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Golfing in Jamaica

In Jamaica, Where Courses Are Quirky, Windy and Lush, the Best Advice Is: Listen to Your Caddie
Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
Michael Douglas, May/Jun 98

(continued from page 3)

Lest you think this course is a pushover, the uphill par-5 first hole will quickly set you straight. Though the course is not long at a little more than 6,300 yards, it's long when it wants to be. The par-4 10th can be stretched to 440 yards with out-of-bounds down the left side. The par-3 seventh is 228 yards from the back tee. The fourth hole is the most frightening of the par 3s, because you basically get only one shot at hitting the green. Missing the small, elevated green in any direction is knocking on the double-bogey man's door.

If you have the time, it might be worth the trip to Kingston to play the Caymanas Golf Club, which has often been the site of the Jamaican Open. Its design is similar to Tryall. Or, try your hand at the Constant Spring Golf Club, which was built in a Kingston neighborhood, in 1920, by the Scotsman Stanley Thompson.

The oldest golf club in Jamaica is the Manchester Country Club, built by the Duke of Manchester in 1865. That makes Manchester possibly the oldest golf club outside of Europe. The nine-hole course is located in Mandeville, in the middle of the country and in the middle of the prime bauxite mining area. The nine holes each have two separate teeing areas, which allows them to be fashioned into an 18-hole round. For those who venture into the Jamaican mountains, Manchester is an unexpected pleasure in a country where pleasure is a natural resource.

Because Jamaican golf is a relatively uncongested affair even in the high season, playing 18 holes doesn't steal time from other delights, like rafting down the Great River on the Lethe Estate, a short drive from Tryall, or climbing the Dunns River Falls, a short drive from the Sandals Golf Club.

But being able to play with a caddie on an uncluttered Jamaican course is something not be to be rushed. The tyranny of the golf cart in North America has profoundly changed the nature of the game. Caddie pools are shrinking and caddies often carry two bags, which divides their attention while it doubles their pay. In Jamaica, it's one caddie per player, attention undivided. "These guys are really pros," says Darrell Kestner, a New York-area club pro, who has often traveled to Tryall to conduct clinics with Nelson Long, the resident professional. "This is what many of them do for a living and they make sure they do it right."

Of course, Jamaican caddies also have a reputation for helping players enjoy the day a little too much by improving lies in the rough and mysteriously finding balls. There is a rule of thumb in Jamaica that when playing a money match, you should watch your opponent's caddie rather than your opponent.

"I would not do such a thing," says Linton, with stark candor. "This is a good job and a good game. I would not do anything to harm the game. I am not saying that caddies haven't done such things. I am saying that I would not. I like the game. I like my job."

With a proper caddie by your side, Jamaican golf assures you of one thing--you are the mon.

Jeff Williams writes about golf for Newsday.


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