Logically there’d be an occasional professional disagreement between real estate developers and golf course designers. And there’s no room for error when the development is on the coast of Great Exuma, Bahamas. It takes a designer with backbone and wisdom to re-sketch the blueprints.
“Initially the developer had the houses on the water, which forced the golf course to the interior, but I convinced them on one road in, that same road out and a cul-de-sac,” Greg Norman tells WBGD. “With the houses on the water, you need more roads and a loop system. By infrastructure costs alone, it makes more sense to build the houses on the interior. Fortunately they bought into it. That allowed the golf course to be on the outside and now the residences have ocean views and golf views.”
This scenario played out at the Sandals Emerald Bay Golf Course. The Shark calls it one of his favorite places in the world. Golf aside, east of Nassau is a stretch of islands known as the Bahamas Out Islands. It’s a water wonderland for diving, sport fishing and sailing. On a short list with Greece and Hawaii — the aqua-emerald water in the area is some of the most beautiful on Earth. The water’s so clear it’s easy to spot lobster crawling on the ocean-floor. And yes, this is the place with the world famous pig island and its swimming swines.
The Shark-designed Emerald Bay Golf Course is two ecosystems. The front digs inland for the mangrove wetlands and plays through plenty of little ponds. The back side is a Jacques Cousteau-inspired Atlantic sightseeing tour. Players praise the ocean for its beauty and curse it for the two-stroke penalties. And from tee to green — it’s in prime condition.
“When I was asked to build a golf course here in Exuma, it was an honor. The golf course speaks for itself. It was a tough site to work with, very narrow. We left the land as it was, especially on the back nine, we didn’t touch anything,” Norman adds.
Folks that raise their nose to all-inclusive resorts are the same ones leading the conga line a few hours after checking in. Sandals Resorts are fun and eventually crack the armor of even the biggest jerks. Good vibes manifest at the main pool swim-up bar and permeate throughout the property. There’s an English pub, a sushi place, an Indian restaurant, a very respectable French cafe and a ton of other eat-drink spots.
Not all all-inclusives are created equal and most sure as hell don’t have a golf course like this one. Stays are typically around $300 per person, per night, they offer packages including golf and it’s a 45-minute flight from Miami. Sandals has 15 resorts on six different Caribbean islands — it appears they are getting the hang of this hospitality thing. Give it a shot, ya might like it.