Secret" Course Destined to be Called, "The Pebble Beach of Puerto Rico" (and how to play it for free)

Well, the cat is officially out of the bag.

Despite being completed in 2009 and sporting an amazing, beachfront and clifftop setting soaring 300 feet above the ocean, Puerto Rico's Golf Links at Royal Isabela had been flying under the radar.

That is, until this month's issue of Golf Digest included an article about it.

But the course's dramatic site (and ambitous plans for more courses and hotels) isn't the only reason you're going to be hearing a lot about Royal Isabela.

Until its lodge opens this summer, you can play the $150-$200 course for free.

Yes, free.

That's what Golf Digest reported on page 86 of its March 2011 issue. And it went on to say:

"For now, you can play it by requesting a round from [the owners] through their course's website, royalisabela.com."

Sounding too good (or easy) be true, I inquired with the course's PR firm, and sure enough, it's more accurate to say, "there is a screening process."

What are they screening for?

Well, this very high-end community/club/resort is trying to fill its membership roster and sell real estate, so you do the math.

Here is what you'll get back if you call or email to request playing the course:

"The golf course is now open to our members and guests and within the next few months (Summer 2011) we will officially launch our Lodge “casitas” and open the course to golf enthusiasts from around the world to enjoy the golf experience and amenities. In the meantime, if you plan to visit Puerto Rico I extend an invitation for a site tour and property visit."

My opinion? It's worth the five minutes to fill out the online form whether you think you "qualify" or not, as this course -- located about 70 miles west of San Juan -- appears to be the genuine article.

It was designed by David Pfaff, a name you might not associate with the Dominican Republic's Teeth of the Dog, but he worked on it (and many other projects) with Pete Dye, and these photos suggest at least a visual connection.

Of course, if you ask him, as Golf Digest did, Pfaff will say, "the course designed itself."

And Charlie Pasarell (one of the tennis-pro brothers behind the project) said this in a recent article in Caribbean Business:

“The golf-course design was not about moving the earth, but how the earth moved us…we are not the creators of Royal Isabela, we are its caretakers.”

Looks like these guys have been working with the PR firm, too.

What do you think? Based on the photos, would you take a Puerto Rico golf vacation just to play this course? Please share your comments below.

Craig Better is one of the founding editors of Golf Vacation Insider. In addition to traveling to 15 foreign countries, he has twice traveled across America to play golf courses in all 50 United States. Prior to joining Golf Vacation Insider, Craig was a freelance writer who contributed to GOLF Magazine, Travel + Leisure Golf, Maxim Magazine, USAToday.com, and co-authored Zagat Survey’s book, America’s Top Golf Courses.
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Secret" Course Destined to be Called, "The Pebble Beach of Puerto Rico" (and how to play it for free)
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