New Development

A Hole-in-One

A $1.5 million facelift keeps the Provo Golf Course looking good.
By Kathy Borsuk ~ Photos Courtesy HAB Group

17th-Hole-Image---2009Although I am not a golfer, I can see why people enjoy the sport. Taking a tour around the Provo Golf Course is like taking a sojourn from everyday island life. In contrast to the fairly arid, flat landscape over which I conduct my typical work routine, the golf course fairways are lush, emerald green and fresh-smelling. Our quiet electric cart whirrs up and down gently rolling hills, dotted with ranks of palm trees and battalions of brightly flowering bushes. Placid lakes, home to graceful water birds including ducks and flamingos, appear around most turns, and steady trade winds blow away any traces of heat and humidity.

I’ve been visiting and writing about the Provo Golf Course since its opening in late 1992 . . . and it just keeps getting better and better. This is due to a long-term commitment by the HAB Group, the course’s owners and founders, towards making the course a showpiece for the Turks & Caicos Islands. The course’s staff, including longtime Director of Golf Dave Douglas and Course Superintendent Jason Bailey, are similarly committed to making enjoyable every round of golf played by member and visitor.

A history lesson

I still have the original magazine produced when the course opened, describing it as the “Caribbean’s Newest Golfing Destination!” Articles within tell of the 1989 decision by the Turks & Caicos Water Company (a division of the HAB Group) that creating a golf course would be a good step towards promoting tourism in the Islands. Since Provo has a semi-arid climate with neither abundant rainfall nor ground water, fresh water to keep the course green would have to be produced, and who better to do it than the fledgling water company? Renowned golf architect Karl Litten was chosen to design the 18 hole course and a $600,000 state-of-the-art computer irrigation system was set up to keep the grass green with approximately 250,000 gallons of desalinated water (now 300,000 gallons) being pumped daily through 14 miles of laid pipeline.

Ground broke for the project in May 1991, with Gregori International, Inc. of France serving as the contractor, based on their extensive experience in landscaping and ground sculpting. Early photos show the scant topsoil being scraped into mounds for reuse in topping the course and heavy equipment digging into the hard coral rock beneath to build elevation into land lying almost at sea level. As environmentally conscious then as now, the developers preserved as many native trees as possible, along with the natural lake, which today bisects the front and back nine.

The stately clubhouse, center of course activities and welcoming portal to visitors, was designed as one of architect Simon Wood’s original projects on Providenciales. Its traditional West Indian-style architecture became among his renowned designs and the comfortable, rotunda-like interior remains a popular gathering place for golfers, with the Fairways Bar and Grill serving meals on its terrace overlooking the 18th hole.

The course earned accolades from the beginning, and by 1996, a Golf magazine writer for Caribbean Travel & Life rated the course among the Caribbean’s top 10, a rank held today and enhanced by a four star rating from Golf Digest in 2007/08. The 18-hole, 72 par course offers a rousing test for golfers of all calibers. If offshore breezes are blowing strong, the 6,705 yard championship course becomes “extremely interesting” with a slope rating of 136. For the casual golfer, blue, white and the women’s red tees (marked with colored conch shells) reduce the field to 5,036 yards. According to Dave Douglas, “The course is designed to offer a larger green area if the approach shot is a long one, while shorter approaches will be to smaller greens tucked behind bunkers or mounds. In between the different hitting areas, you have large waste spaces. This requires players to utilize good course management, hitting the ball to specific targets rather than just blasting away with their driver or fairway wood.” The course places a premium on accuracy and has given up only a few holes-in-one over its teen-age lifespan.

Keeping it fresh

It seemed like old times (except for a few more wrinkles and gray hairs between us) as Dave Douglas gave me the 2009 golf course grand tour, driving one of the brand-new fleet of electric carts. He explained that over $1.5 million had been invested by HAB Group over the last year on landscaping and refurbishment projects. This included over 900 new palm trees, a combination of Winin, Areca, Sable and Washingtonian varieties — all non-susceptible to the deadly lethal yellow disease that killed many of the original coconut palms. Adding color along the fairways and around the greens are hundreds of flowering trees, including cassia, Hong Kong orchid, pink tabby, frangipani, African tulip, gumbo limbo, tropical almond and bottlebrush, along with verdant bushes such as bougainvillea, oleander, copper leaf and Ficus, with sea oat grass adding a natural fringe. Besides doing its part to decrease global warming, the exuberant new landscape adds interest and beauty to the course.

We also cruised past new water features created on the 7th and 17th holes; the last a sinuous lake designed to add drama to the end of the course. This brings the total number of lakes to 12, with water on seven holes on the front nine and six holes on the back nine. Interestingly, the course remains so close to sea level that builders needed only dig down a few feet for the water table to fill the new ponds. While the flamingos were busy elsewhere, Dave assured me that they are regular visitors, along with egrets, heron and other waterfowl. Also adding a challenge for course regulars are two new tee-offs on the 13th and 18th holes.

Indoors, the refurbished clubhouse sports fresh decor in the rotunda, a larger bag storage facility and an expanded and updated pro shop, from which guests can rent premium Taylormade Burner clubs, or purchase logoed shirts, shorts, golf shoes and extra balls. Other club facilities include a warm-up driving net, chipping area, putting green and tennis courts. Tee times start at 7 AM until dusk, the course is rarely crowded, and on-line reservations are available.

Hosting the Caribbean’s finest

With all this “gussying up,” you might think company’s coming! And it is. For the second time (the first was in 1999), the Provo Golf & Country Club will play host to the 53rd Caribbean Amateur Golf Championships on August 3 to 8, 2009. Bordier International Bank & Trust are the headline sponsors of the prestigious event, expected to draw 140 golfers and nearly that many “followers.”

The Caribbean Amateur Open began in 1957 with only two countries; since that time it has evolved into the largest annual golf event in the region, contested by 10 countries, including the Turks & Caicos Islands. Each country sends 14-person teams to compete in five divisions, including the Hoerman Cup (five-man team); George Teale Memorial Trophy (three-woman team); Ramon Baez Trophy (two amateur men aged 35 and over); Francis Steele Perkins Trophy (two senior men aged 50 and over) and the Higgs and Higgs Trophy (two super-senior men aged 60 and over). The 2009 competition will see Puerto Rico looking to retain the title they won last year in the Cayman Islands.

Spectators are welcome and TCI residents are encouraged to come out and cheer on the local team. The 1999 event was touted as one of the best championships ever hosted by a member community. As host country, the Turks & Caicos Golf Association (TCGA) is expected to provide accommodation for all visiting teams, use of the golf course for six days, on-island transportation, breakfast and dinner for all players, an opening ceremony, flag raising and dinner and a prize-giving and closing party. Obviously, much sponsorship is needed and packages are available to suit any budget. For more information, contact Tournament Director John Phillips at claymore@tciway.tc.

The million dollar mark

With over 160 members, the Provo Golf Club maintains a strong local players’ base and a full roster of members-only events to complement the many annual golfing tournaments. Since 1996, charity golf events have quietly raised over $1 million for local charities and worthwhile causes in the Turks & Caicos Islands. This amazing achievement for such a small golfing community is, in large part, due to the many local corporate sponsorships, great participation from local golfers, and the hard work of the golf club staff. Many of the tournaments have a 16 year history, and are still going strong.

Over the years, some of the worthwhile causes have included:  the National AIDS Awareness Foundation, the British West Indies Collegiate, P.A.T.H.E. (Provo Association for the Handicapped and Elderly), the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Turks & Caicos Cancer Society, the Turks & Caicos Kidney Foundation, the Kiwanis Club, the Turks & Caicos Football Association, the Turks & Caicos Golf Association, the Angelo Rizzoli Foundation and the Clement Howell High School.

A golf course lifestyle

Part of the HAB Group’s long-range plans for developing a golf course was the concurrent development of the 200-acre surrounding resort community, blessed with the “greenest grass on Provo.” To my surprise (I hadn’t toured the course for many years), much of the project is well underway. This includes 70 townhomes in five different developments — Fairways, The Palms, The Retreat, The Enclave and The Enclave II. Each features 2-storey, 2 bedroom/2.5 bath (some 3 bedroom) townhomes fronting the fairways, with private patios enjoying a sweeping golf course view. These have proven extremely popular for long-term rentals and investment growth, with many renters becoming townhome buyers and later purchasing land and building their home on the golf course.

There are also 15 Club Villas (with plans to build another 12). These are unique in that each section has 3 separate  2 bedroom/2.5 bath units, with two units on the bottom level and one on the second level. Lower level units have a den that could be made into a third bedroom.

Each development has its own pool/patio, with the white sands of Grace Bay just a short stroll across the street. They are managed in individual strata groups, and many offer discounted golf and tennis membership.

Of the private residence lots, 13 are now graced with beautiful single-family homes, taking advantage of built-in infrastructure including asphalt roads, underground water, electricity, telephone and cable television lines and a main sewage line. Besides a choice of 38 remaining lake view, fairway or greenside locations, an added benefit for home or lot owners is golf club membership.

The HAB Group also operate highly regarded luxury resorts on Grace Bay — the award winning Villa Renaissance, luxurious Regent Grand Resort & Spa and the forthcoming development The Vellagio. Guests staying at either resort receive free golf during their stay from now through April 2010.

Although it may be some time before I ever swing a club (or curse at a golf ball!), I look forward to another ride around the course for a future story. I have no doubt Provo’s tranquil oasis will be more lovely than ever . . . and I won’t have to worry about my score!

For more information, visit www.provogolfclub.com or call 877 218 9124 or 649 946 5991.



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Hobbyist photographer and Assistant Director for Research & Development at the TCI Department of Environment & Coastal Resources Dr. Eric F. Salamanca took this rare photo of a Bahama Woodstar hummingbird enjoying the nectar of Moringa flowers.

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