By: Tim Reilly May 28, 2020
The 18th hole at The Abaco Club is a demanding challenge that comes with a surreal view on its perched-up oceanside green.
The Abaco Club
Welcometo our Where I played series, in which a resident GOLF staffer runs througha recent day at a course you might play in your future. Today, weve got theAbaco Club on Winding Bay, a true links course in the Bahamas.
Unlike its boisterous counterparts in the Bahamas, The Abaco Club on Winding Bay is a quiet refuge from the world. Abaco is home to a Scottish-style links course thats right, a links course in the Bahamas designed by Donald Steel and Tom Mackenzie. Sadly, in September 2019, Category 5 Hurricane Dorian wreaked havoc on the Great Abaco area and the club was closed for two months while it was rebuilt and recovered.
The Winding Bay Fundwas established to specifically assist the people of Abaco in the form of food, shelter, medical aid and supplies, and to provide assistance in the islands clean-up and rebuilding efforts. To date, the fund has raised over $3 million through donations from members, friends, family and visitors.
But The Abaco Club reopened for business less than two months after Dorian and hasnt looked back since. Heres what you should know about this under-the-radar Bahamas gem.
The 4th hole at The Abaco Club is the first time you get a glimpse of the ocean on the course, but it wont be the last.
The Abaco Club
Course: The Abaco Club on Winding Bay
My tee time: 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13; and 4:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14 (I couldnt resist going around a second time!)
Course Type: Private
Membership options: Full Membership Resident, Abaco Membership Non-Resident, Full Membership Non-Resident Bahamian Citizen, International Membership Non-Resident, Sports Membership, Social Membership
Price: Varies by season
How to get there: Traveling from New York, I took a connecting flight through Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Located just 186 miles east of Palm Beach, its a short puddle-jumper flight from the Florida coast.
Difficulty: You need to play well to score well. There wont be many lucky breaks coming your way. The fairway terrain often leaves you with an uneven lie and theres little room for error on approach shots. In true links fashion, its not uncommon to watch what you felt was a good shot roll 10-15 yards off the green in any direction. The undulated greens make it fun to track your ball when you strike putts just right but it also leaves you scratching your head when you dont.
The course gradually picks up in difficultly. Hole Nos. 15-18 are a real test and known as the best final stretch in the Bahamas. (Lets just say the views on those four helped distract me from the numbers on my scorecard.) The Abaco Club is challenging in the way a course should be, leaving you to say, I want to play again knowing what I do now.
Fun fact: The first tee is located just steps away from a cabana bar, Flippers, on the beach. Seriously, just steps away. Before my Friday twilight round, I lounged on the beach that looked like something youd find on a postcard, grabbed a drink at the bar and took it with me to the courseand made it back to the bar when I was done playing. Its the ideal circle of life when it comes to Bahamas golf livin.
No. 4 (180-yard par-3) As the first hole that comes with a backdrop of the ocean, this is when the full beauty of the course truly begins. The staggered tee boxes are surrounded by colorful shrubbery and flowers that create a vibrant scene. You could end up playing a short-or-long iron, maybe even a hybrid, depending on the ocean breeze that day.
No. 16 (380-yard par-4) The 16th is by far the most intimidating tee shot on the course, especially if you venture to the back tees. Theres a canyon thats wedged between the right side of the fairway on 15 and 16. Unlike the 15th, which is more of a straight shot, the 16th bends to the right, begging you to accept the challenge and see how much of the canyon you can clear. This is your high-risk, high-reward moment on the course. The livings easy everywhere in Abaco other than the 16th tee.
Its a picture-perfect scene on the 17th hole at The Abaco Club.
The Abaco Club
No. 17 (163-yard par-4) Trouble on the right, a heavy slope on the left and blue ocean as far as the eye can see comes with the 17th hole. Its a picture-perfect par-3. Id be content grabbing a cooler and setting up shop to play the 17th over and over again for the day. This is the type of hole you daydream about at work.
No. 18 (543-yard par-5) Finish strong! Theres no room for error on the 18th tee shot. The ocean is embedded into your mind on the left, as youll hear waves crashing when you address the ball, but theres also hidden bushes and shrubs off to the right. I wouldnt count on reaching this par-5 in 2. The most important shot is your second. Try to avoid that runoff to the right of the green to end your round on a high note. When you tap that final putt in make sure to soak in the ocean view on a perched-up green.
I loved: The Abaco Club has world-class golf, beautiful views and a no-worries attitude, and thats all this golfer from the Big Apple could ask for. Theres nothing pretentious about the course, or the community as a whole for that matter. Barefoot luxury is what Abaco considers themselves and I can attest to that. All the amenities you could ask for exist while maintaining the feeling of an escape from reality.
After your round, I recommend taking the short stroll over to the beach, grab a drink at Flippers, jump in a kayak and take the 15-minute trek to whats referred to as Sugar Cane Island located straight off the Winding Bay beach. Its a small, uninhabited island thats the absolute perfect setting for a sunset drink.
Theres no better way to cap off a round of golf at The Abaco Club than to take in the sunset off Winding Bay.
The Abaco Club
I didnt love: The golf balls I lost on 15 and 16. You can find three custom-marked Life of Reilly balls laying in the bottom of the canyon between both holes. I pushed my ball off to the right once on 15 and went for the hero shot twice on 16 and you guessed it, came up a zero both times.
My lack of versatility around the greens was exposed in a big way. I dont frequently play many links-style courses, so I wasnt accustomed to keeping the ball low around the greens. I played a game of ping pong with myself on a few holes going from one side of the green to the other, but I have no one to blame by myself for that.
Bring your A-game and enjoy a slice of golf paradise at The Abaco Club.
Reilly is GOLFs social-media editor. In September 2017, he took over the reins to the brands Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages. He manages GOLFs short- and long-term social strategy and produces social video content. Beyond the social space, he contributes to GOLF.com and GOLF Magazine as a writer. His ranking of the best golf scenes in Seinfeld is his magnum opus.
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