With nearly 30 golf courses, including several championship links, Puerto Rico is rightly called the "Scotland," or the "golf capital," of the Caribbean, especially because they have been designed by the likes of Robert Trent Jones, his son Rees Jones, Greg Norman, George and Tom Fazio, Jack Nicklaus, Arthur Hills, and Puerto Rico's own Chi Chi Rodriguez.
Many of the courses are jewels of landscape architecture, running through verdant tropical forest and former coconut groves, or winding in dramatic switchbacks aside a breathtaking stretch of coast. Year-round summer weather and mostly gentle breezes add to the joy of playing here.
The bad news is it's often quite expensive to tee off in Puerto Rico, with prices starting at $120 and ranging up to nearly $200.
There are some bargains, however, particularly the Berwind Country Club (tel. 787/876-5380) in Loiza (the closet course to San Juan) and the Punta Borinquén Golf Club, Rte. 107 (tel. 787/890-2987), 2 miles (3.2km) north of Aquadilla's center. Berwind is the closest to San Juan, in a breathtaking setting on a former coconut plantation, while the Aguadilla course struts across a beautiful patch of coast.
The legendary Dorado courses are 35 minutes west of San Juan at the Dorado Beach Resort & Club (tel. 787/796-8961), the scene of world championships and legendarily difficult holes, making it among the most challenging in the Caribbean still. Jack Nicklaus rates the challenging 13th hole at the Dorado as one of the top 10 in the world.
Río Grande, however, is becoming as important a center for golf as Dorado. The Wyndham Río Mar Beach Resort golf offerings (tel. 787/888-7060) have world-class rainforest and coastal courses, designed, respectively, by Greg Norman and Tom and George Fazio. The Trump International Golf Club (tel. 787/657-2000) is actually four different 9-hole courses sprawled out across 1,200 acres (486 hectares) of coast. Each course is named after its surrounding environment: the Ocean, the Palms, the Mountains, and the Lakes. Also in town is the Bahia Beach course (tel. 787/957-5800), recently renovated as part of a new St. Regis resort development.
Also, on the east coast, crack golfers consider holes 11 through 15 at the Golf Club at Palmas del Mar to be the toughest 5 successive holes in the Caribbean. At El Conquistador Resort & Golden Door Spa, the spectacular $250-million resort at Las Croabas, east of San Juan, you play along 200-foot (61m) changes in elevation that provide panoramic vistas.
There are now golf courses along the south coast, in Coamo and Ponce, as well as the southwest in Cabo Rojo. These are a needed complement to the north-coast courses. The Costa Caribe Golf & Country Club (tel. 787/848-1000 or 787/812-2650), on the site of the Hilton Ponce Golf & Casino, commands views of the ocean and mountains, while the Club Deportivo del Oeste, Hwy. 102, Km 15.4, Barrio Jogudas, Cabo Rojo (tel. 787/851-8880 or 787/254-3748), is more no-frills.