As you stand at the tee box on the first hole at Old Quarry Golf Course, one word comes to mind: impossible. Not in the sense that this is a difficult course with a reputation for being a favorite of pros—particularly the vacationing Europeans—but it feels impossible that such a course exists, so well-hidden from the rest of the world. In fact, I got lost as I scurried along the sidewalks of the new Sandals Royal Curaçao resort, trying to find the pro shop in time for my round during my recent visit to this wonderful island.
Finally on the first tee, which runs along the shoreline and delivers the first of many amazing views of the day, I quickly understood why this course has twice earned the honor of “Best Caribbean Golf Course” from USA Today. This Pete Dye masterpiece exists almost as a tour of the island, as the 18 holes are weaved within the natural beauty of the island’s southern space so well that on at least three occasions I looked behind me, back to the tee box, and wondered, “Why isn’t this course jam-packed?”
Of course, I’m also glad it wasn’t busy that day. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have enjoyed possibly the most fulfilling round of golf I have ever played. Here’s my very average golfer’s advice on how you can, too.
Enjoy the Views
Over the last year or so, whenever friends ask me for travel advice and preferred destinations, my overwhelming recommendation is Curaçao. There’s a variety of reasons, and my love of the food usually dominates the conversation, but I also rave about the island’s natural beauty as a top draw. And nowhere on the island did I experience a sample of the various stunning aspects as much as I did on this course.
Again, teeing off on Hole 1, you have a remarkable resort to your back and waves crashing into the rocky shore to your right, so it is a fantastic debut of the views to come. My favorite sightseeing opportunity came on Hole 4, where you can admire the water and Tafelberg Mountain. A few holes later, you’re staring at (and likely praying not to hit) the beautiful boats in Seru Boca Marina and charming homes of Spaanse Water. And all the while you’re surrounded by lush tropical vegetation…
Straight is Great
… but do not let the beautiful trees and bushes fool you—and do not let your ball trickle into these traps, because you probably won’t get it back. There are so many thorns in the bushes lining each hole, I joked to my playing partner that it was like Old Quarry was designed by Jigsaw from the Saw movie franchise. I can’t even count how many times I spotted balls along the way and tried to develop plans to retrieve them only to pull my arm back before it was shredded.
(Obviously, a ball retriever would be a great option, but I did not have my clubs with me, so that was not an option with the rental set.)
Still, even if you hit the ball perfectly straight, the curves of this course have other plans. On at least four occasions, I smashed what I thought was a dead-ahead drive from the tee box, only to find myself staring at my ball five feet beyond the rough, nestled nicely in the devil’s garden. If this course wasn’t so stunning, I might just call it the meanest in the Caribbean.
Let the Good Times Roll
Speaking of those curves, this is a course that will reward power on several holes, so long as you aim for a safe area. One of my favorite elements about this course from the golf aspect is the ability to put up big yardage from the tee box, because that makes the approach even easier. But nothing is actually easy on this course—just when you think you have a simple iron to the green, the breeze will tell you otherwise.
As a very average golfer, my strategy was set as soon as I teed off on Hole 1 and watched the wind deliver my ball to Poseidon. “Stay left, stay low” is what I told myself on my “real first tee shot” since my first is always for practice, and that carried over to the Par 5 Hole 2, where my slice made me cry out in agony as I watched my ball miss the green by a country mile, as the wind once again forced me to accidentally pollute. From there, runners became my best shot, so long as they stayed clear of the thorns.
Take Things One Hole at a Time
If you have time to hit the practice facility here and get loose, do it. I made the mistake of playing without some warm-up swings and naturally that led to frustration and bad shots early in the round. But it’s not even about the driving range or putting green. Prior to your visit, spend some time at your local course working on your trap game, because the sand here will make a monster of the nicest golfer and missed greens will require better than average wedge work.
Hole 17 was a great example of this, because it’s the shortest Par 5 on the course and makes you believe that you’ve channeled your inner Popeye with a long drive and shorter approach. Of course, the fairway splits, so depending on where you land, you’ll have to make the right choice for the next move.
A lot of mistakes can be made at Old Quarry, but it doesn’t mean you won’t have fun. Just remember that it’s only a game and you’re lucky to be in the heart of a Dutch Caribbean paradise. Birdies are, after all, just the cherry on top.