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Standing the Test of Time

Provo Golf Course celebrates 30 years!

By Kathy Borsuk

Providenciales’ only 18-hole golf course was designed to complement the natural layout of the land, offering sweeping views.

It’s hard to believe that the Provo Golf Club (now known as the Royal Turks & Caicos Golf Club) turned 30 years old in November, 2022. When I arrived in the Islands, the course had just opened. I remember marveling at the miracle of turning a huge plot of bush-topped rocky limestone into a contoured, manicured, verdant playground for golfers.

The TCI’s sole 18-hole golf course has only grown lusher and more beautiful with age, as its tropical foliage grows and matures under the course superintendent’s watchful eye. And as Providenciales hustles and bustles with development, the golf club has turned into a rare, peaceful oasis for wildlife and humans alike.

History

In 1989, the Provo Golf and Country Club was a dream of the HAB Group, who coincidently owns and operates Provo Water Company, the supplier of potable water to Providenciales. They realized the importance of a world-class golf course to the fledgling tourism economy and realized it would only be possible with the availability of a huge volume of water in the TCI’s semi-arid climate.

By 1990, renowned golf course architect Karl Litten was chosen as to design the course, while talented resident architect Simon Wood (SWA Associates) designed the stately clubhouse. Ground broke on the massive project on May 1, 1991 and a little more than a year later, the first golfer teed up. Peter Boyce was employed as the first director of golf, with Dave Douglas as his part time assistant in the winter months. (Dave is now starting his 27th years as director of golf!)

The course opened as a 6,529 yard, Par 72 challenge, described in early press releases as “a true test of the game to everyone. Tight fairways . . . Unrelenting water hazards and bunkers puts the player to the test of striking accurate shots with large sandy waste areas bordering a number of the fairways also creating target golf. Already receiving great reviews, it’s the type of course that makes you want to come back to play it again! It truly is a golf course you will never forget!” How true 30 years later!

Interestingly, for much of the golf club’s history, HAB Group has underwritten the cost of operations. It has only been in recent years that the club achieved the critical mass of golfers required to become self-sustaining, a reflection of the TCI’s steady growth in tourism.

The careful and consistent cultivation of the course along with a strong emphasis on customer satisfaction has led to many awards over the years, beginning with a four-star rating from Golf Digest in 2010 and naming as a Top 10 Course for Caribbean Golf by Travel and Leisure magazine in 2014. It consistently receives TripAdvisor Certificates of Excellence and was recently voted as the #3 Best Caribbean Golf Club by USA Today’s 10 Best.

In 2015, David Feherty, charismatic golf course commentator for the Golf Channel and NBC, became the courses’ ambassador. Other famous names walking the fairways over the years include Bill Gates, Gary Woodland, Richard Gere, Michael Phelps, Michael Jordan, Stephon Curry, Charlize Theron, Bruce Willis, and Drake. 

The course was chosen to host the Caribbean Amateur Golf Open in 1999, 2009, and 2022, welcoming the stars of the future from across the Caribbean. 

The stately clubhouse, designed by local architect Simon Wood, is the center of activity.

Exceeding expectations

From the beginning, the golf course strived to exceed expectations of its frequent return visitors and loyal members. At the same time, the atmosphere was meant to be relaxed and informal — not stuffy — in keeping with a Caribbean “vibe.” Reviews are consistently excellent, with newcomers often surprised at the quality of the greens and service by the conscientious staff. Today, it is on the bucket list of any visiting golfer, whether pro or amateur.

Director of Golf Dave Douglas and Head Professional Sean Wilson bring years of prime experience to their positions, yet both enjoy a more rare trait — good humor and optimism that transcend the hiccups of running a golf course on an small island.

Course Superintendent Tim Mack also brought a strong background in course construction, renovation, and technology to his job in 2010 and has been a part of many exciting changes. The most rewarding, he says, being the turf renovation of 2017/18, where $2.5 million was spent on re-turfing the entire course with Platinum Paspalum grass, the new industry standard. This salt-tolerant turf not only provides a fabulous dark-green playing surface, but allows the club to use less reverse osmosis-generated water. In fact, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar was played on the same grass, as will be the Ryder Cup in Italy in 2023. The Miami Dolphins have put it in their stadium along with three Major League baseball teams and many quality courses near the equator where salt is a factor.

From its inception, the course was intended to complement the natural layout of the land, with fairways lined with a mix of native vegetation and palms and offering sweeping views. The front nine features water on five holes, with the back nine offering six lakes — combining for hazardous encounters on 13 holes. From the black tees, the championship layout of 6,719 yards is sloped at 133. The most challenging hole is the 14th, a Par 4 with gorgeous views, needing two separate long carries over water playing dead into the wind. The slight dogleg right often leaves you with a sidehill lie on the fairway.

A new name

In late 2021, Provo Golf Club was renamed “Royal Turks & Caicos Golf Club.” The rebranding celebrates a fresh identity and vision for the future, yet honors its long history and heritage in TCI. A new logo pays homage to the Brown Pelican, TCI’s national bird, representing the club’s commitment to a sustainable, “green” future. The new tagline, “An Exceptional Caribbean Golf Experience,” illustrates the array of opportunities enjoyed by visitors when they visit the course.

Noted for a challenging round of golf and a quick pace of play (four hours or less), the course offers four sets of tees for all golfing abilities and premium Titleist rental clubs. Facilities include a full-service pro shop (recently refurbished), practice warm-up area, chipping and putting greens, bag storage, flood-lit tennis courts, and two pickleball courts. The club’s fleet of EZ-GO electric carts are equipped with GPS and electronic scorecards. PGA golf pros are on hand for advice and lessons, multi-round playing passes are available, and juniors are encouraged to play with parents after 10:30 AM at no fee.

The #19 Bar and Restaurant (open to the public) is a popular place for tourists and members to mix and mingle. (The burgers and conch fritters are famous!) Guests can dine on the shaded outdoor deck or the rotunda interior, with golf flags from clubs around the globe hanging from the ceiling. 

This bird’s eye view of the golf course at sunset shows why it is an oasis for wildlife and humans.

Going green

HAB Group is committed to being a leader in environmental performance and reducing its “footprint,” with a strong obligation to ensuring that the ecosystems of the “Beautiful by Nature” Turks & Caicos remain healthy and intact. As custodians of the largest sporting facility in the TCI (650 acres), the Royal Turks & Caicos Golf Club (RTCGC) strives to operate in the most sustainable way possible.

Besides replacing the turf with a less water-hungry strain, water stations are located throughout the course where golfers can fill up their water bottles or branded reusable bottles from the pro shop, reducing the burden of the ubiquitous plastic water bottles on the local landfill.

RTCGC is working towards GEO Certification for sustainable golf. This widely regarded international ecolabel is designed to help golf courses be recognized for their environmental and social responsibility. Steps taken will involve protecting the current ecosystem (11 lakes, 140 acres of fairways and greens) that are home to the American kestral, white heron, kingfisher, pink flamingo, and green turtle, as well as a variety of cacti, the flame tree, and sea dunes. 

It will also involve working to reduce carbon emissions by installing solar panels than can power the golf course property and beyond. Along with eliminating single-use plastic and adding recycle/reuse containers across the grounds, the club will invest in education of employees and visitors in more sustainable habits.

The beautiful flame tree, also known as royal poinciana, graces the fairways at Provo Golf Course.

Giving back

Besides taking responsibility for the club’s operating costs to buttress the tourism product, HAB Group has a long history of giving back to the community, with more donations than any other single entity in the Turks & Caicos Islands. Since 1996, the club has helped raise over $2 million for local charities through tournaments such as the:  Jadot Cup, Wine Cellar Cup, Bob Graham TCIGA Scramble, Bordier Bank Youth Soccer Scramble, National Cancer Society Scramble and the Corporate Charity Challenge. 

Funds raised help support the Edward C. Gartland Youth Center, National AIDs Awareness Foundation, Food 4 Thought children’s breakfast program, TCI Community College, TCI Senior Citizens’ Home and the TCI Children’s Home, among other worthy causes. The generosity of the club’s 110 members and visiting golfers reflects their benevolence and satisfaction with the overall golf course experience.

The club’s love of local sports is reflected in sponsorship of children’s soccer programs, ladies’ softball, the junior golf program, and a $50,000 donation to the TCI Sports Federation for athletes to compete in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, UK. HAB group has provided $50,000 annually since 1996 via the TCIG sponsorship fund. In 2023, RTCGC will donate .5% of the green fee to a new Community Fund.

To encourage the Tiger Woods of the future, RTCGC is developing a young golfer’s program to introduce children to golf in a fun and safe environment using a games-based learning technique. This will supplement current youth coaching and kid’s camps during school vacations.

RTCGC is also home to the TCI Tennis Academy and a school program sanctioned by the International Tennis Federation, run by Tennis Pro Rey Garcia. It uses modified courts, racquets, and balls and a “learning through play” philosophy to make the experience fun and exciting.

The club will continue to support the local economy not only with its ever-growing reputation attracting golfers from around the world, but also with ongoing disaster relief, event sponsorship, and working with the TCI Hotel & Tourism Association to encourage local youth in the hospitality industry. 

Life on the golf course

I envy the wise investors who have made the 200-acre golf course residential community their home. Not only are the homes, villas, and townhomes well-spaced in manicured surroundings, but the atmosphere is family-oriented, quiet, and steeped in nature. Best of all, development is planned, so property owners know what to expect in the future — no one can block their view or crowd their privacy! 

Existing single-family homes do come on the market from time to time. There are six developments of townhomes and club villas bordering the 1st, 10th, and 18th fairways which offer affordable living enhanced by proximity to the beach, schools, shopping, restaurants and the attractions of Grace Bay — besides immediate access to the golf course and tennis courts. These two and three-bedroom units are popular among full and part-time residents and various units do become available for rental or resale.

The Royal Turks & Caicos Golf Club has stood the test of time by virtue of its excellence, generosity, and accountability to the environment, country, and local community. Although it is no longer a secret, it is more than worthy of discovering and enjoying.

For more information and to book a tee time, visit royalturksandcaicosgolf.com.



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South Caicos was once a major exporter of salt harvested from its extensive salinas. Award-winning Master and Craftsman Photographer James Roy of Paradise Photography (myparadisephoto.com) created this vertical composition by assembling a series of six images captured by a high-definition drone which was a half a mile away from his position.

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