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Royal Isabela Golf Course: #1 Back Nine

Isabela, Puerto Rico

A Lucky Opportunity

I played the incredible links at Royal Isabela Golf Course in 2013 after missing the cut in the Puerto Rico Classic at Dorado Beach Resort. Looking back, I am glad I did, given the opportunity which presented itself over the weekend. A good friend from California, Rhett Colbrese, who I roomed with that week, had also missed the cut. Rhett had a connection to someone at Royal Isabela. A few text messages back and forth, we had a tee time on the weekend.

Course Design

The Royal Isabela’s back nine has breathtaking views. As a matter of fact, they are often compared with Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand. For example, the front and back nines share similarities in design and links in style. However, they play significantly different. At Isabela, the front nine plays away from the North Atlantic Ocean back up and into the hillside. Outside of the opening four holes, the fairways are relatively forgiving in size. Numerous pot bunkers are perfectly placed to snag a slightly wayward drive. Don’t let the forgiveness of the fairways fool you. If you stray from them, you’ll find yourself knee high in thick grass facing a penalty shot.

The second nine is where the fun begins as holes 10 and 11 make their way down the hill toward the ocean and cliff faces. Five holes run directly along the coast in both directions. The double green on holes 12 and 14 is an iconic feature. However, the best hole has to be the par 3, 17th. In essence it’s a 200-yard forced carry with the tee and green sitting high on opposing points along the clifftop. Consider that a mid to long iron is challenging enough when there is room to miss either side. Now add to that a green two-thirds surrounded by sheer cliff and no bailout area. It’s no wonder many consider 17 the most intimidating hole at Royal Isabela.

My Opinion

By and large, there would be few places anywhere in the world offering a better golfing experience. Although Royal Isabela Golf Course is demanding from start to finish, the utter beauty and tranquility of the property makes the roughest of days on the scorecard an enjoyable experience!

Written by
Brad Smith
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Written by Brad Smith