ABACO, Bahamas -- Few courses in the Caribbean have been designed for the wind as well as The Abaco Club, a Donald Steel/Tom Mackenzie course located in a remote but beautiful section of Abaco, a narrow island northeast of Miami.
The Abaco Club plays like a true 7,123-yard tropical links, where shots can bounce onto tricky plateau greens. That might explain why Darren Clarke, the 2016 European Ryder Cup captain and 2011 Open Champion who holds the unofficial course record, loves the place so much.
Southworth Development, a Massachusetts-based real estate development company that purchased The Abaco Club last year, is pouring millions of dollars into the course and club to improve everything. All the bunkers have been lined with new zoysia grass, and several new ladies tees have been built as well.
Six of the first seven holes -- three directly along the beautiful Winding Bay -- play downwind, easing players into the round. The 199-yard par-3 fourth introduces the views of the water. The cool 312-yard fifth hole puts the beach right in your face. All you see is the top of the flag waving in the breeze, a tempting sign to take on the sand for a putt at eagle. The par-3 sixth turns back into the wind before the downwind par-4 seventh hole.
The inland holes into the wind are some of the toughest on the course, although they're just appetizers to the fantastic feast to finish the round. Nos. 15 and 16 -- two strong par 4s -- skirt an old rock quarry. There's no margin for error on the tee shot on 16, the scariest moment of the day. The 17th green, the end of a 204-yard par 3, is so close to the ocean that salt sprays can shower players as they putt. Narrow doesn't begin to describe the par-5 final hole.
While The Abaco Club is private, there are international golf membership opportunities or guests can visit on vacation up to three times before buying real estate or a membership. Visitors can indulge in the spa, a gorgeous beachfront bar/grill called Busters and fine dining in the Cliff House overlooking the white sand and turquoise waters of the bay. Water sports are a great distraction away from golf. Southworth plans to spare no expense to make The Abaco Club a special place.