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When it comes to golf, are you a near-professional, a keen amateur, or just someone who likes to take a swing every now and again? Either way, a golfing holiday in the Caribbean could be just the ticket for helping you to improve your game this winter. If you've a yearning to lower your handicap and improve your uphill chipping technique under clear blues skies and palms that sway in the tradewinds, these ten suggestions are for you...
Jamaica: Sandals Royal Plantation
For visitors to Sandals Royal Plantation, the only all-butler, all-suite boutique resort in the Sandals collection, golf is included at the nearby Jamaica Golf and Country Club in Ocho Rios. The par-71 18 hole resort-style course plays to 6,404 yards, with narrow fairways and tiny drop-off greens with sweeping views of the sea and mountains.
Jamaica: The Ritz-Carlton Spa and Golf Resort
Set amongst 5,000 perfectly manicured acres of the exclusive Rose Hall estate in Montego Bay, the Ritz-Carlton Golf and Spa Resort is the ideal choice for luxury lovers and golf aficionados who seek proximity to the renowned White Witch Golf Course, another par-71 course with panoramic views of the Caribbean sea from 16 of its 18 holes. The par-3, 161 yard 17th hole is particularly noted for its change in elevation and stunning landscaping around the green.
Grenada: La Source Resort
Top-notch all-inclusive La Source Grenada offers the opportunity to improve your short game on a 9-green executive course in the grounds of the resort. Though short, the course still presents a challenge as it winds its way through flowering trees and a brook cascading over waterfalls, and if you still have an abundance of energy there's always the on-site tennis, archery and beach volleyball.
Bahamas: Sandals Grande Emerald Bay
OK, so the Bahamas are not technically in the Caribbean but we couldn't resist including the fabulous Greg Norman-designed 18-hole championship Emerald Reef Golf Club par-72 course at Great Exuma island's Sandals Emerald Bay, a 7,200 yard stretch of prime oceanside recognised as one of the most scenic courses in the region, with challenging fairways that wind through seaside dunes.
Cuba: Meliá Las Américas
The adults only Meliá Las Américas is right next door to Varadero Golf Club, which was the first 18-hole golf course in Cuba when it opened in 1998. A course of 'two halves', the first nine holes are considered to be fairly straightforward but holes 10-18 increase in individual complexity, allowing players to refine the technical aspect of their game before retiring to the impressively-restored 1930s club house, Xanadu Mansion, for a hard-earned classic Cuban mojito.
St Lucia: Cap Maison
A former sugar plantation, the five-star luxury Cap Maison hotel sits on a high clifftop on St Lucia's northwest coast and is just minutes away from St Lucia Golf and Country Club, where guests enjoy concessionary fees. The club is the official home of the International PGA and is well-known as one of the most demanding courses in the Caribbean; the par-4 opening hole grabs attention right away with a water hazard on the right of the fairway, and an Out of Bounds on the left.
Barbados: Sandy Lane
Since it opened its doors in 1961, Sandy Lane has been known as the most exclusive address in Barbados, and for golfers with a taste for the high life, the hotel's three separate courses are the ultimate thrill. Most spectactularly, the Tom Fazio-designed Green Monkey course offers dramatic elevation changes and is carved from an old limestone quarry. The Country Club course features five lakes and immaculate fairways, and the par-36 Old Nine offers an intimate experience with tree-lined fairways and small greens. Die-hard enthusiasts will also love the 450 yard driving range and GPS-fitted golf carts.
Barbados: The Crane
Built in 1887, The Crane is Barbados' most historic resort. With the main building fully restored and an expanded villa complex set alongside a beach that's considered to be the best on the island, it might be something of an effort to drag yourself off to the fairway. But nearby Barbados Golf Club provides an easy, affordable option for players of all abilities, attracting locals as well as hotel guests for a slightly more authentic experience.
Barbados: Royal Westmoreland
For larger groups and families, the luxury serviced villas and penthouse apartments of Royal Westmoreland provide a once-in-a-lifetime holiday experience. This exclusive resort in the west coast parish of St. James also has a first-class tennis facility and high-end spa, but it's the 18-hole championship golf course which earns the most accolades. This is a particularly varied course (the 5th and 6th holes make use of a disused coral stone quarry, and the 12th's tight green borders a ravine) which is dominated by an elegant colonial-style Clubhouse.
Dominican Republic: Casa de Campo
Describing itself as the 'Caribbean's most complete resort', Casa de Campo is a 7,000 acre hotel, resort and residential community, with an equestrian centre, healing spa and tennis courts in addition to its famous 'Teeth of the Dog' course. Designed by celebrated golf architect Pete Dye, it has been named the number one course in the Caribbean by Golf Magazine, and sits alongside his two other Casa de Campo creations; the dramatic Dye Fore which drops 300 ft in elevation, and the serene, inland Links course, featuring several lagoons and watery challenges.
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.