SuperClubs Ironshore Golf and Country Club in Jamaica: Long on potential, a bit short on upkeep
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica - Maybe the best part of the SuperClubs Ironshore Golf and Country Club is the reggae music that follows you around the golf course.
Tee off in the morning and you'll hear it coming from the houses in the surrounding neighborhood. Then, later in the day, it comes wafting across the street from open-air bars across the road, close to the sea.
The next best thing may be the green fees - as in free, if you're a guest at one of the SuperClubs resorts in Jamaica, which includes Grand Lido Braco, Grand Lido Negril and Breezes Runaway Bay.
The golf course is the newest of the SuperClubs golf facilities, bought recently when it was known as Ironshore Golf and Country Club.
The new owners renovated the clubhouse, which now sports a pro shop, equipment storage area, bar, showers and locker rooms.
Now, if they would just put a little more money into maintenance, they'd have another first-rate Caribbean golf course.
The potential is there. The SuperClubs Ironshore Golf and Country Club course was built in the early 1970s, and it has an excellent layout over mildly rolling terrain with occasional glimpses of the sea.
It's only 6,570 yards from the back tees, but you'll be glad it isn't much longer when you're playing one of the par 5s or long par 4s into the teeth of the prevailing breezes.
SuperClubs Ironshore Golf and Country Club also has some elevation, a good collection of par 3s and some tricky doglegs.
In fairness, the island's recent rainy season has caused some of the maintenance problems, but regulars - mostly locals - say it could stand some tender loving care.
The greens are slow and bumpy - some have ant mounds, so don't play barefoot - and the fairways could use some trimming, as could the tee boxes. Grass and weeds grow in most of the bunkers.
Still, it's a worthwhile outing.
"It's very entertaining," said Head Greenskeeper Walston Barrett. "There's nothing out here that's going to frighten anyone."
Except the ants.
SuperClubs Ironshore Golf and Country Club: The verdict
Ironshore has mostly tree-lined fairways, and parts of the course are surrounded by the lovely low hills of this part of Jamaica.
Your biggest obstacle here, aside from fairly tight fairways, will most likely be the wind. Many of the holes play into the wind, and some of the doglegs must be negotiated against tricky crosswinds.
The first hole is a good starter, a downhill par 4 that plays toward the sea. No. 5 is a sharp dogleg right, with that crosswind complicating matters.
The 15th is an excellent par 3, and the 18th, with its elevated green built in a mini-ampitheater, is an interesting and challenging closing hole.
Grand Lido Resorts and Spas are beautiful, AAA 4-Diamond affairs, including Grand Lido Braco and Grand Lido Negril.
Grand Lido Braco is located on the north coast of the island, 32 miles east of Montego Bay, about an hour from the airport.
The 2,000 feet of white sand beach is a big selling point, as is the fact the resort is designed in the style of a Victorian era, Jamaican sea-side village - no huge, generic buildings and elevators. You're up close and personal with the Jamaica flora and fauna.
For sun, you can either lay poolside or opt for a more private station just steps outside your door.
There's a "town square," art galleries, boutiques, restaurants and cafes. It gives you a more intimate experience than other all-inclusives.
The food alone is worth the price. Piacere Restaurant is the formal dining room - they'll provide a jacket if you forgot to bring one. They serve nouvelle cuisine: I recommend the giant pan seared scallop atop wilted spinach with ginger broth for an appetizer, followed by a salad, clam chowder soup - all leading to the aged beef tenderloin with port wine Pimento Reduction.
Topped off by chocolate truffles.
But that's only one dining option. Munasan is a casual Japanese restaurant. Victoria Market serves breakfast and lunch buffet-style, while dinner is served a la carte. And La Pasta is a casual sidewalk cafe.
Reggae Cafe RASTaurant serves traditional Jamaican favorites, and Pebbles and Beach Houses has light meals, everything from hamburgers to grilled lamb chops, and 24-hour bar service. Each houses a terrace, bar and whirlpool tub.
Oh, by the way, premium cocktails are part of the deal.
It's an active place, with a Caribbean Beach Party Night - every Wednesday on the beach, weather permitting, as well as a Caribbean buffet and a show or cabaret.
The Grand Gala Jamaican Street Dances happen Friday nights all around the town square.
They also do weddings - for free. There's a little chapel jutting out into the sea where weddings are held, with waves crashing in the background.
There is a nude beach on the west side of the beach property - don't get all up in arms you prudes, it's very low-key and tasteful.
The resort has an excellent spa, with extensive treatments including manicure and pedicures, facials and massage, including a couples massage.
There is 24-hour valet service, 24-hour room service, and did I mention the unlimited cocktails?
Or the piano bar, disco, sauna and steam rooms?
If you have to work, they have a business center with Internet access.
November 11, 2008