I shouldn’t be here.
The Abaco Club, set on the white beach of Winding Bay, is the Bahamas’ most exclusive property—with an 18-hole oceanside links golf course—open only to owners of homes inside the community, members of other Southworth communities (including Creighton Farms outside D.C.), and guests of these homeowners and members.
I am none of these things. And yet, for the weekend, I hold the keys to the two-bedroom Sand Castle, a pink cottage villa set just steps from the beach. I know I have to make the most of it.
Starting with the golf course, which, like the villa category of homes, winds around the bay, showing off with sea views at holes 4, 5, 16, 17, and 18.
Beyond the sea view, what impresses most is that The Abaco Club’s course is a true links course, conceived to integrate the island’s rugged topography. Designers Donald Steel and Tom Mackenzie incorporated the dunes, rock bluffs, and limestone ridges to create holes that are as challenging as they are beautiful. One of the best landscaped courses in the Caribbean and Atlantic, it’s a veritable garden on a few holes, with stretches that pass through a bit of island pine forest.
Plus, the course has personality. Hidden among the holes are two drink coolers, one with beer and one with White Claws. Neither is marked, nor are they secret. They’re each a little surprise that, along with the course itself and the extremely hospital staff, make for a perfect day of play.
Reel It In
Nearly every other destination on the planet offering deep-sea fishing requires an hours-long boat ride to reach the drop-offs where the big stuff dwells. Not so with Abaco. To reach deep water—we’re talking 600 feet—you need only motor 10 minutes from the dock at The Abaco Yacht Club, also part of The Abaco Club.
As for what you’ll hook, it depends on the season. Tuna, wahoo, mahi-mahi, grouper and snapper are all in the mix.
The morning we set out, Joshua Kelly, captain and guide, points the boat right where frigate birds repeatedly dive-bomb cobalt water. Kelly’s counterpart, Terrence Burrows, also a captain and guide, never stops moving, baiting hooks and dropping lines.
Within minutes, we hear the magic words: “Fish on!”
It was a late night for my fellow boatmates, so the guest pulling in the quarry consents to using the E-reel, making fast work of retrieving a line from more than one-tenth of a mile down.
Then the hook breaks the surface.
“Seaweed—our most plentiful fish,” jokes Kelly, offering everyone a round of water, Gatorade, beer, and White Claws before switching up the bait and trying again to score.
A few country songs later, there’s another tug.
This time, the line is reeled in by muscle alone. Matt from Boston pulls in not one but two snapper, one Northern red and one yellow-eye.
We stay out long enough to catch a few more before returning to the resort’s day dock, just steps below The Cliff House restaurant. Here, or at The Beach House restaurant, you can bring your catch to the chef, who will prepare it any style you like—including the most perfect ceviche you will ever taste.
I’ve timed it all perfectly: I’ve just taken out one of the club’s three Hobie Cats to catch the wind, sailing along the backside of Sugar Cay, the deserted island smack in the middle of Winding Bay. The racing boat startles at least five sea turtles as I carve toward the wave break. Then, with a quick half-tack, I’m atop a surfing wave, speeding toward the white sand beach.
I can’t remember the last time I felt so exhilarated.
Then the thought flickers that I might tip over. The last bit of warning the boys at the water sports cabana shared before I took her out was to let go of the line sheeting in the sail if things got hairy.
But then I remember that they have a Jet ski in their fleet, too—among the paddle boards, kayaks, and sea bikes—capable of carrying someone to rescue me within minutes if I flub any maneuvers out here, and so I pull in a bit tighter, just to see if I can.
That’s the beauty of the playground that is Winding Bay. The water conditions couldn’t be more ideal for both beginners and experienced watermen, and, no matter what you’re trying, it’s all within rescue reach of the very able crew.
A crew that can also teach you to use an e-Foil. As you learn to balance the board, you’ve got live-time instruction fed into your helmet via a waterproof system. The team also offers kitesurfing lessons and, by September 2022, scuba day trips as well.
Keys to the Kingdom
Of course, it’s all too much to want to say goodbye. The club has a balanced mix of sociability—from the pick-up games of pickleball at the dedicated courts (yes, they also have tennis courts) to cocktail hours, theme nights and events, from Lobster Fest to golf tournaments. (The Great Abaco Classic is held in January, and the Fall Member Guest Tournament falls in October).
The club is also quiet and peaceful, where evenings spent on the deck of the cottage villa I’m staying at are filled with the sounds of the sea only.
Yes, The Abaco Club is a private, members-club experience, not open to the public. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t come take a peek.
Anyone with an interest and a connection to a current member of any of the Southworth property can come for an exploratory stay—a one-time-only deal—to see if the club is a fit, and something they want to invest in. A popular option, as only one of the five posted listings is still available at the time of the writing.
The good news is that the club is breaking ground on a whole new neighborhood called The Cays, which will offer 36 all-new beachfront villas, designed to include more modern interiors as envisioned by AvroKO, the 2021 Hospitality Design Firm of the Year. A new beachfront restaurant and beach club with wellness facilities are also in the works to allow the club to continue to offer high-level amenities.
Given the unique setting, the newly available Cays villas and the long list of property amenities, it’s easy to see why those in the know are rushing to call The Abaco Club their home away from home.