They say good things come in small packages and the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club on Grand Cayman is no exception. This Greg Norman-designed course may only be nine holes, but, take it from me, each one is a crafted gem.
Let’s be honest though. When you come to Grand Cayman your primary goal is to relax and have fun and, arguably, between visiting Stingray City, the sea turtles, drinking mud sliders and rum tasting, that is all pretty much guaranteed. You’re also on the Caribbean’s culinary capital so top food is a given.
But when it comes to playing golf here, sometimes 18 holes simply feels too much like hard work. A gently nine early in the morning and then another nine before sundown could work just as well couldn’t it?
Having said that, the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club is an excellent test, running through a natural saltwater lagoon so plenty of water holes, palm-lined fairways, crafty bunkers and slick fast, undulating greens.
I’m joined by Tim Dwyer, Ritz Carlton’s resident golf professional who clearly knows the course like the back of his hand. It would be quite a steal if I could come out on top don’t you think?
The first is a relatively straight forward 392-yard par 4 but “it’s always into the wind so you’ll need to take a few clubs more.” Sound advice from Tim and I manage a half with a lucky putt.
The second is a 515-yard par 5 playing straight into the wind with water running down the right side. It’s a long narrow green and Tim misses left. I navigate between bunkers and water to get on in three and narrowly miss a birdie but win the hole.
This is all going rather well.
The third is medium length par 4 with water running all the way down the left side and bunkers protecting the right side. With the wind pushing my ball to the right I crash and burn in the bunkers. I’m sure I detect a wry smile from Tim who birdies it.
Next, a glorious 200-yard par 3 with a water carry all the way. Thankfully it’s downwind and I manage to win it with a par and a shot to handicap.
Tim doesn’t seem to be smiling much now.
The fifth is another par 4 with yet more water down the left side. Somehow, I manage to fluff a crucial chip to the small green and lose to Tim’s par. Back to even but really enjoying these lush fairways.
The sixth is a short par 4 and a surprising stroke 17 considering there’s plenty of pitfalls wherever you look. A bunker patrols the right-hand side and there’s water guarding the green. Tim gets another par and I miss my par putt to go one down. Very disappointed considering it should have been one of the easier holes.
Seven is a long par 5 but downwind. Water on the right once again and a huge bunker loitering on the left for anyone trying to play safe. The green has two tiers and I mess up my long uphill putt. Tim, of course, gets a par and I lose another hole.
Turning for home now and the par 4 eighth reveals mangrove trees all along the left side which instantly prompts a slice from me into bunkers on the right. Somehow, a miracle shot to the green saves my par and we halve. I try to look like I’ve at least lost the match with a little dignity.
Saving the best for last, the ninth is the signature hole. A 156-yard par 3 with an island green and the wind blowing left to right. I launch a five iron and it arcs away right never to be seen again. “Have another go?” says Tim clearly feeling charitable as he’s won our match. Another 5 iron and I hit the green and sink the putt. We call it a three for the card.
A memorable nine holes on a wonderfully manicured course that is an absolute pocket rocket. I could blame the slick greens or the wind for losing the match with Tim. Maybe I’ll come back this evening and have another go.
Tell me more about the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Grand Cayman.
Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, P.O. Box 32348. Grand Cayman KY1-1209
Monday – Sunday 7 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Reserve tee times online or call +1 (345) 815-6500.
Rounds from CI$160