A 7,156-yard Gary Player signature course, Guavaberry Golf & Country Club ($89; 809-333-4653) opened in 2002. A big, gently sloping track, it features one of the more challenging finishing holes in the Caribbean, a 466-yard par four with a green tucked behind an enormous bed of coral rocks that runs along the entire right side of the fairway.
CASA DE CAMPO, La Romana; 800-877-3643. Rooms: $183- $379. Suites: $312-$580. Villas: $521-$1,271.
Visitors returning for the first time since the 1998 hurricane will be amazed by the resort's makeover. Every room has been remodeled, a tropical spa and world-class marina have been added, and a new international airport has opened just ten minutes away. Besides the golf, there's tennis, skeet shooting, horseback riding, a watersports beach area and nine restaurants. Shopping and dining at the nearby Altos de Chavon district add to the resort's plethora of options.
If the so-called Platinum Coast of St. James Parish on the island of Barbados is the Caribbean's new "in" place—and it is—then the totally revamped Sandy Lane resort is its over-the-top jewel. Between the wide- screen plasma TV in your room and the parabolic stereo speakers on your veranda, you might have a hard time pulling yourself onto Sandy Lane's two world-class Tom Fazio courses. But probably not.
COUNTRY CLUB COURSE, Sandy Lane, St. James; 246-444-2500. Yardage: 7,060. Par: 72. Slope: 132. Architect: Tom Fazio, 2001. Greens Fees: $105-$200. T&L Golf Rating: ***1/2
One has long ago lost count of the millions spent by the new Irish owners of this once-staid old hotel. They bought it, razed it, glitzed it up and brought in Tom Fazio to do the same to its golf course.
Only Fazio had even grander plans in mind. The old course had nine holes near the hotel and nine newer holes a mile or so upland. Fazio took the upper site, tore it up, and built an all-new eighteen. And while there are plenty of monkeys on the Country Club course—we saw one scamper across the third tee—there's no monkey business in Fazio's surprisingly mature design. Flowering trees overhang the greens, but most of the trouble is avoidable. The course even assigns a forecaddie to keep things moving, and our man, Winston, gave my wife a playing lesson. She liked it as much as I liked watching the monkeys.
THE GREEN MONKEY, Sandy Lane, St. James; 866-444-4080. Yardage: 7,341. Par: 72. Slope: 132. Architect: Tom Fazio, 2003. Greens Fees: n/a. T&L Golf Rating: ***** (potentially)
Speaking of monkeys, Fazio wasn't done with Sandy Lane; after the Country Club, he went up and hacked eighteen more holes out of an old quarry. But these are not any old holes. Just up the hill from the hotel, this course promises to be truly unlike anything else in golf.
The Green Monkey features Fazio's typical muscular, wide-open tee shots and challenging green complexes; what sets it apart are the jaw-dropping coral cliffs running throughout. Playing along and over quarry walls that soar up to ninety feet high, with every shot commanding a glorious Caribbean view, is an experience you won't soon forget. The course is scheduled to open this December—then again, it has been "scheduled" to open for months—but once this monkey is up and running, it should set a new standard in the region for tough and thrilling golf.
ALSO PLAY: While it's battling the Monkey for props, the refurbished Royal Westmoreland Golf Club ($100-$190; 246-422-4653) is a superb hillside Robert Trent Jones Jr. track with sea views on nearly every hole.
SANDY LANE, St. James; 866-444-4080. Rooms: $800-$1,800. Suites: $1,000-$4,000. Villa: $10,000-$15,000.
Extremely chic, this marble and coral palace caters to those seeking a sybaritic treat. There's a stunning private beach, a 47,000-square-foot spa and ever-prescient service. There's even a five-bedroom, 7,300-square-foot villa for those for whom price is not an object—but a dare.
CARAMBOLA (Caribbean), St. James Parish; 246-432-0832. $$$$
The romance factor is sky-high on Carambola's multilevel terraces, on the cliffs on Barbados's quiet west coast. Barbadian Robin Walcott's kitchen favors local seafood, such as the pan-seared flying fish with curried coleslaw drizzled with lemon-infused oil. It's a fine place to linger.
VILLA NOVA (Continental), St. John Parish; 246-433-1524. $$$$
Once a plantation home, Villa Nova has been transformed into a sublime, twenty-seven-suite boutique hotel. Here chef Renee Griffith uses local organic ingredients to offer crispy duck watercress salad, Thai red curry chicken and the Brits' favored bread-and-butter pudding.
This lovely beachfront resort was rebuilt after a visit from hurricane Lenny in 1999. The course, too, has been beautifully restored and is once again one of the Caribbean's finest. All of which you'll truly appreciate as you receive a complimentary spritz and scented towel after your post-round dip in the resort's stunning infinity-edge pool.
ROBERT TRENT JONES II GOLF COURSE, Charlestown; 869-469-1111. Yardage: 6,776. Par: 71. Slope: 132. Architect: Robert Trent Jones Jr., 1991. Greens Fee: $175. T&L Golf Rating: ****
You get the feeling you're not in Kansas, Toto, even on the practice range of this course. The targets are not flags or fake greens, but towering coconut palms—dozens of them—pockmarked but unbowed.