Players at the 2023 Jamaica Open Rave About the Allure of Jamaica as a Unique Golf Destination
As the Jamaica Golf Association (JGA) strengthens its efforts to promote the beautiful Caribbean island nation as a unique golf destination, it can certainly rely on the words of perhaps its best ambassadors – players who have competed in the Jamaica Open Golf Championship.
Some of the best travel advice about a place can be obtained from people who have already been there and, as Shakespeare wrote in The Tempest: “Travelers never did lie, though fools at home condemn them.”
With the 2023 event now in the record books, JGA President Jodi Munn-Barrow knows full well that effusive praise from competitors at the October 29-31 tournament will only help solidify Jamaica as the top golfing destination in the Caribbean.
“All the feedback that I got from players at this year’s Jamaica Open was extremely positive,” said Munn-Barrow. “They all said they loved being in Jamaica. Even our winner, Andrew Arft. It was his first time in Jamaica, and he repeatedly said how much he loved the course and the island. This is certainly a good start that we now need to move on, maybe through discussions with the Ministry of Tourism, to really push it out there – that Jamaica is a top golfing destination.”
Arft, who lives in Central Florida, only decided to compete in this year’s Jamaica Open five days before the opening round at the spectacular Tryall Club in Hanover, just outside Montego Bay. It was a decision that he will forever cherish.
“If you want to play golf right next to the ocean and see the most beautiful scenery and then two holes later be in the jungle like Tarzan, then this is the place to be,” said Arft, who won the 56th Jamaica Open Golf Championship by one stroke over fellow American Dominic Piccirillo.
“I was able to get in with the caddies when I first arrived here and they took in me in like one of their own. That really was the key to my week. When you feel comfortable in a golf tournament or on a golf course, no matter if you are playing with your family or in a competitive tournament, you’re going to play better. So, when you surround yourself with people who want you to do well, have fun and have just good vibes in general, that’s all you can ask for.”
Asked if he would return to Jamaica just for a vacation, Arft replied without hesitation: “One hundred percent. The golf course here set us up perfectly all week. I stayed down the street in Hopewell (a fishing village in Hanover Parish), which was beautiful. I played golf in the morning, went to the beach in the afternoon, enjoyed great food in the evening and socialized with some good people. That’s just what you want on a vacation.”
Beautiful geography, stunning sunsets, delicious food, world-class beer and rum, ultra-friendly people and perhaps the most addictive laidback vibe on the planet. Jamaica has all of that, and more.
Many of Jamaica’s all-inclusive resorts are centered in or around Montego Bay, with its British-colonial architecture, while nearby Negril is known for its beautiful diving and snorkeling sites.
Ryan Sullivan, who lost out to fellow American Michael Maguire in a playoff for the 2021 Jamaica Open, is an ardent fan of the island nation.
“It’s just so beautiful in Jamaica,” said Sullivan, who resides in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “It was my third year competing here and my caddie told me the mango here is one of the best in the world so, after a hot day on the golf course, we certainly deserve a bit of mango when we get back to the resort.
“The people in Jamaica are so friendly and welcoming, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the views here are spectacular. The Director of Golf here at Tryall, Ewan Peebles, is world-class and has always been nice to me. So, I made it a point to make it back for this year’s Jamaica Open, even though my schedule was a little tight. I’m very happy to be back in Jamaica.”
Like Arft, Sullivan plans to return to the Caribbean island for a vacation. “Absolutely,” he said. “This area (Tryall) I have been to now for three years so I would like to venture a little bit more around Negril and Ocho Rios and Kingston. There is certainly much more to be discovered here in Jamaica.”
The stunning 18-hole, 6,836-yard layout at Tryall Club, designed in 1958 by the renowned Texan golf course architect Ralph Plummer, has long been regarded as the best course in Jamaica and Californian Josh Anderson, who tied for third at this year’s event, is a huge fan of both Tryall and Jamaica.
“Tryall is a fun golf course and, more importantly than anything, for all skills levels,” said Anderson. “It’s challenging enough for a championship tournament – obviously they held the Johnnie Walker World Golf Championship here back in the day. But you could be an average golfer, a high handicapper, and still come out and enjoy the course. It’s so beautiful, it’s got the right amount of challenge and after all, it’s in Jamaica! This is such a great place to be, both weather-wise and people-wise.
“So far, Tryall is the only course I have played in Jamaica and I definitely want to change that. I’ve heard Cinnamon Hill is great, so I’d like to get out and play more golf here. The only time I’ve ever played tournament golf in Jamaica, it has been at Tryall. But I know there is a lot of great golf in Jamaica other than Tryall, which I would like to explore.”
Tryall Club combines the island’s hilly terrain with other natural elements for a unique golfing experience. The course has a storied history, having hosted numerous international tournaments, including the Johnnie Walker World Golf Championship between 1991 and 1995. In 2005, Caribbean World Magazine voted Tryall Club the Best Golf Course in the Caribbean.
Just a few kilometers east of Montego Bay are three more top-quality golf courses: White Witch, Cinnamon Hill and Half Moon.
Opened in 2000, the White Witch course was crafted on 600 acres of lush countryside, including mountainous terrain. Golfers are afforded panoramic views of the Caribbean Ocean from 16 holes and are best advised to be on guard as shifting winds.
Cinnamon Hill, revamped by designer Robert von Hagge, features a front nine that makes its way close to a windblown beach while the back nine, which is overlooked by the massive Rose Hall plantation house, curves up into the mountains.
Half Moon, which, like Tryall, has also hosted the Jamaica Open, is a Robert Trent Jones design known for its challenging green complexes and a daunting set of bunkers.
Find more information on the Jamaica Open and Jamaica’s best golf courses by visiting sportsinnovatorsgroup.com.
The Jamaica Open’s presenting sponsor for the last four years, Aqua Bay Resort, is focused on raising the profile of the tournament. The event which serves to showcase the vast potential and the beauty of the island nation, received significant support from both the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Tourism Enhancement Fund, who share the Jamaica Golf Association’s vision. Other sponsors included both Digicel Business and the Grand Palladium Hotel.