Norman course taking shape in Jamaica

Earlier this year, Greg Norman surveyed the southern coast of Jamaica, scouting locations for a championship-length golf course to be built by the Sandals resort chain.

The course will take shape in the vicinity of the bankrupt Sandals Whitehouse European Village & Spa, a 500-acre property that features a 360-room beachfront hotel. The resort, currently operated by the Sandals chain, is privately owned but controlled by Jamaica’s government, which helped to build it. Gordon “Butch” Stewart, the chairman of Sandals Resorts International, agreed to buy it earlier this year, reportedly for about $40 million.

Sandals Whitehouse was Stewart’s idea. The resort opened in 2003, as the centerpiece of Stewart’s plan to turn the island’s southern coast into a tourist destination, like its northern coast. Through his holding company, Gorstew, Ltd., he owns a piece of the resort as well as some nearby property where he’s long dreamed of adding another hotel (probably one “branded” by Beaches, a chain owned by Sandals) and a shopping and entertainment complex.

A golf course has been part of Stewart’s development plans from the beginning, and it’s no stretch that he settled on Norman as its designer. Sandals owns three golf properties, one of which – the Sandals Emerald Reef resort in the Bahamas – features a Norman-designed, 18-hole course. The chain also owns an 18-hole course on Jamaica’s northern coast, Sandals Golf & Country Club in Ocho Rios, and a nine-hole track on St. Lucia.

Sandals’ course in Jamaica was originally part of Upton Golf Club, which opened in two phases, in the early 1950s and the early 1960s. Sandals bought it in 1992.

At Whitehouse, Stewart recently told the Jamaica Observer, he plans to build “an exceptional championship tournament course offering flexibility while still providing a challenge to professional golfers.” Norman, who’s based in West Palm Beach, Florida, told the paper that his design philosophy “takes a minimalist and least disturbance approach” and that he expects to design a “state-of-the-art” course that “appears to be a part of the landscape.”

A construction schedule hasn’t been announced. Assuming the sale is completed – some critics on the island have objected, arguing that Stewart is getting too sweet a deal – Norman has suggested that the groundbreaking could take place this year.

This story originally appeared in the World Edition of the Golf Course Report, in a slightly different form. For a sample copy of the World Edition, call 301/680-9460 or write to WorldEdition@aol.com.
 

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