Worship the water at the stunning Sandals Emerald Reef Golf Club in the Bahamas

EXUMA, Bahamas -- First comes the jungle exploration straight out of an "Indiana Jones" movie. Following is an ocean encounter that would make Jacques Cousteau jealous.

Together, the front and back nine of Sandals Emerald Reef Golf Club at Sandals Emerald Bay resort add up to a memorable round of golf that rates as one of the best in the Caribbean.

Greg Norman designed the 7,001-yard course upon one of the most scenic settings in the world. Holes 11-16 hug the rocky coastline of the Atlantic Ocean and Emerald Bay on the eastern shores of a small, narrow island southeast of Miami. This stretch of golf delivers sensual overload with the wind howling, waves crashing and turquoise water wherever you look.

All this beauty comes at a cost. Emerald Reef plays wicked tough. The Shark never needed bailout areas, so he didn't design many. Wind makes the narrow fairways feel even more constricted. Ponds of the coastal marshes lurk on five of the first eight holes, notably the fourth, a drivable par 4 of 291 yards, and sixth, a 165-yard par 3 to an island green.

The par 3s of the back nine -- the 148-yard and 122-yard shoreline stunners at nos. 11 and 13, respectively -- are sandwiched around the 12th hole, a monster par 4 with unsurpassed beauty. A blind tee shot over a ridge forces a strategic layup on the short but sweet 303-yard 14th hole. The par-5 15th and par-4 16th holes provide the last moments of bliss along the water.

"This is a golf course you want to play before you leave this earth," says Richard Gibson, the club's head professional.

Oct 30, 2015

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Jason Scott Deegan

Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.