Legendary Courses > Golf > Puerto Rico
With 22 golf courses in Puerto Rico test players of all levels with an abundance of well-placed bunkers and water hazards, spreading trees and rolling hills and the ever-present trade winds. Many courses have hosted local, national and international tournaments and rank among the best and most challenging in the Caribbean. Fairways border dramatic blue tropical waters, sand traps match the bone-white hues of beach sand, a profusion of flowering thickets add color to the roughs and the graceful fronds of coconut palms provide some shade.
While golfing may not be the primary reason most people visit Puerto Rico – soaking up the tropical sun and cooling off in the turquoise waters undoubtedly rank higher – it should be a major reason. Few places in the world offer golfers dependable warm weather, spectacular scenery and 22 challenging, championship-caliber golf courses a short drive from each other.
Even more impressive, most of these courses have been designed by golf luminaries. Drive out to Dorado and you can play on four legendary courses designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. Jones designed or re-designed some 500 golf courses in 40 states and 35 countries in his illustrious career. In Puerto Rico, he built the Dorado Beach courses on little more than sand. Begun in 1958 as part of Laurence Rockefeller’s resorts, they became the place to play golf in the Caribbean.
Just up the road is Dorado del Mar. Its 18 holes were designed by Puerto Rican golf great, Chi Chi Rodríguez. Chi Chi started his 45-year professional career at the Dorado Beach courses. He recently returned to Puerto Rico, designing his own course at El Legado Golf Resort.
Today Tom Fazio is known as “America’s greatest living golf architect.” More than 30 years ago, he was just starting out with his uncle, golfer George Fazio, and the ocean-facing course at Río Mar is said to have been their first project. Today, this course is complemented by the River Course, Australian golfing great Greg Norman’s first project in the Caribbean. Norman was assisted by Bruce Besse, designer for the prestigious Willowbend Development. A very busy Besse also designed the 27-hole course at Costa Caribe in Ponce and, along with renowned player Tom Kite, the four 9-hole courses at Coco Beach in Río Grande.
Robert Trent Jones Sr.’s two sons, Robert, Jr. and Rees, have become noted golf course architects in their own right. Rees is not only a golf designer but also an advocate for environmentally sound courses. Two of his projects are at Palmas del Mar Resort. The legendary South African golfer Gary Player designed the resort’s Palm Course in the mid 1970s. Rees redesigned Player’s course and went on to design the newer Flamboyán Course.
Other designers of local courses include Authur Hills (El Conquistador Golf Club), John Sanford (Caguas Real Golf Club) and J. Burton Gold (Bahía Beach Golf Course).
All courses in Puerto Rico have golf pros, classes, driving ranges and clubhouses. With the exception of the military courses, virtually all welcome public play. Fees vary greatly, ranging from a low of $50 or less (cart included) to a high of $185 and up. High season is more expensive than low, mornings more expensive than afternoons, and there are often special rates for twilight play, groups, local residents and more. You can find out current fees and make reservations through your hotel concierge, or you can call directly.
In general, the golf courses that are not part of a resort offer fewer amenities, cost less, cater more to local golfers and, consequently, have more local flavor. Courses along the coast include Berwind Country Club in Río Grande; Bahía Beach in Río Grande (currently closed); Aguirre Golf Club in Salinas (the Island’s oldest course); Club Deportivo del Oeste in Cabo Rojo, and Punta Borinquen Golf Course in Aguadilla. Walking is permitted on certain days at Deportivo and Borinquen.
Golfing on the interior slopes of the Island is a recent phenomenon. Courses include the Coamo Springs Golf Club in Coamo; Las Bambúas Golf & Country Club in Gurabo, and the Caguas Real Golf Club in Caguas.
Courses linked to Island resort hotels pamper their golfers with well-stocked pro shops and well equipped clubhouses, some of which rival the courses in outstanding design. Upscale restaurants and other amenities of a luxury resort are close at hand. Northeastern Puerto Rico has the highest concentration of resort courses: Coco Beach Golf & Country Club next to Paradisus Puerto Rico; Westin Río Mar Beach Resort & Golf Club; El Conquistador Resort & Golden Door Spa, and Palmas del Mar Resort. There is also Dorado del Mar Golf Course at the Embassy Suites Resort; Costa Caribe Golf & Country Club at the Ponce Hilton & Casino, and Chi Chi’s El Legado Golf Course and Resort.
The Dorado Beach Golf Club has the East and West courses, and the North and South courses, recently renovated and renamed Pineapple and Sugarcane, pertain to the Plantation Golf Club. Both clubs have lovely clubhouses and most of the amenities of