Take your clubs and run away to Breezes Runaway Bay Resort and Golf Club in Jamaica
RUNAWAY BAY, Jamaica - Commander John Harris, of the United Kingdom, designed the Breezes Runaway Bay Resort and Golf Club's golf course back in 1960, and the commander apparently was a big fan of the long ball.
Harris installed seven par 5s. That's right: Seven.
Back then, this Jamaican golf course had a par of 74. They have since shortened the layout to be a bit more accommodating for vacationers weakened by sun and fun, but it still has some very long par 4s.
Some are so long, in fact, they're longer than the par 5s.
Don't ask. This is Caribbean golf. We don't stick to no rules here, mon.
The golf course is a joy to play. It's 6,870 yards from the back tees with a fairly mild slope rating of 124, which seems a bit low, to be honest, especially when the wind can come howling through with gusts up to 35 miles per hour.
It's laid out over gently rolling terrain, with occasional glimpses of the Caribbean Sea. The greens are mostly old-school, relatively small and flat, though there are several two-tiered numbers. On the day I played, they had been recently top-dressed but still rolled true, if a tad slow.
Breezes Runaway Bay's golf course is in decent shape, mostly tree-lined with cedars and other tropical foliage, but the rough is easy on resort players: You'll rarely lose your ball except in certain sections of the course.
The difficulty comes in the form of the near-constant tradewinds that can dramatically affect club selection, as well as some very long par 4s.
"It's challenging because of the length of the holes and the wind factor," said club Golf Professional Seymour Rose, who holds the course record with 62. "The wind usually blows from the northeast to the northwest and can gust up to 35 miles per hour. It doesn't blow much this time of the year, though."
About those par 4s: No. 9 is 450 yards, No. 12 is 479 yards, No. 14 is - yikes! - 480 yards. The closing par 4 is "only" 450 yards, but it's the No.1 handicapped hole; it has three bunkers in the left fairway that capture a lot of drives.
The course also has a very nice collection of par 3s, especially No. 7, a tricky downhiller with a lovely little green that overlooks the jungle.
Breezes Runaway Bay Resort and Golf Club: The verdict
Here's the best part, as in all Super Clubs golf courses: No green fees if you're staying at one of the Super Clubs resorts: Breezes Runaway Bay Resort, Grand Lido Braco and Grand Lido Negril.
Show up when you want and pay nothing.
That includes private lessons and on-course instruction.
Caddies are available for $16 for 18 holes. For non-guests, green fees are $35.
Breezes Runaway Bay has hosted some prestigious Jamaican golf tournaments, like the Jamaica Open and a World Cup of Golf Super Qualifier.
It has the only golf academy in Jamaica with a certified PGA instructor and also has visiting golf instructors.
The facility has a good pro shop, a driving range for irons and a putting green.
Breezes Runaway Bay Resort is aptly named: The outdoor restaurants and bars, and even the lobby, are all open and subject to the warm breezes off the Caribbean.
It's on the north shore of Jamaica, 42 miles from Montego Bay Airport, less than an hour and a half drive.
The resort caters to active people, not only golfers. Set on the longest stretch of private beach in Jamaica, it has a very active water sports program, with a scuba program that includes all-day dives and deep-dives of 60-90 feet. One of those is "The Canyons," where two vertical walls face each other over a 150-foot gorge, only 200 yards from the beach.
The other is "The Wreck," where The Reggae Queen is buried in 50 feet of water.
The resort offers scuba classes taught by PADI-trained instructors.
If scuba diving is too intense, the resort has windsurfing, hobie cats, water skiing, glass-bottom boats, snorkeling, kayaks and a super-catamaran.
December 4, 2008