TEEING OFF IN PARADISE:
[1. Sunset on Providenciales]
A golfing vacation in the sunny and warm Caribbean turned out to be the best remedy to beat our winter blues. Way back in 1992, my partner Geoff and I had heard of a new golf course on the island of Providenciales, Turks & Caicos Islands in the British West Indies. Although the final bells and whistles were not quite in place at the Provo Golf Club, the Karl Litten-designed 18-hole championship course was open for business. What good luck for us, especially as the only other course up to that time had been the Governor's 9-hole private course on the Grand Turk Island.
[2. Conch shell in surf]
Right from the start we felt at home for Canadian Professionals were on hand to greet us. To this day, Dave Douglas, now long-time resident of Providenciales, is Golf Director. At one time there was only a tiny pro shop shack offering a hot dog and a bag of chips but since that time there have been many upgrades to the golfing and hospitality experience. For years now the Fairways Bar and Grill has become everyone's favourite 19th hole in the distinctive two-story plantation-style clubhouse. Fairways is a great spot to enjoy a meal any time of day and after a round of golf in the afternoon, the wrap-around verandah overlooking 18th green activities is a romantic place to relax with a sundowner. Known for superb service, the adjacent dining room continues to be one of the most popular spots on the island.
[3. Cozy view overlooking Grace Bay]
Now ranked among the Caribbean's top ten, the course layout is perfectly placed to capture the always-welcome cool ocean breezes. With greens that run true and carpet-like fairways, each hole offers a haven between a wide variety of rustling palms and vividly blooming native bushes. Most challenging are the rugged coral outcroppings that confront both long hitters and high-handicap golfers like myself. By playing the course every other day, it was a delight to book the earliest tee time and enjoy driving off the first hole into the rising sun and spotting each other's ball along the shimmering Bermuda-grass fairway. Often our footprints were the first on newly-mown greens.
[4. 13th hole marker]
Usually not superstitious but from past experience I'm particularly cautious playing 13th holes. On Provo's par 4, 13th my red tee is the easiest of all four placements. To fly my drive straight over about 30 meters of hardpan should have been a piece of cake, but for ages I'd shank right into a muddy pond surrounded by prickly bushes, disturbing the resident frog every time. When my tee shots finally improved, often my next shot down the fairway would land on the edge of a slope and roll down into a large watery wonderland where among the reeds, egrets and pink flamingos paddled about on who knows how many lost golf balls. No wonder I'm wary of playing a 13th hole on any course and no wonder my handicap is so high. When renting a cart and clubs, a ball retriever it might be a handy "extra club" to tuck into ones bag. And as the course is very challenging with lots of sand, water and rocky outcrops, it might reduce the frustration of losing new balls by playing, at first, with a few secondhand balls.
[5.Golfer on first tee]
For several years we returned again and again to this golfer's dream destination, often staying at one of the island's most charming resorts - the Ocean Club on Grace Bay. It's just a short stroll to the golf course and overlooks the shores of Grace Bay where a ten-kilometre-long beach shimmers like a half moon on a starlit evening. Most often the surf is calm as an extensive coral reef breakwater protects the shoreline. The sea is great for swimming and with silky-soft sand under foot, there is all kinds of fun for every family member. Snorkeling is always popular and scuba-diving "The Wall" out on the edge of the reef is internationally famous.
[6. Strolling along Grace Bay]
To explain the charisma of such an island as Providenciales in the Turks & Caicos is not difficult for when those blustery northern winds begin to blow and chill our toes, who could resist returning south to renew favourite memories: the soothing sounds of the surf; the sensuous scent of night-blooming blossoms; and the sweet taste of a rum punch sipped as the tropical sun slowly sinks toward the horizon.
IF YOU GO:
Getting There: The Turks & Caicos Islands have full-service international airports on Providenciales and the capital, Grand Turk. With the exception of East and West Caicos, all other islands have domestic airports for inter-island hopping and exploring.
PHOTOS by Liz Clark:
1. Sunset on Providenciales
Photo by Sujata Clark of Ward Clark-permission granted:
5. Golfer on first tee, Provo Golf Club
Photo by Ward Clark of Sujata Clark-permission granted:
6. Strolling along Grace Bay beach
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