If ever there were a witch, it was Annee. Legend has it that Annee Palmer, the 19th century owner of Jamaica’s Rose Hall Estate, ruled over the plantation, its slaves and her husbands — she’s rumored to have killed three — with an iron fist. To this day, locals believe Annee haunts the 4,000-acre estate. But with Annee, at least in her earthly form, long gone, developers have moved in to build resort hotels on former sugar cane fields.
In deference to Annee’s legacy, golf course architects Robert von Hagge and Rick Baril named the course The White Witch. A spectacular rocky and mountainous course with views of the Caribbean Sea is like no other golf course on Jamaica. Far different from the course at nearby Half Moon Golf Club (Global Traveler, November 2006) The White Witch can be mean and spiteful with few level fairways.
From the first tee box you will know you’re in a special place with expansive views of the sea and the Ritz-Carlton Golf and Spa Resort below. Sixteen holes offer ocean views and, in a departure from my experience at other golf courses in Jamaica, I saw very few palm trees. The course is rocky, natural and beautiful. I played at the hottest time of the year, but with an early tee time and a gentle breeze, the climate was tolerable. Our caddie was an asset, pointing out the ins and outs of the course and even offering my daughter a few tips that greatly improved her game.
Unfortunately, the caddie accidentally mixed my clubs with the rental set my daughter was using. I didn’t notice the inadvertent switch until I was back home playing at Jericho National Golf Club in Washington Crossing, Penn. I was 120 yards from the first hole when I discovered I had a woman’s Callaway pitching wedge in my bag instead of my beloved Callaway x14s. My putter had been switched, too.
I contacted the course and they searched their inventory to no avail. They did, however, offer to replace my two clubs, but it took several email reminders before the replacement clubs arrived on Dec. 18 — after I had played the entire fall season without them. Accidents like this happen, but I did learn that it’s a good idea to check your clubs after each game.
(550 yards, par 5)
What a starting hole! It’s beautiful and breathtaking with the Caribbean Sea as the backdrop. Tee off from an elevated tee box that must be 200 feet above the fairway below. The fairway is a straight shot and then a dogleg right to the green. Aim your drive just left of the three traps waiting to catch your ball on the right side. Your second shot should be aimed toward the left side to avoid the four bunkers dotting the right side of the green, which is slightly domed in the center.
(189 yards, par 3)
This par 3 is straightforward, but has a large pond to catch shots that tail off before reaching their target. You have to clear the embankment and the large stone wall in front of the pond. Play a little less club than you’d expect, as the hole is below the tee box.
(453 yards, par 4)
Enjoy the magnificent views of the Caribbean Sea as you aim your drive off the tee box toward the cell tower on the right. Balls that hit the fairway will roll left on the undulating expanse. One bunker on the left front of the green will come into play depending on the pin placement of the day.
(420 yards, par 4)
The closing hole of your front nine is no disappointment. Drives must be precise and stay clear of the left side of the fairway. Big drivers potentially can reach the first of the three fairway bunkers — two on the left and one on the right. From your drive, you have an uphill shot to the green with the clubhouse behind. Shots to the green are best aimed right as balls will have a tendency to roll left.
Hole 10 (621 yards, par 5)
With 621 yards from the back tees, this is a monster of a hole. There’s a near 90-degree turn after your drive, which must stay on the right side. Balls in play on this fairway tend to roll right to left. The hole is downhill from the tee box. Creative players can try to cut the corner, but will be taking a great risk. This hole plays less than the card, so big hitters can reach the green in two, but probably not from the back tees.
(427 yards, par 4)
My caddie instructed me to drive the ball straight (I can do that sometimes) to the black-and-white marker, which left me with a 150-yard shot to the green. Three perfectly placed bunkers await those who push their shots to the right. It’s easy to overshoot this green, so select your club carefully. Balls reaching the green tend to roll left to right.
(164 yards, par 3)
This is a great par 3 where the severity depends mostly on the wind conditions of the day. The peninsula green must be more than 100 feet below the tee box with a great pond protecting the front. A boulder wall bulkheads the pond, making for trouble when shots clear the pond but miss the green. There is a large trap to the back right and one to the left to catch overzealous golfers.
(353 yards, par 4)
Aim for the spot between the bunker and the drainage line to cut this dogleg or aim left to the 150-yard marker for a safer shot. This dogleg right is sure to please. Your approach must be dead-on to avoid the two bunkers protecting the green.
(161 yards, par 3)
I’ll toss in one more par 3 for good measure and because the view from this hole is spectacular. Your shot is downhill. This is a relatively easy hole, but stands out due to the magnificent vista. Lush green against the deep blue sea, this is a picture-perfect hole.
THE WHITE WITCH
Ritz-Carlton Golf and Spa Resort
One Ritz-Carlton Drive
Rose Hall, St. James
tel 876 953 2800, fax 876 518 0110
Since Cheval Blanc, an extraordinary, newly designed and refurbished 72-room hotel owned by Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey, launched in September 2021, it has been the talk of the town. Le Tout-Paris remarks about its WOW factor … and the hard-to-get reservations for the 30 seats at Plenitude, the intimate, first-floor gastronomic outlet headed by chef Arnaud Donckele, who earned three Michelin stars at Cheval Blanc Saint Tropez. Reservations are also recommended for Limbar, the ground-floor bakery/café/tea shop/bar where we watched Pastry Chef Maxime Frédéric preparing desserts and an absolute must-have for dinner at Le Tout-Paris, the 7th-floor, all-day brasserie. This brightly colored space, with its raised seating and Fauve-like floor tiles and the adjacent Milanese restaurant, Langosteria, both have access to terraces facing the Seine River, with amazing views encompassing Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower.
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Go ahead, take a nice, deep breath. Because a Seabourn voyage is all about this moment you’ve come so far in life to embrace. It’s not an escape, it’s an arrival.