Want the real deal on Caribbean golf? Don't ask the PR writers
An earlier column on problems golfers traveling to the Caribbean might face, titled "Take your clubs, wallet and bodyguard,"brought a significant response from readers, responses which, in turn,deserve attention.
Here are some of their comments.
Brian McCallen writes: "As one who served as Travel Editor at GOLF Magazine for 16+ years, I cannot ever remember reading a more vindictive hatchet job on a destination such as the one written by Mr. McDonald."
Hmmm, GOLF Magazine. The same publication that has never seen a golf course it didn't slobber over. Its writers love words like "nestled"and "brilliant." New courses are always "exciting," and "destined for greatness."
McCallen goes on to write: "(The article) was filled with half-truths,outright lies and gross generalizations that are completely unfair totheislands he purports to cover. Baseless, negative reporting has no placeinyour publication. I prefer facts to misguided opinions."
Check out Mr. McCallen's "facts" when he wrote on the Caribbean.
This is the same guy who fawned over the game's "hottest new designers," and "far-sighted developers."
Stupendous, fantastic, unbelievable
According to McCallen, the Caribbean is a place where there are always "cooling sea breezes, "sandy beaches," and swaying "cocoanut palms." The greens are always "undulating" and the courses are always "delightful," "stunning" "superb" "majestic" "dramatic," inspiring," and "irresistible." They are either "engineering extravaganzas" or "engineering marvels."
One course was, of course, the "Pebble Beach of the Caribbean."
I'm not making any of this up; these are his words: (www.golfonline.com/golfonline/travel/international/article/0,177 42,4 69914,00.html)
After a while, my head began to spin. I began to think this guy was theworld's leading, walking thesaurus of superlative blather, but try as Imight, I never found him use the word "awesome."
Here's another example of bad PR writing, backed up by "facts:" McCallenmarvels at how the Ocean Club Gold Course on Paradise Island has "oceanviews on every hole."
That's true. You know why? Because owner Sol Kerzner ordered architect Tom Weiskopf, who re-designed the course from a Dick Wilson design, to cut down all the trees! Talk about environmentally-unfriendly. I remember asking Kerzner about that. He said he "loved the color of the water." When I asked Weiskopf about the complete razing of the trees, I've never seen an architect look so abashed.
Where no golfer has been
McCallen writes: "My guess is that your writer has not been to many of the islands to experience what they have to offer."
Actually, I lived in the Caribbean for years, and have traveled it extensively, as a tourist in some cases, but mostly as a journalist.
Granted, my experience hasn't always been as a golfer. As a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press and a reporter for other Caribbean publications, I had to venture into places that no Caribbean golfer has gone or will probably ever go.
That includes Trench Town in Kingston, Jamaica; Belmont in Port-of-Spain,Trinidad; ramshackle Haitian villages in the Bahamas, and the"over-the-hill" area south of downtown Nassau, just to name a few.
I can promise you, most were not "delightful" or "inspiring."
All the observations in the story were backed up by the CIA Fact Book. McCallen should check it out: http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/
How to not buy drugs
Back to the letters:
Linda, of St. Croix, Virgin Islands, writes: "Apparently Tim McDonald has the inside on the how to not buy drugs or get arrested in the Caribbean."
Forget the split infinitive, Linda makes a good point. It is hard NOT to buy drugs in the Virgin Islands. Every time I went to Coki Beach on StThomas,where I lived for too long a time, I got a minimum of three aggressive offers to buy dope.
This came despite the fact that the cops were not 20 feet away - most of whom were lounging around at one of the rum bars, drinking on-duty, incidents that were captured on film by the Virgin Islands Daily News, by the way.
Linda continues: "Speaking for most of the people who are so blessed to live in Caribbean communities, individuals like Mr. McDonald are not welcomed here and I am happy that the drug dealers and the police made his experiences such that he does not want to return."
Not welcome? Gee, are you one of the dozens of rude waitresses and cashiers I was constantly running into? Coincidentally, this is the same sort of attitude I've heard so many people complain about when they go to theV.I.Like me, they're not welcome.
John Mcgonigal of Aston, Pennsylvania, writes: "I go (to the Caribbean)annually and have never encountered any such incidents as you describe.One thing you mention, poor roads, does inhibit playing different courses,however it is much less expensive to pay a little more (money) up front, and purchase an all-inclusive vacation where you pay only for cart or caddy, along with food, drink and tips."
Hey, you wouldn't happen to be shilling for your travel agency, Chesdel Vacations, would you, John?
Watch out for careening tour buses
Mcgonigal continues: "It's a hell of a lot more dangerous driving through any American city."
Most American cities I've driven through, and I've driven the length and breadth of the country, don't have potholes that could double as Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Also, in the U.S., you'll occasionally see street signs, you know those man-made devices that TELL YOU WHERE YOU ARE.
Tell me how safe you feel when you encounter, head-on, a 12-foot-wide tourist bus careening around a blind, mountain corner at top speed, on a pot-holed road that's 10-feet wide?
Is Hell friendlier?
Dana, also of St. Croix, writes: "I am a resident of St. Croix, USVI and the comments that were made of my island was (sic) absurd. St. Croix is no different from any other island in the Caribbean when it comes to crimes."
Yes it is. It's worse.
Dana continues: "This so-called journalist makes it seem like St. Croixisyour trip to hell."
I think hell would have friendlier people and less thieves.
She adds: "The journalist claimed to have resided in the Caribbean for years. Well, if he did he would know that St. Croix is an island paradise filled with beauty. Like every other location, there are ups and downs and the economy may have problems at times."
"Problems at times?"
Go to Christiansted and see the empty downtown. Go to the airport, look at all the planes that aren't there. Go to the cruise ship complex - tell me how many cruise ships you see? You know why they left? Because their passengers and crew kept getting robbed and beaten and the government refused to do anything about it.
The intention of the story was not to break bad on a region or a people for the fun of it. The Caribbean is home to many wonderful islands and people, some of whom remain close friends of mine. The intention was to point out that golfers traveling to the Caribbean may not get all the information they need from marketers and public relations people. There are problems Caribbean golfers need to be aware of.
But, we'll let Dana have the last word. Almost.
"Despite it all, St. Croix will continue to shine so please direct your comments elsewhere. This article is an excellent example of bad journalism."
I guess that's better than being a bad example of excellent journalism.
June 21, 2004