GRAND BAHAMA ISLAND – It is possible that you will arrive on Grand Bahama Island stressed out. (If you’ve flown through the banana republics that are New York’s LaGuardia and Miami International airports, it’s virtually assured.) Fear not. One useful measure of a Caribbean getaway is how fast and how fully you decompress, and Our Lucaya comfortably passes this test.
The sprawling resort was rebranded as a Radisson in July, with subsequent employee training geared toward getting customer service up to snuff. (Smiles, everyone, smiles!) The friendly, proactive staff I found suggests the message has been heard.
Unlike many island getaways, variety isn’t an issue here. Our Lucaya has three distinct accommodations: the family-centric, value-oriented Reef Village; upper midrange Breakers Cay high-rise hotel; and the opulent Lanai suites. (Should you lose your bearings, check the pools: Waterslides, Reef. Traditional swimming pools, Breakers. Infinity-edge pool overlooking the pristine ocean, Lanai.)
A casino, shops and 13 restaurants dot the property, including premium dining spots Irie’s and the surprisingly authentic China Grill. The pleasant Port Lucaya Marketplace across the street offers dozens more shops, a straw market, bars and restaurants, including outstanding Latin fusion at Agave’s. Throw in the countless water sports and it’s clear that sloth or repetition will be personal choices, not enforced ones.
Our Lucaya has two very different golf courses, Lucayan Country Club and the Reef Club. Their inverse nature is underscored by a pair of freestanding Breitling clocks, one outside each clubhouse, both frozen in time: 3:55 at LCC and, with the hands reversed, 11:20 at the Reef. This likely speaks less to Breitling’s reliability than to Caribbean apathy toward timeliness.
Caribbean courses rarely conjure up Scotland, windiness excluded. But The Country Club, ranked No. 29 in the 2010 Golfweek’s Best Caribbean and Mexico Courses rankings, does. It’s a serious 1962 Dick Wilson design where Masters and U.S. Open champ Craig Wood was the first head pro. The greens are small and raised, the fairways tight and tree-lined such that almost every hole is self-contained. (I realize that Carnoustie, Dornoch, et al., don’t have pepper trees and Bermudagrass but rather heather, gorse and fescue; save the e-mails until you’ve visited.)
By contrast, the Reef Club, a 2000 Robert Trent Jones Jr. design, is wide, treeless, windswept and pond-laden. The course provides a good time and lots of margin for error without ever becoming a mindless or uninteresting pushover.
A wonderfully situated and well-defended green tucked in a hollow punctuates the par-5 fifth hole; the par-3 17th, with water fronting and scrub-bordered bunkers surrounding, is as handsome and scary as inland par 3s get.
Both courses owe much to the arrival 18 months ago of director of golf Danny Barnett following a long stretch as assistant superintendent at Florida’s famed Seminole Golf Club. Indeed, Lucayan CC had been closed for eight months after the retirement – and subsequent delayed replacement – of the longtime superintendent. Barnett has both courses on the mend.
Given the pristine beauty of the resort’s beach, there is no guilt in choosing a comatose state for the remaining daylight hours. But a side trip through native vegetation is worth the short drive: Amble through the Lucayan National Park for its handful of spectacular caves and stop on the return at the lovely Garden of the Groves botanical center, where one can learn lots of fun flora facts ambling through its dozen leafy acres. Then sit at its bar and talk about your golf game over a frozen beverage.
Time may be passing even if the clocks aren’t moving, but rest assured there’s no need to rush.