The Fall and Rise of Golf in Eleuthera
by George Wolfe - Right on Par
The astonishing beauty and restorative tranquility of Eleuthera makes the Bahamian Island a must for a traveler seeking refuge from our chaotic planet. The access is easy from Fort Lauderdale, West Palm or Miami as Eleuthera has three airports, two of which that benefited from the long runways needed by the U.S. Navy and aviation mogul Juan Trippe. On a recent visit, we used about fifty percent of the tarmac at Governor’s Harbor, which is the perfect place to headquarter an Eleuthera visit. At Governors Harbor, the beaches on Eleuthera in February are empty and the entire Island awaits exploration. For the start of the November 2012 season, French Leave Marina Village will open in Governor’s Harbor to uniquely provide guests to the “Freedom Island” a uniquely first class cottage or bungalow and five star restaurant/bar with pool complex fronting the turquoise waters of the Caribbean.
Amazingly, you will not see golf clubs being unloaded form any arriving flight as Eleuthera currently only provides a rich golfing past and a promising golf future. The past and future of golf on the Island are both traced to two different visions of The Cotton Bay Club. In Eleuthera’s glitterati heyday of the 1950′s and 1960′s, The Cotton Bay Club and the Rock Sound Club hosted North America’s leading industrialists, socialites and Hollywood A-listers. Located south of Governor's Harbor, Cotton Bay and Rock Sound Clubs were captivated by the aforementioned Juan Trippe and Arthur Vining Davis respectively -- both owned Winding Bay Eleuthera at some point in time. Juan Trippe was the founder of Pan Am Airlines and was the undisputed luminary of high society. Arthur Vining Davis was the President of Alcoa and saw clearly the development and potential in Eleuthera along with such Florida communities such as Royal Palm in Boca Raton and the Frenchman’s Creek in Jupiter.
Golfing on Cotton Bay - Eleuthera
Juan Trippe was the driving force behind The Cotton Bay Club, a Robert Trent Jones design situated along the Caribbean and by all accounts a world class golf course. Sadly, the course is now being reclaimed by tropical vegetation following years of deterioration and eventual closure. Cotton Bay Golf Club hosted the top echelon of professional golf including Shells’s Wonderful World of Golf matches between Arnold Palmer (he also owned an Resort on Eleuthera called “Eleuthera Beach Inn” on Islandia beach at one time) and Julius Boros in 1968. Among archival promotional material for the course, the claim was made that it was ranked among the top 100 courses in the world. Despite its being held in high esteem, Cotton Bay G.C. has joined the notorious category of lost links, however, golf on Eleuthera is on the verge of an exciting new chapter.
Cotton Bay Golf Club at Jack’s Bay is a stunning layout with seven ocean front holes and inland holes that are high on dunes with vistas of the Atlantic. The course has subtle but distinct elevation changes and an imaginative sequence of pars. Designed by Jim Fazio, the course is 90% shaped and contoured, yet lacks irrigation infrastructure and has nary a blade of grass. Nevertheless, I would have enjoyed teeing it up on the packed earth and having at it on this magnificent site.
Guided at Cotton Bay by Chris Burns, a New Jersey native with an impressive resume of golf course projects, it is not hyperbole to predict top 100 in the world status if this course is completed and Chris was dead on when he commented that it is the only Atlantic oceanfront course of the modern era of world class quality. Without question, holes 5, 6 and 7 are awe inspiring. In particular, number 6 is a true beauty with all the best strategic features. From the tee, the generous portion of the fairway is from 250 yards and in, while the bold play is into a more narrow target. The second provides numerous choices, but anyone with guts will try to cut across the ocean surf and find the safety of the elevated approach or green. This hole is the class of six at Pebble or eighteen at National Golf Links. Jim Fazio envisioned rousing routing and we can only hope that this track comes to fruition.
Eleuthera is an amazing destination. With the addition of French Leave Marina Village, a true escape awaits. If Cotton Bay Golf Club reaches the finish line, an unmatched combination of beaches, boating, bicycling, surfing fishing and golf arrives on this wonderful island.
More from an article on golfing at Cotton Bay Eleuthera.