At the start of the New Year, my sweetie and I were looking for a warm destination to compensate for the ugliest and coldest and snowiest winter since the start of global warming.
Whenever travel comes up in a discussion (I admit to not being a happy traveller) I always answer with a four letter word. C.U.B.A.
But with a little back and forth, I'll settle for G.O.L.F.
Well, Sweetie got keyboarding and we got both. She found a very affordable all inclusive package - including golf in… Cuba. Of all places.
Now Cuba is not the most bourgeois destination. Cubans hardly sit around in front of TV the second Sunday of every April watching the final round of the Masters, and I doubt that all Cubans collectively own more than 14 clubs. And not many of the visitors would ever think of porting their tools of misfortune all that way when there's beaches and bars and music.
But. There is a golf resort. And it's pretty good.
At the Melia Los Americas in Varadero.
The resort itself is Cuban 5 star, which is 3 star anywhere else. But the upgraded rooms are fairly nice (in the newer section), the buffet is better than most and booze is as it is in Cuba; lotsa great rum with mostly bad knockoffs of everything else. Every night they seem to find a single real bottle of Cointreau or similar which goes quickly.
The reservation restaurants are decent. The Japanese restaurant features sushi and teppanyaki, the fish grill is better and the continental formal dining features a terrific string trio to accompany well grilled lamb chops.
The golf .... was .... great!!! Except for the greens. It looked like someone in their wisdom decided to top dress the greens with sand from the beach; which, of course, is really, really salty so the grass had huge bare spots. But that's the way things are done down there. Someone gave the order and others obeyed.
The golf itself is memorable. The 8th hole is a 200 yard par three along the Caribbean Sea that goes over a valley (which collects anything short and takes it about 100 yards to the right) to an elevated green on the edge of a cliff. A magnificent hole that would fit into Pebble Beach easily.
The 18th hole is a 450 yard Par 4 that travels along the edge of a cliff its entire distance from an elevated tee to an uphill tiny green into the teeth of the trade winds. Short approach shots will roll a hundred yards back down the hill. One of the greatest holes this author has seen among the five hundred courses he's played.
A few notes. 1/ Golf is not really free; you must pay $35 for a cart. 2/ Golf balls are ridiculously expensive: $7 ea. (Except, of course, since this is Cuba you can buy used ones from kids for $5/dozen.) 3/ While there, take advantage of the top floor bar at the old Du Pont mansion.