May 26, 2009

A Caribbean Course On Life Support...

Seems like the last fifteen-odd days have flown by in a flash for me -- first down to my hometown to watch the Space Shuttle Atlantis liftoff, then back home for two quick days of work, a couple of rounds of golf and then down to Sint Maarten for our annual trip to the West Indies.

Even though there is a lot of golf in the Caribbean, Sint Maarten is not one of those places. There is but a single shaggy and unkempt course on the island, Mullet Bay, a remnant of a housing complex that was destroyed in the mid-1990's by Hurricane Luis, a Category Five that swept over the 37 square-mile spit of land and then turned around and came roaring over once again for good measure. Since then, the condos at Mullet Bay have been mired in legal jockeying that has lasted well over a decade: the owners want their vacation homes rebuilt, and the company that owns the property wants to replace what's left with new development sold to new owners. Antillean lawyers and courts have been trying to resolve this, but the empty and shattered buildings have sat empty now since 1995, with no permanent resolution in sight.

In the middle of it all sits the golf course, if you could call it that. It's not well cared for, and to say that your local $10 par three track is in better shape would be an insult -- to the par three. The fairways are semi-mown weeds and sand, the greens crusty and as bumpy as the beach a few hundred yards away. In other words, it's in awful condition.

Still, Mullet Bay has its charms even if they are extremely difficult to find in its ruins. Awful as it is, the course is kind of a throwback to the original game of golf the way it was played back in 19th century Scotland. The Old Course in St. Andrews was once a field for sheep, after all, and there was no army of greenskeepers back then to tend the place for globetrotters and no great championships until the 1860s to make it a hallowed ground. Mullet Bay has goats, but really, is there much difference? Golf is, after all, a game of getting your ball into the hole in fewer strokes than your competition and you are all playing the same conditions. That doesn't mean Mullet Bay will ever be Saint Andrews, but still, there's a stick with a flag at the end of every hole and getting there sooner is all that matters.

There is hope that the once-proud course will be restored to its former glory, as it once was pristine, well-tended and a great golfing experience -- as evidenced by many old reviews easily found with a quick Google search.

It costs $53 to play Mullet Bay, if you are interested, and of course, are on the island. Of course, for ten times that much and the price of a ferry road to adjacent Anguilla, you can play at Temenos, a new Greg Norman design that is getting a lot good reviews.

Finally, it would be unfair to present a picture of Mullet Bay Golf Course without showing you the beach it sits aside, because illustrating the juxtaposition should drive the paradox of it all home in your mind's eye:

1 comment:

  1. I like courses like this, really. There were a smattering of par 3 type courses in the midwest that still had the oiled sand greens.

    There's something refreshing about playing one of these...reminds you of why you picked the game up in the first place -- it's fun.


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