Before ! a great golf getaway, head to Puerto Rico – Sentinel and Enterprise

I play golf, but I’ve never had the intensity to play well.

I play in charity tournaments to support friends, and occasionally when the mood takes me (ie when my husband convinces me). I had fun there, but it never really clicked.

Until now.

I had my “aha” moment. It took no lesson; nor a perfectly played trick (this still eludes me).

It took a trip to Puerto Rico.

With beautiful courses that embrace both a love and understanding of golf and a tribute to the island’s natural beauty, top-notch accommodations and warm, welcoming people, Puerto Rico has it all.

Whether you are an enthusiast or an amateur, you will find Zen golf on this island.

I went there earlier this month – the plan was to play three championship courses in three days and to be honest I was nervous.

Day one brought me to Player’s Club Dorado Beach – a historic location dating back to the early 1950s when Laurence S. Rockefeller observed the land and won over the owners, who grew and exported coconuts while maintaining the setting natural they liked, to let him build a course.

The first hole at Player’s Club Dorado Beach is a Ritz-Carlton reserve, one of six in the world and the only Ritz-Carlton reserve in the Western Hemisphere. (Photo by Moira McCarthy)

Today, Dorado Beach has two courses, and I ended up on the East course. The scorecard scared me: I’m more of a par three type and this course has many long and difficult holes.

I almost sniffed my first drive, but then, on the fairway, I took a deep breath, looked around at the incredible beauty, and remembered my “learn the golfer” mantra:

Make contact with the ball. That’s all you need to do. And savor your surroundings.

I landed two excellent fairway shots and found myself on the green.

“You are a doppelganger! exclaimed my friend Larry.

Not really: Puerto Rico was right on my side. The weather (blue skies with puffy clouds), the quality of the course (perfect fairways, greens; heck even the sand traps didn’t feel so bad) and the kind of help a girl like me needs ( my caddy, Victor, deserves props) all combined to make it click.

This was true on all three courses.

Get guidance from a caddy – available on the Dorado Beach course in Puerto Rico. (Photo courtesy of Moira McCarthy).

On the second day, I discovered the Grand Reserve Golf Club in Rio Grande (www.grandreservegolfclub.com). Don’t take their ‘Where Champions Play’ slogan lightly: it hosts the PGA’s Puerto Rico Open every year and will host a USGA Women’s Championship and a Latin American Amateur Championship this year.

I had pitched my tent there, so to speak, in a beach side room at the Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve. I could walk out of my house, walk about 15 steps and be on the beach, or in the nooks and crannies of the property, which to me felt more like a small beach town than a “hotel” per se and visit the pool, restaurants or take a golf cart ride to the course.

Although not everyone is a golfer, I was there during the Puerto Rico PGA Open. I could see what drew the pros to this place.

I played the championship course as part of a PGA Pro Am tied to the Puerto Rico Open.

The championship course, designed by World Golf Hall of Fame member Tom Kite, runs along the ocean while the international course runs inland with El Yunque framing the vistas.

The holes have sea views, are lined with coconut trees and even on a hot day they are cooled by a crosswind that comforts you and adds a fun challenge to your game.

Beachfront at the Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve in Puerto Rico. (Photo by Moira McCarthy)

I felt connected to the sport; as if I belonged to this championship course. I found myself looking forward to day three.

I found it easy to eat healthy while eating local (fresh fish galore; lots of great rums and amazing uses of root vegetables), spent time floating in the waves or diving in the beautiful pools , and even savor locally inspired cocktails.

Day three brought me to The St. Regis Bahia Beach Golf Course.

I had checked it out when I slept my first night at the St. Regis (I’ll never forget the blanket of jungle sounds as night falls.)

Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., the course (and resort in total) comprises 483 fenced acres of lush maritime forest on Puerto Rico’s northeast coast. The golf course holds the Audubon International Gold Signature Sanctuary certification for its eco-sensitive best practices.

For me it was about how the course was played (challenging but forgiving).

Golf will now be part of my life. I signed up for a league and lessons. And when I return to Puerto Rico (because how not to return?), there are even more courses to love, like the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort.

For long time golfers and those who have tried I found your place aha. Let’s toast with a rum when you get there. You can find out more at www.discoverpuertorico.com

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