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Golfing in Belize

His two- and three-bedroom seaside villas have large dining rooms, full kitchens and rooftop verandas. Add to that a huge clubhouse, an Olympic-size pool and, in the future, a second ocean-side pool and athletic center. The driving range is a large freshwater lake with island greens and floating range balls. To keep the grass green and the lakes full, as well as furnish guests with high-quality drinking water, generators and a reverse-osmosis system purify half a million gallons of seawater each day.

Addington admitted he felt "pretty doggone good" being the boss of his own island and golf course. And fun, not inspiration from other courses or architects, guided course design.

"I just wanted to create some fun holes and unique features that I'd enjoy playing myself," said Addington, who has a degree in civil engineering. "The joy I get out of the course is sharing it with friends, family and business associates. I didn't build it for the commercial value, I built it for my own pleasure."

I WAS PLAYING CAYE CHAPEL JUST before the official opening of the resort, which accounts for my solitary round. But it's hard to imagine that overcrowding is ever going to be much of a problem here, not with villas renting at $1,000 a day, and a green fee of $200. Addison's quest for exclusivity may make for many wonderful days of peaceful, unhurried golf on Caye Chapel. (Note: The course is open to public play on a limited-reservation basis, if you ask nicely. I suggest you ask very nicely.)

In a country that has always favored small-scale development, Caye Chapel was not without controversy. Local environmentalists expressed concern about the dredging of sand and the construction of a seawall, which was built around much of the three-mile-long island. But Construction Managers Cynthia and Brad Ringgold reported that Addington had far exceeded everything the government of Belize asked him to do.

"We've had underwater inspection on the reef throughout construction, and the sea grasses are already rejuvenating," Cynthia reassured me. Seeming to bear out her claims, fish by the tens of thousands were schooling at the base of the new wall while two lobster fishermen were setting their traps close to shore.

Addington also has spent a king's ransom for antifungal injection treatment for more than two thousand coconut palm trees to fend off the leaf-yellowing disease that has devastated so many of the Caribbean's palms. And all of that flawless grass in the fairways is a specially imported Paspalum grass, a variety that stays green even with near-constant exposure to salt air and splashing seawater.

I was staying ten miles across the sea from Caye Chapel, in the hot spot of Belize—Ambergris Caye—, the largest island along the Belize coast, whose one town, San Pedro, has streets made of sand. Most transportation is by foot, bicycle and golf cart. From the long line of small seaside resorts, I chose the colonial-styled Victoria House, an old favorite, and prepared for a hard schedule of fishing, snorkeling and hammock riding.

Because Belize is the site of the world's second-longest barrier reef, snorkeling or diving is a must. Setting out from the Victoria House pier, my group made a first stop at Hol Chan Marine Reserve, where a deep channel through the coral reef has underwater visibilities of a hundred feet, thousands of colorful fish and at least one very large moray eel.


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