Fazio course one of many Baker’s Bay attractions
We’ll leave Marsh Harbor on Discovery,
And cruise around Great Guana Cay,
Cool drink and a fishing line,
Yeah, we’re living on Bahamian time.
We’re going to sail away
To Baker’s Bay.
That snappy reggae ditty, which visitors to Baker’s Bay Golf & Ocean Club are likely to hear during the eight-mile boat ride here from Great Abaco, says it all: Before disembarking from Marsh Harbor, check all of your cares and worries on the dock.
Baker’s Bay, the newest of 14 uber-upscale golf communities operated by Discovery Land Co., rests on 585 acres lined by six miles of beaches, stretching from the calm Sea of Abaco on the south side to the rougher Atlantic surf on the north side. Your biggest concern, aside from navigating the wind-whipped golf course designed by Tom Fazio, will be finding enough time to put a dent in the community’s extravagant Outdoor Pursuits program before returning to the real world.
Two-hundred-slip deep-water marina? Check. World-renowned sport fishing? Check. Scuba and snorkeling? Windsurfing? Lobster diving? Check, check, check. The list goes on and on.
This is Discovery Land’s second community outside the United States, and perhaps the most anticipated project in its portfolio. Discovery Land isn’t the first company to understand the fantasy-world nature of this property. From 1989 to ’93, Disney Cruise Line, in partnership with Premier Cruise Lines, ferried revelers from Florida’s east coast to the western edge of Great Guana Cay, which Disney dubbed Shipwreck Island, with faux pirates on hand to greet the castaways. Then the land sat vacant, like an abandoned campsite, until Discovery Land acquired it in March 2005. It spent the next three years in legal limbo because of environmentalists’ protests, but a Bahamian appeals court green-lighted the project in February 2008.
Enter Fazio, who effectively has become the house architect for Discovery Land, which is sort of like having Mozart direct the choir at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Like every other architect, Fazio isn’t getting many assignments these days, but he hasn’t lost his “A” game. Baker’s Bay reflects Fazio’s minimalist side. The course still has its new-car smell, but it’s likely to fare well in various rankings as more people have the opportunity to kick the tires.
Fazio was given the whale’s tail-shaped land on the northwest end of the seven-mile-long island. When players arrive at the first tee, they’ll likely be struck immediately by two things: the width of the course and the lack of rough. They’re faced, instead, with a sea of Platinum Paspalum turf, a salt-tolerant, fine-leaf grass that plays fast. The turf accommodates knockdown shots and the ground game, both of which come in handy on this windy islet. The shaved-green surrounds often make the Texas wedge the best option, even when more than 50 feet from the putting surface. Yawning flash bunkers lend definition and complement the seaside setting.
While there’s little movement in the land, the course still provides plenty of memories. The nines end on two seaside holes – the par-3 ninth and par-5 18th – that
will have first-time visitors reaching for their cameras. The elevated 13th tee offers 360-degree views of the Atlantic and Sea of Abaco, though you might be distracted by the stiff winds that complicate an already uncomfortable tee shot. From the tee, the par-3 17th green seems to hover on the Atlantic.
Like every Discovery Land project, you’re rarely more than a 5-iron away from a gourmet meal at Baker’s Bay. The company’s courses are famous for their elaborate “comfort stations,” an understatement on par with calling The French Laundry a tavern. At Baker’s Bay, there is only one “sip sip” – a Bahamian term for a place where people meet to eat, drink and gossip. It’s perched above the fourth green but is centrally located near at least three holes, or more if your round starts to go south and you want to wash away your woes with a Kalik and a plate of grilled mahi-mahi.
Just off the eighth green, on the island’s western edge, you can linger at the more modest Buttonwood Bar, an especially pleasant late-afternoon spot.
None of this, of course, comes cheap. There are 375 lots, 95 of which have been sold. In 2010, 17 lots were sold, generating $50 million in sales, a healthy number in the current economic climate. About 25 percent of the buyers own land at other Discovery Land communities. A modified Lowcountry style of architecture, which helps bring the temperate climate indoors, is favored here.
At Marina Village on the southern end of the property, there will be a rental component, a first for Discovery Land. Guests staying in the village will have limited access to Baker’s Bay’s amenities: for instance, two daily tee times and rental of marina slips. Think of it as a sample kit for those looking to experience the carefree Bahamian lifestyle.