Puerto Rico's Rising
With Royal Isabela and the revamped Dorado Beach open for play, the island has joined the Caribbean’s top golf destinations
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"We had a hay field for five months," says Bull, who had retired more than 10 years earlier but was recruited to get the golf courses operating again when the membership rescued them under the umbrella of the Palmas Athletic Club. "But we are pretty close now to what we had been condition-wise and we'll get there pretty quick now. We have a club, but visitors can play. It's $125 in the winter and $75 in the off-season which are pretty darn good rates."
Bull stayed in Puerto Rico after he retired, having fallen in love with the country not long after he moved from South Carolina. "It's a very family-oriented country, and there is a golf culture here. It's not big, but it's big enough. We have a lot of families who play here. It's something I've always liked about Puerto Rico. They're passionate about things and close-knit, and those who play golf are passionate about it."
Sidney Wolf is another American who has called Puerto Rico home for most of his life, and is president of the Puerto Rico Golf Association (4,000 members) and general chairman of the Puerto Rican Open. He's seen Puerto Rico's golf fortunes rise and fall, but is hopeful that the country's newest destinations fulfill what he feels is Puerto Rico's rightful destiny.
"For a long time Dorado was the only place in Puerto Rico that people knew about, though we had much more to offer," says Wolf. "Now that we have Royal Isabela, the Dorado Ritz, the Bahia Beach, we really do have world-class golf to offer. When you come here we treat you right, we feed you well, we give you a good time. And it's time that everybody knew that. Give us a chance and I'm sure you will not be disappointed."
Jeff Williams is a contributing editor of Cigar Aficionado.