Do Mermaids Golf? Seas and Tees in Curaçao
It’s a question I am sure many have pondered as they venture out into the deep blue; Lurking in the mind of every late-night swimmer, scuba diver or golfer as he looks over the edge of an ocean hole searching for a lost golf ball is not… are there sharks? Rather, do mermaids golf? Like the Loch Ness monster, myths of underwater sirens golfing has filled the ship journals of many sailors and perhaps drunken golfers at the 19th holes in such renowned ocean golf courses as Kiawah Island in South Carolina, Old Head in Ireland, Turnberry in Scotland, Casa De Campo in the Dominican Republic and probably the most well known ocean golf course Pebble Beach in California.
You can now add to the list of ocean golf paradise courses the Old Quarry Golf Course at the Santa Barbara Plantation in Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles. If you’re looking for a phenomenal sea and golf getaway this Curaçao location is as good as it gets. The newly opened par 72 layout designed by Pete Dye is named “Old Quarry” after the historic marble quarries that offer the second best views from the golf course after the strikingly blue water nearby. The mine still functions once a week and the topography surrounding the course can best be described as Arizona-meets-Cape Town-South Africa-meets-the-Caribbean. The Santa Barbara Plantation property and the golf course are located in the middle of this rocky marble landscape with contrasting blue Caribbean waters running alongside the entire coastline.
Measuring 7,200 yards from the tips, the course offers a visually stunning experience for any level golfer and the natural surroundings make it difficult to concentrate on the game. There are eight stunning ocean– and bay- side holes. Featured are vistas of the Caribbean Sea and a picturesque bay known as Spanish Water, named centuries ago after the Spanish sailors who came ashore looking for treasures and fresh water. Adding to the charm are trees estimated to be 200 to 300 years old. In order to create a least disturbance effect, Dye used paspalum grass on the fairways and tees and the native grass for the outer rough. The resort irrigates the course with recycled water mixed with salt water. Throughout the project and at the Hyatt there is a strong theme of respect for the environment and protection of nature and its resources.
“The ambiance is what makes it special,” says Dye. “First you see the Caribbean, then the bay and the boats, then that big mountain. This land is incredible—the contours, the views, the ruins, the setting. Here the topography has enough movement; you don’t have to create it.”
The course is part of Santa Barbara Plantation, a 1,500-acre, resort-style community just 25 minutes from Curaçao’s capital city of Willemstad and 40 minutes from the airport. The development also has the Hyatt Regency Curaçao Resort & Spa and 120-slip Seru Boca Marina on Spanish Water, capable of accommodating vessels up to 80 feet in length. In addition, Santa Barbara Plantation features a stunning beach that is sectioned off by a floating dock to make it safe and easy to snorkel right off the beach.
There is no way to give enough accolades to the Hyatt Regency Curaçao Resort & Spa. It is always difficult when you travel to islands especially from big cities where you are accustomed to great food and great service. The Hyatt staff was sent from “staff heaven” and flawless in every department. From the moment you arrive to every area you frequent, including golf, spa, restaurants and the pool-side lunch spot, SWIM, that will deliver delicious fish tacos right to your lounge chair on the beach.
Another golf course on the island, Blue Bay Golf & Beach Resort, is worth the drive just to play hole number five. That is how the course was presented to us by Joel, an avid island golfer. On the last day before our flight back a few of us ventured out to play hole five and managed to squeeze in No. 16, 17 & 18, which also have stunning ocean views. Blue Bay has more of a relaxed island feel than your typical resort course and No. Five, the 180 yard par, three-cliff hole over crashing waves, did not disappoint.
Scuba Diving Magazine’s 2010 Readers Choice Awads gave Curaçao high marks in a number of categories, including second place for Top Shore Diving and Top Beginner Diving and Third Place for Top Marine Life, Top Visibility, Top Health of Marine Environment, Top Macro Life and Top Overall Diving. The diving facility Ocean Encounters is operated by Christian Ambrosi and his family. They took over the business in 2003 after many years visiting the island. Curacao boasts one of the best dive sites in the world and it did not disappoint. The dives are very well -run by knowledgeable, friendly people of different nationalities who truly enjoy diving and love the ocean. The equipment and boats are great and well-maintained. They went above and beyond to ensure everyone, both snorkelers and divers, had a pleasant experience and assisted greatly in locating and photographing the golfing mermaid.
Ocean Encounters is a PADI 5* IDC Resort and National Geographic Dive operator. Their fleet includes eight boats and six different locations around the island, taking underwater explorers to the best diving and snorkeling sites. Calm conditions, good visibility, healthy reefs, great macro life, unlimited shore diving and over 100 dive sites make Curaçao a diver’s dream. Because Curaçao— part of the “ABC” islands of the Netherlands Antilles (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao)—is surrounded by a fringing reef created by geological events long ago, dozens of dive sites are within feet of the shoreline. Some of the standout shore dive sites include Playa Lagun, Playa Kalki (Alice in Wonderland) and Cas Abao. If you enjoy the boat-diving experience, there are a myriad of sites within a quick boat ride of nearby resorts. Two of the better-known, can’t-miss dives include Mushroom Forest and the Superior Producer wreck.
It is here with all the great splendor of aquatic life that we realize how fragile and important the ocean is and the importance of protecting this natural resource. Christian and his group have a “zero contact” policy: no touching and no contact with sea life. Oceana, the largest international organization focused solely on ocean conservation, is dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans and working tirelessly on strategic, directed campaigns that will help return our oceans to former levels of abundance.
Golfing Mermaids were spotted near the Tugboat dive site. A tugboat wrecked 25 years ago just a few yards offshore and rests at 17 feet in a protected bay that has become a famous site for divers as well as snorkelers. The site offers lots of diving choices: wall, wreck and deep. Located on the protected southeast side of Caracasbay, the Tugboat site is accessible only by boat. A steep wall is located a mere three-minute swim from the wreck, which drops about 100 feet. Overgrown with tube sponges, coral, and a variety of colorful reef fish, including majestic blue parrot fish and yellow tail snappers, the abandoned tugboat makes this an ideal location for a mermaid’s version of miniature golf. No doubt the mermaids obtain most of their golf balls in the water just off Old Quarry Golf Course hole Nos. 1 and 2.