaco Club, club membership and real estate opportunities, visit www.theabacoclub.com