Tee Off in the Jamaica Open at Half Moon

Half Moon Golf Club, Jamaica (Image: Half Moon, A Rock Resort)

Half Moon Golf Club, Jamaica (Image: Half Moon, A Rock Resort)

A favourite stop of royalty and high society, Montego Bay’s posh Half Moon, A Rock Resort, hosts both amateurs and pros in a prestigious and fun annual championship dating from 1953.

Teeing off under the swaying palms alongside Jim Thorpe, Olin Browne, Russ Cochrane and other golf stars in the Jamaica Open is a fantasy come true for amateur golfers. Just as much fun are the beachside après-golf parties with new celebrity friends at posh Half Moon, A Rock Resort, the host and sponsor of a national championship started in 1953.

Played Nov. 28 to Dec. 1, the tourney is open to both professionals and amateurs who carry a maximum handicap of five. Far more democratic is the one-day pro-am preceding the main event, which accepts entries from teams of three golfers of varying abilities (provided each golfer carries an official handicap) for the entry fee of $600 (all prices in U.S. dollars).

Half Moon Resort, Grand Entrance (Image: Half Moon, A Rock Resort)

The grand entrance (Image: Half Moon, A Rock Resort)

Perhaps as big a draw as the Jamaica Open’s purse of $85,000 is the opportunity for golfers to luxuriate for a few days at a Caribbean resort whose high-society guest list has included Queen Elizabeth II and John and Jacqueline Kennedy, who enjoyed a month-long vacation here just prior to his inauguration as U.S. president in 1961.

Half Moon takes its name from the property’s famous crescent-shaped beach of pure white sand, which in 1954 inspired investors to turn an abandoned sugar plantation into one of the world’s elite resorts. Located near bustling Montego Bay on Jamaica’s northwest coast, Half Moon, which has been lavishly renovated over the past decade, sprawls across 400 acres of some of the most dramatically beautiful terrain in the Caribbean.

Accommodations include rooms and suites, as well as 33 elegantly accessorized four- to seven-bedroom private villas, each with a pool and full-time staff. Furnished throughout with Queen Anne-inspired pieces and vibrant Jamaican paintings, Half Moon retains the feel of a traditional island plantation, yet with all the modern amenities.

There are 54 swimming pools, 13 floodlit tennis courts, the award-winning Fern Tree spa, one of the Caribbean’s best-equipped equestrian centres, and a protected lagoon where guests can swim with Reggae and Toni, the resident Atlantic Bluenose dolphins.

But the focus for golfers is Half Moon Golf Club, a lushly tropical Robert Trent Jones Sr. design opened in 1961 (and masterfully updated by Roger Rulewich in 2005) that flows seamlessly through gentle foothills just beyond the craggy coastline.

Half Moon Resort's famous crescent-shaped beach (Image: Half Moon, A Rock Resort)

Sunrise at Half Moon’s famous crescent-shaped beach (Image: Half Moon, A Rock Resort)

Half Moon is also ideally situated for golfers who want to linger a while and play other courses. A quick shuttle ride away is Cinnamon Hill Golf Course, a Robert von Hagge-Rick Baril design that weaves through the 19th-century ruins of Rose Hall plantation. And just beyond that is White Witch Golf Club, an evilly difficult Hagge-Baril design offering views of the Caribbean Sea from no fewer than 16 holes.

Entry to the Jamaica Open is $650 for professionals; $500 for amateurs. Special Jamaica Open room rates at Half Moon start at $215 per night single occupancy and $240 per night double.

2012 marks the fifth consecutive year that Half Moon has hosted Jamaica’s premier golf tournament, and the eighth time in the resort’s 58-year history.


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