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Play Away: Monkey Business

Like a series of bowling balls from an angry God, four major hurricanes rolled through the Caribbean last fall (before heading for the tenpin known as Florida), wreaking more than the usual amount of damage in hard-hit islands such as Haiti, Grenada and Grand Cayman. A winter that had promised a wealth of new Caribbean golf course openings was suddenly in danger of being swept out with the storm surge. But there is a silver lining to all those category-five clouds: Although many of the region's new golf resorts and courses were battered, they remain unbowed, still on schedule to open this year—and worth adding to your Caribbean golf itinerary this winter.

By far the most long-awaited of the new Caribbean courses is Tom Fazio's Green Monkey (246-444-2000; sandylane.com) at the Sandy Lane resort on the Platinum Coast of Barbados. Sandy Lane entered the consciousness of the Us Weekly world when it hosted Tiger Woods's wedding this past September, but the golf world was more excited to learn that guests of the resort are finally allowed access to the four-years-in-the-making gem. Hacked out of an old quarry high on the hillside above the beachfront resort, the Green Monkey may be Fazio's finest. At the very least, it's a picture worthy of framing: In addition to the distant views of the sea, the holes carved out of the rocky ledges are visually stunning. The price to play is also stunning—about $300, resort guests only—but Sandy Lane has spent northward of $300 million on renovating the resort, so it has to recoup it somewhere.

Another Fazio family member, another island course with a tortured history, this one residing on a tiny atoll in the Grenadines. The Jim Fazio-designed Trump International Golf Club at Raffles Resort (784-458-8000; canouan.com), on Canouan Island, was actually built several years ago, along with the 156-room resort, but the endeavor died in the post-September 11 tourism slump. In rushed Donald Trump and his cando spirit. Together they revived the casino and the golf course, and the resort finally opened this past summer after a $40 million renovation. Tight and breezy, the layout is a rambling beauty, resplendent with gorgeous views of the sparkling sea, half-moon beaches and the island's towering Mount Royal. The resort itself, adopted by Raffles International, is an elegant, refined treat.

The golf endeavor that was perhaps slapped hardest by the storms was the new Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman (786-470-3400;ritzcarlton.com) on Seven-Mile Beach. Both the sybaritic luxury accommodations and a new nine-hole Greg Norman course were scheduled for November openings—the Shark having opted to flow an intensively watery nine holes over the 144 acres rather than shoehorn in a full eighteen. Ultimately, Hurricane Ivan had other ideas, but despite the setbacks, both hotel and course are slated to be accepting customers by late spring or summer.

Every bit as new—and even more exclusive—is Peter de Savary's private Abaco Club on Winding Bay (888-303-2765; theabacoclub.com). Here, Scotsman Donald Steel, de Savary's designer of choice, has worked with Tom Mackenzie to birth a links-style course in the blazing Bahamian sun. For those with the $65,000 membership fee to burn (you know who you are), memberships are now on sale.


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