Top 10 Reasons to Tee It Up in Montego Bay

Tryall Golf Club (Image: Tryall Club)

Tryall Golf Club is the former home of the Johnnie Walker World Championship. (Image: Tryall Club)

From the best golf, scuba diving and zip-lining to the tastiest jerk chicken, our guide to the good life in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

With four superior resort courses, Montego Bay has long been one of the Caribbean’s most popular golf destinations. But Sweet Jamaica’s second-largest city also offers golden beaches, choice servings of the island’s famous jerk-style cuisine, and nightspots that throb to the reggae beat. Here, our top 10 reasons to golf and explore MoBay this winter.

Tryall Club

Although its dominance has been challenged in recent years, the course long regarded as Jamaica’s best is Tryall Golf Club, part of the exclusive Tryall Club, a golf, tennis and beach resort about 20 kilometres west of Montego Bay. The resort’s sumptuous estate villas sprawl elegantly across an 890-hectare site that includes almost four kilometres of beaches. High season (from the Christmas holidays to just past Easter) prices climb as high as $45,000 a week. Also available are one- and two-bedroom condos (starting from $3,500 a week in high season).

Built in 1960 by Texas architect Ralph Plummer and now extensively restored, Tryall’s 6,772-yard golf course is famous as the former home of the Johnnie Walker World Championship and the LPGA Tour’s Jamaica Classic. Tryall’s holes hug the water before climbing through coconut groves and returning to the sea. The par-four seventh hole is one of the most photographed in the Caribbean. Golfers playing the back tees must somehow ignore the distraction of a still functioning waterwheel to hit a precision shot through the stone pillars of an aqueduct.

Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

An ecological wonderland for divers and snorkelers, Montego Bay Marine Park is a protected area encompassing more than 20 kilometres of shoreline, including coral reefs, sea grass beds and mangrove ecosystems. Experienced divers will thrill to the “Widowmakers Cave,” where the descent is 24 metres and the return to the surface is through a three-metre-wide chimney.

Half Moon Golf Course Jamaica (Image: Half Moon)

Half Moon Golf Course flows through gentle foothills just beyond the coastline. (Image: Half Moon)

Half Moon

Designed by the immortal Robert Trent Jones Sr., Half Moon Golf Course is the centrepiece of an eponymous luxury resort east of Montego Bay whose high-society guest list has included Queen Elizabeth II and John and Jacqueline Kennedy. Half Moon is completing the second phase of a $75-million renovation that includes the addition of new oceanfront rooms and suites, two restaurants and three bars, an infinity-edge swimming pool, as well as a protected saltwater pool with unobstructed views of the Caribbean Sea.

Opened in 1961 (and masterfully updated by Roger Rulewich in 2005), Jones’s course flows seamlessly through gentle foothills just beyond the craggy coastline. Half Moon’s spacious palm tree-lined fairways and receptive greens are typical of the great man’s best resort layouts.

Downtown MoBay

A vibrant mash-up of bars, midrange hotels, souvenir shops, food stalls, carwashes and supermarkets, downtown MoBay is either instantly embraced by visitors or kept at a wary distance. A highlight for many is Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, possibly the city’s most popular club. Another hot spot is Tracks and Records, one of a chain of multi-screen sports bars launched by Olympic sprinter and national hero Usain Bolt. Best beaches? Both visitors and locals flock to Doctors Cave Beach Club, located on Gloucester Avenue in the middle of the city’s “Hip Strip.” Next door to Doctors Cave is Cornwall Beach, a usually less busy strand offering the same turquoise waters. But note: In January 2018, the Jamaican government declared a state of emergency in Montego Bay following a rise in thefts and gang activity. Visitors are advised to exercise caution when wandering the downtown, especially at night.

Scotchies is an essential stop for jerk chicken and pork. (Image: Scotchies)

Zip-line Adventure Tour

An ideal outing for vacationers travelling with kids is a Zipline Adventure Tour through the tropical canopy at Lethe Estates, a private farming community west of Montego Bay on the Great River. There are five zip-lines, including Big Timba, the longest in the Caribbean, which stretches 488 metres. The tour includes round-trip transportation from your hotel.

Scotchies

It’s almost compulsory to follow a morning round of golf in Montego Bay with a stop at Scotchies for a lunch of authentic jerk pork and chicken, all washed down with Red Stripe, the local beer. This casual eatery on Falmouth Road features a collection of thatched-roofed pavilions with stools fashioned from beer kegs. The menu also offers jerk fish and traditional Jamaican side dishes like roasted breadfruit and sweet cornmeal fritters.

Cinnamon Hill

Cinnamon Hill Golf Course Jamaica (Image: Cinnamon Hill)

Cinnamon Hill Golf Course winds through the ruins of the old Rose Hall plantation. (Image: Cinnamon Hill)

A longtime Caribbean favourite, Cinnamon Hill Golf Course is a gorgeous 6,637-yard Robert von Hagge-Rick Baril design that tumbles down the slopes of Mount Zion to the sea east of Montego Bay. Golfers are treated to several unforgettable holes as the course wends through the 18th- and 19th-century ruins of Rose Hall plantation. A waterfall behind the 15th green was featured in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die. And the 14th hole offers a close-up view of the former holiday home of singer Johnny Cash, a man beloved by the locals for his generosity to Jamaican charities.

Pier One

This popular open-air restaurant and music venue is built on an oceanside pier on Howard Cooke Boulevard. Pier One is a favourite haunt of hip locals and tourists, especially after 10 p.m. when the Jamaican dance party crowd arrives in force.

White Witch

White Witch Golf Course Jamaica (Image: White Witch Golf Course)

White Witch Golf Course offers panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea on sixteen holes. (Image: White Witch)

Golfers might need a bracing shot of the local rum after their first look at White Witch Golf Course, a treacherously difficult von Hagge-Baril design that climbs the slopes of looming Mount Zion. The 6,758-yard roller-coaster routing through rocky outcroppings and gaping ravines affords panoramic views of the distant Caribbean Sea from no fewer than 16 holes.

White Witch was aptly named after Annee Palmer, Jamaica’s notorious “White Witch,” who was mistress of Rose Hall plantation in the early 19th century. Palmer was said to have murdered three husbands, as well as several unfortunate slaves whom she had tired of as lovers. Terrified servants strongly suspected their evil mistress of dabbling in witchcraft.

Canadian Content

Two of MoBay’s four courses, Cinnamon Hill and White Witch, are under the joint stewardship of Canucks Keith Stein and Jamie Breedon. Longtime Jamaica resident Stein is the director of golf course operations, while head professional Breedon recently arrived from the Port Carling Golf Club in Muskoka, Ontario.

So, golfers know they’ll be in safe—and unfailingly polite—Canadian hands.

 

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