Puerto Rico: A Caribbean golf destination that inspires and excites

ISABELA, Puerto Rico -- Since 2008, no Caribbean island has invested more time, effort and money into its golf scene than Puerto Rico.

The Puerto Rico Open -- the Caribbean's only PGA Tour event, held annually since 2008 at the 36-hole Trump International Golf Club -- serves as the TV showcase for the island's 21 golf courses currently open.

Major renovations on the East Course at Dorado Beach Resort & Club (in 2011) and the Bahia Beach Resort & Golf Club (in 2008) -- coupled with two five-star resorts built on site, the Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, and St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, respectively -- have elevated both destinations in stature. Dorado's iconic East Course recently hosted the Golf Channel's "Big Break NFL" series .

The 2010 opening of Royal Isabela , a wild links course along the high cliffs of the northwest coast, added another must-see attraction. The Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa, home to the Rio Mar Country Club's River Course and Ocean Course , is in the midst of a $500 million spending spree to upgrade its infrastructure.

Guests at the El Conquistador Resort, a Waldorf Astoria resort clutching oceanfront cliffs on the northeast side of the island, can explore 23 bars and restaurants, a hilly Arthur Hills design, a cool water park and take a ferry to a private beach on Palomino Island. Now that's a golf vacation.

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.
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Shot for shot, the Greg Norman-designed River Course at Rio Mar Country Club in Puerto Rico might be superior to the club's popular Ocean Course. Norman designed his challenging layout around a river, wetlands and six other ponds to gobble up misses. Keeping the ball dry remains the biggest obstacle.
Bay Hill has Arnold Palmer. The Dorado Beach Resort & Club has Chi Chi Rodriguez. Golfers playing any of the four courses at Dorado will likely run into Puerto Rico's most famous player. Rodriguez has a long history with the resort, working at the famed East Course during its heyday in the 1960s. These days, the East looks and plays better than ever thanks to a renovation by Robert Trent Jones Jr. finished in 2011.
A wild array of nuances make Royal Isabela feel more like an adventure than a round of golf. Conventional rules of golf architecture don't always apply. There's an amazing number of 132 total tees, blind shots galore, a tiny island-green par 3, deep pot bunkers and even two extra holes. Taking caddies is a must just to head in the right direction.
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Puerto Rico: A Caribbean golf destination that inspires and excites
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