Oh Captain! Their Captain! - Abaco Club Member Website Login

Oh Captain! Their Captain!

With golf’s greatest team event on the horizon, in which the fortunate few test their talents and guts on an international stage for golf immortality–I’m talking about the Coyne Cup, of course–I visited with one of this year’s Ryder Cup captains, seeking counsel for my own upcoming captaincy of Team Coyne versus the coddled and overconfident side of Team Paddy the Caddy. Actually, I was recently offered the chance to travel to a lap of extraordinary golf luxury at the Abaco Club in the Bahamas to play in the Darren Clarke Invitational, where by some miracle I was partnered with his 17-year-old son, Tyrone (named after Clarke’s county of birth), who turned out to be a thoughtful and un-spoiled model of youthful class, and who was really good at golf, too. We won the tournament, and I won some time to speak with Clarke at his beloved second home at Abaco.

The place is unlike any I’ve visited in golf; not so much a resort as a golf club where the people all happen to live there a few weeks a year, Abaco (run by the same hospitality masters behind one of my Scottish faves, Machrihanish Dunes) was the golf getaway I would design if people asked me to do such things. Golf course with a world-class practice facility, two restaurants where no reservations or jackets are required, a resident Open champion sipping sea breezes at the beach-side watering hole, and everything within a short drive of your golf cart, a community of old friends in golf shirts hanging around a white sand beach and a thatched tiki bar overlooking bright blue waters. You could lounge on the beach, tee off, have conch for lunch, or sip an expertly poured Abaco Smile within forty paces. No driving, no worrying, no need to be anywhere than where you were–and as for the course itself, I had heard it described as a tropical links, and sort of chuckled. I wasn’t laughing when the wind nearly knocked us off the first tee, a breeze imported from the Highlands.

Designed by links gurus Donald Steel and Tom Mackenzie, the place played links firm with a roller-coaster links topography, holes that twisted and turned and climbed and dropped–I had never played warm waterside golf like it, and couldn’t help but and it perfect for combining my two favorite ways to golf: On a links, and in shorts. I sat down with Captain Darren Clarke and rather than grill him on his picks for Team Europe, I thought I would get to know the man, understand his likes and dislikes, get a feeling for the fiber that constituted a big-stage Captain. So we talked about fish. Abaco was a world-class fishing destination as well, and fish was all any one was talking to Clarke about, it seemed, as he is a dedicated saltwater fly fisherman and had recently achieved a lifetime feat that he didn’t rank far below his Claret Jug: After stalking it for years, Clarke had finally caught the black-tailed devil.