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Year-Round Golf in Jamaica

Upon completion, it was far and away the best course in the Caribbean, and may still be (I haven't played the new Trent Jones Jr. course at the Four Seasons on Nevis, which by all reports is marvelous). Tryall was for four years the site of the Johnny Walker World Championship, which was last played there in 1995. I remember one round, when the wind was really up, as it can be in December, and people like Curtis Strange, who had earlier won his second consecutive U.S. Open at Oak Hills, were going around in the mid-eighties. In other words, it's a playable course with conspicuous teeth.

At first, like most, I went to Jamaica in winter. As a young married, I put down summer roots in the Hamptons, where I belonged to a fine old golf club that in those days was never crowded. The golf boom really didn't get going until the Reagan-Milken stock market of the mid-eighties. Three friends and I began traveling to Scotland in autumn to play the great courses, and I remember one fair October weekday in 1981 when we were one of but three groups out on Muirfield, the home course of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, virtually impossible to get onto nowadays. So uncrowded was St. Andrews back then that the four of us were around in midday in under three hours.

But I digress. Back to Tryall. Time passed, the children grew up, and then, about fifteen years ago, my stepmother suggested a trip to Jamaica in August.

I said to her what friends have been saying to me ever since: "You'd go to Jamaica in August?!"

For the last ten years, I have done exactly that. The island is not much hotter in August than it is in winter, the water is more swimmable (eighty-five degrees versus seventy, tops, and no undertow), the food better, the rum drinks equally sublime--and the golf is right there for the playing, on an uncrowded, top-flight course.

When you travel a fair distance to play golf (the JFK-Montego Bay flight is about three and a half hours), you want to feel as if you're on vacation. Looming high-rises in the background, now a feature of so many North American resort venues, take away from this, but at Tryall, the only architecture of which one is aware are the villas of the club members--all set well away from the playing lines--and the graceful old Great House, the plantation manor, set on the brow of the hill overlooking the Caribbean.

Since you've laid out a good bit of money for fourteen clubs, it's nice to be able to play at a course on which you're going to be able to use all or most of them. Too many new courses seem too long--the architects appear to have laid them out while engaged in mental matches with Tiger--with par fours attainable by an eighteen handicapper only with two woods. Not here. The par threes at Tryall are medium- to short-iron length. The par fives are legitimate three-shotters, although two can be reached in two by strong players. Best of all, from the standpoint of the vacationing golfer, no fewer than eight of the eighteen tee shots are played from well-elevated tees, which imparts a feeling of well-being and prowess even as one slides the peg into the turf. The fairways present a full range of stance problems and opportunities. The greens are undulating but true, and in summer, sneaky quick. There's plenty of trouble, but the Tryall caddies (mandatory) have the eyes and experience of Comanche scouts.

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