The Smeets family, a banking legacy in Curaçao, had a dream — to develop a beachfront parcel into a recreational mecca far beyond anything the Dutch protectorate of the Netherland Antilles had ever seen. They had their eye on some land that had been part of a 19th-century limestone quarry. Even today, hole markers are made from huge slabs of limestone and ancient quarrying equipment decorates areas of the course.
To make this dream a reality, the Smeetses reached out to Jack Marshall, a 20-year veteran developer of golf courses and communities. Marshall brought on Pete Dye to design the course. The Hyatt Regency Curaçao Resort’s design inspiration came from Marshall’s travels to Tuscany.
Working with the natural topography, Dye created a course which takes a golfer from the beautiful azure seas of its first two holes through the Tafelberg Mountains, finally finishing down by Seru Boca Marina. While the ocean holes are spectacular, many players find the interior holes more challenging and diverse.
Fairways and tees are planted with paspalum grass, which can be watered with brackish, recycled water, while the rough is seeded with native grasses. The course is just over a year old and in excellent playing condition.
Jim Bolinger, a Curaçao native and the golf manager, and Oliver Riding, the golf professional, are eager to please their guests. They can fill you in about anything, from the course and the restaurants at the Hyatt to the local sites to see while in Curaçao.
Hole 2 (552 yards, par 5)
Holes 1 and 2 run along the coast and offer spectacular views of ships and pleasure boats bobbing in the sea, and you can see the water shift dramatically from light to dark blue at the edge of the coastal shelf. The tendency from the tee box is to overcompensate for the wind, which prevails directly into your face. When I played, the wind was blowing more sideways, so I hit a little too far left and landed in the fairway bunker on the left. Your next shot needs to favor the left, as there is an outcropping on the right. Your approach should be a wedge to the green, which is protected by two traps in the front and the sea to the right.
Hole 5 (484 yards, par 4)
This hole runs up to the crest of a hill and back down to the green. Your target from the tee is slightly left of center to avoid the traps at the hilltop; a good drive will position you beyond the crest. This slight dogleg left has two trees on the right side short of your landing area. The green has a great deal of undulation and three traps forward, one center and two left. The center trap and the short fairway almost act as a false front, fooling some shots short.
Hole 7 (140 yards, par 3)
This is the shortest hole on the course and simply requires a flop shot to the green. It’s a pretty hole, with views of the harbor and sailboats at anchor; small mangroves grow in the water near the hole. When I played, houses were under construction along the right. There are three traps on the right and one left of the green. A final back trap might catch overachievers running off the green.
Hole 8 (550 yards, par 5)
Depending on the wind, you might tame this dogleg left and reach the green in two. The hole runs along a tidal area and swampy section of the bay, with a magnificent view of the harbor and an oddly-shaped cliff-faced mountain. I secured a decent drive, landing square in the middle of the fairway, then played it safe with my second shot and hit a mid-iron to position myself for the green. From here, a well-struck sand wedge puts you in birdie position. I did drop a few balls trying for the green in two. They will remain in Curaçao forever.
Hole 10 (402 yards, par 4)
This dogleg left starts off from a slightly elevated tee box to an equally elevated green. A shallow pond runs along the middle of a generous fairway on the left side; for those pulling their drives, a large trap might save you from the water. On the right is a series of waste bunkers. A good drive should place you in position to land a wedge to the green. I liked this hole; I played it particularly well, and Jim Bolinger happened to be touring the course with a client, so I was pleased he saw me at my best.
Hole 15 (466 yards, par 4)
From the tee box, you can take in the lay of the land and choose your landing spot. A particularly stiff wind drove my tee shot left to right and nearly into the brush. As the hole turns slightly right, I had a direct shot to the green but pulled the ball, coming up short and left. The fairway lies in a valley that is sandwiched between the tee box and the green. This green has a triple-tiered undulation; any putt from the lower level to the top on this narrow and long green will take a lot of effort. Right of the green is a 20-foot drop-off where many approach shots land.
Hole 17 (484 yards, par 5)
A unique driving quandary confronts players here. With a split fairway, separated by a line of 100-year-old caducei cacti and quiebra hacha bushes, do you aim left or right? Land left and you may have to contend with a bursera simaruba (gumbo-limbo) tree that’s growing in the direction of the prevailing wind. If you land at the front of the peninsula that splits the fairway, you might join all those who have sunk a golf ball into the cactus — it’s riddled with holes. The right side is probably best, as you are rewarded with a direct shot to the green. The two traps left, one right and one forward, will catch short and errant shots to the elevated green.
Hole 18 (425 yards, par 4)
What a great finish! The hole aims downhill from the elevated tee with beautiful Spanish Water Bay as a backdrop. Homes with red roof tiles lie beyond the bay, completing the picture. But to master this hole, you must concentrate on the business at hand. Avoid the traps that dart the landing area on both sides; two are short left and right and two more sneak up on the left. The wind may scoop up your ball, sending it over the green. Play less club than you think; I took a few test shots and found the green difficult to hold, overshooting balls into the bush.
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