Simply mention you are going to the Bahamas and then stand back and watch the predictable reaction of friends and family as they exhibit an unattractive mix of astonished disbelief and undiluted envy. The fact that these inoffensive islands lying just off the southern tip of Florida have come to be synonymous with self-indulgence, extravagance and high-living is perhaps partly due to the popular perception of them as a tropical tax haven providing a perfect playground for the super rich and hugely famous.
Well, the advent of the Abaco Club a few years back certainly did nothing to alter this image as its unashamed upmarket appeal is to the fabulously wealthy seeking luxurious exclusivity. Peter de Savary, the Club’s founder, knows what the well-heeled want and so he created a string of top-notch boltholes including Skibo Castle in Scotland.
Exclusivity Is Vital
The formula he employs is surprisingly simple. Find a fabulous site in a spectacular setting well away from the great unwashed; create quality accommodation that combines comfort with something distinctly different; provide a rich array of activities to ensure your guests are always happily occupied; generate a supremely relaxed and friendly atmosphere; and, finally, price it beyond the reach of common folk to keep it exceedingly private, gloriously quiet and frightfully exclusive. De Savary knew what his rich clients wanted and gave it to them with coconuts at the Abaco Club.
Although the name has been re-fashioned so that’s it’s now known as the Abaco Club on Winding Bay and the property was recently acquired by Southworth Development, a company based in Massachusetts, the glorious experience has not changed at all.
Whereas fishing, walking, tennis, cycling, snorkelling and sailing are important ingredients in the overall mix, golf is clearly the key component and a large chunk of the sizeable investment that has been sunk into this previously undiscovered 453-acre corner of the charming island of Great Abaco helped create an outstanding course.
Purists might quibble at the somewhat outrageous description of it as ‘Scottish style tropical links’ as you will never for a moment mistakenly imagine you are nearer the River Clyde than the Caribbean. However, by the time you have sunk your last putt, instead of assuming the description originates in a malt whisky or rum cocktail, you will perhaps appreciate what it’s trying to tell you.
The first four holes run parallel to the dazzling white sands and turquoise water of Winding Bay. Cute one-bedroom cabanas in pretty pastel shades initially obscure your view of the sea. Be patient, for the wait is well worthwhile. All is revealed when you reach the fourth green, but let your eyes adjust to the almost blinding spectacle of the breathtaking beach before attempting a putt.
Seven Out, Seven Back
Classic links courses traditionally follow a nine out, nine back pattern and Donald Steele’s design does its best to adhere to this historic template. However, to accommodate a mini-loop of four holes that provides a final flourish, it has been abbreviated here to seven out and seven back with the holes running east to west along a narrow neck of land stretching between Winding Bay and Yellow Wood Creek.
Although the terrain is essentially fairly flat, the wind has sculpted genuine dunes and the consequent mounds, bumps, ridges and hollows help create a ‘linksy’ feel.
The bunkers, too, appear natural. Generously proportioned and full of sugary white sand, they threaten both tee-shots and approaches and oblige you to plot your way carefully.
Invariably raised, frequently tiered and with a mass of subtle borrows, the greens are both decidedly tricky and a credible recreation of what you might find stretched along the Fife coast. Dangerous little run-off hollows that suck balls down into them faster than a disappearing pina colada on a hot afternoon, lurk alongside the greens with more menace than a basking shark.
The fairways are generous and sympathetically shaped to encourage the ball back into the middle. However, stray too far off line and the slopes work the other way and roll you into the colourful but inhospitable brush that skirts most holes.
Spectacular Views and Property
The only point at which you might regret eschewing a buggy in favour of walking this gentle course is as you leave the 14th green and begin a steep ascent to the 15th tee. However, the fatigue will soon be forgotten when you take in the glorious panorama that awaits you at the top. What makes both the course and the Abaco Club unique in the area is the significant elevation provided by the rocky bluff that resembles a gnarled old finger pointing towards the ocean. The views from the final four holes and the prices of the adjacent properties are almost equally spectacular.
The best, however, is undoubtedly saved until last as the 18th is one of those majestic holes that make you glad you took up golf. A sweeping par five that runs along the cliff top with glorious views over the sea on both sides, it is surely destined to make its way into your most memorable finishing holes.
Why We Like It
If you need motivation to become rich, the Abaco Club on Winding Bay should provide it. It offers the perfect setting to simply relax and have fun. Anything further removed from the hassle and aggravation of everyday life would be hard to imagine.
While You’re There
The Bahamas is blessed with the third-largest coral reef system in the world. The snorkelling is simply sensational and you can float for hours following the fabulously colourful fish as they go about their fishy business. The area is also famous for bonefish. They are notoriously difficult to catch and you have to hunt them stealthily around the shallow creeks. If that sounds too tricky, then charter a boat and go fishing for tuna and marlin. Or, if you would prefer to look at rather than hunt wildlife, Abaco National Park is a 20,000-acre nature reserve on the south of the island and is famous for the Abaco Parrot. Once prolific throughout the Bahamas, it’s now found only on Abaco and Great Inagua.