As I planned the excursions on our family getaway on the Norwegian Gem cruise this winter, I thought I should try to secure a tee time at the famed Mahogany Run Golf Course in St. Thomas. After cruising the North Atlantic from New York to the Caribbean, the ship docked in St. Thomas, and Paul Gosselin joined me to hit the links. As an organized Norwegian Cruise Line excursion, transportation was provided, and three other shipmates — Dom, Dom (father and son) and Lou from the Big Apple — joined us.
Don’t let the shortness (6,022 yards) fool you. The course is narrow at times and offers a great deal of flora to carry. Any offline shots get lost in the brush forever. Opened in 1980, George and Tom Fazio designed the course with seashore paspalum on the greens and Bermuda grass on the fairways that leaves those telltale floppy, irreparable divots.
Located on 110 acres on the north shore of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Mahogany Run could not be more beautiful. The only course on the island, it is a favorite of celebrities, U.S. presidents and, by the look of it, cruise passengers.
The course is known for the Devil’s Triangle, made up of holes 13, 14 and 15. The scorecard offers a prize for those who complete these holes without penalty.
When our driver dropped us off, we quickly got settled with overpriced rental clubs and two sleeves of balls, which were included with the package. Lou wanted to play as a fivesome, but I quickly grabbed a cart and said Paul and I needed some quality time and I needed to write this article and take pictures. We were free, and off we went to the first tee.
Hole 1 | 414 yards, par 4
Continuing our race to the tee box, we approached the first hole, where a couple was ready to tee up. The gentleman waved us ahead, and I had to scramble to find the driver, tees and balls in order to not slow them down. I guess they thought we were the “pros from Dover,” and I quickly made it clear we were not. I slammed a ball right and into some trees but still playable. Joking, the guy said, “Maybe I made a mistake.” I assured him we would be swift as the wind. Showing off on the first tee, Paul shot a straight ball to the center of the fairway in position “A” for the dogleg right.
I lost a stroke coming out of the trees, and Paul lost a stroke with a poorly executed shot to the green. Rushed and ready, we walked off with two double bogeys, enthused to take on Mahogany.
Hole 7 | 305 yards, par 4
A long drive can put you in position for an easy chip to the green which lies on the right of this dogleg. The hole reminded me of Hole 5 at Nissequogue Golf Club in Long Island, N.Y. (see my November 2013 Global Traveler review), which measures 316 yards and also is a dogleg right. Dixon Hunter, a longtime advisor to GT, aced Nissequogue’s Hole 5 in the late 1990s — I was a witness. So driver in hand, I was determined to get the ball as close as possible or maybe do a “Dixon.” That, of course, did not happen — a series of mishaps had me carding a triple bogey. Sneaky Paul launched a drive and hit a perfect chip for par.
Hole 13 | 327 yards, par 4
One of the most beautiful holes I have played. I took a lot of pictures when I was on the green looking out on the Caribbean Sea and the other islands beyond. Fortunately, a greenskeeper was cutting grass just behind the tee box and talked me down from using the driver. “A 5 would place you where you want to be,” he said. I took a graceful swing to a perfect shot in the center of the fairway so I would be in position for the turn on this dogleg left to the green. Paul was convinced he’d beat me and overlaunched a ball way right into the 15th fairway. His shot really wasn’t bad, and I told him this must have been part of his plan, as it was the most beautiful view of the green and the ocean beyond. Sadly, his rescue shot took another turn to the right and vanished into the trees. We returned to the fairway, and I took a calculated shot to the green, passing the hazard and landing on the front half of the green. A two-putt and I secured par.
Hole 14 | 159 yards, par 3
Another beautiful hole, which I believe plays longer than the written yardage. This is Mahogany’s signature par 3 where prevailing winds normally blow from left to right. The best play is to hug the left side of the green and hope the wind takes you to the center of the green. Paul and I hit our balls right of the green; mine landed about 40 yards off and Paul’s blew through the back on a rocky plateau. We both chipped up and two-putted for bogeys.
Hole 15 | 564 yards, par 5
The last of the Devil’s Triangle takes you away from the beautiful vistas of the Caribbean Sea and back to the meat of the course. From the tee box, the fairway looks narrow, with trees and brush on the left side, but it opens up and offers a little more room on the right. I hit one of my best drives right down the center. From here, I took a 3-wood and clobbered my ball, landing just before the pond that sits in front of the green. The hole runs relatively straight from tee box to green and runs downhill from about 240 yards to the green. My final shot was spot-on, while Paul overcalculated and overshot the green into a row of condos behind. I left the Devil’s Triangle with scores of 4, 4 and 5 — and feeling pleased! No penalty, but I forgot to ask about the prize.
We ended the day with a stop at Coconuts, the eatery off the 18th green, where Louise makes some of the best burgers and grilled chicken sandwiches around. She pours a mean beer and also makes some tasty hot sauce. We had plenty of time to put back a few cold ones as we finished a good hour ahead of Dom, Dom and Lou.
Mahogany Run Golf Course
One Mahogany Run N.
St. Thomas, USVI 00802
tel 340 777 6250
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