The name Puerto Rico, Spanish for “rich port,” couldn’t be more accurate. Puerto Rico is an island blessed with an abundance of riches. If you’ve never been there, you may think of it as just another sunny destination somewhere in the Caribbean. But it offers so much more than beaches, palm fronds, and tropical drinks.

While it is a U.S. territory, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico feels more like its own self-sufficient country. The capital city, San Juan, is graced by handsome, historic government buildings—along with upscale hotels, chic restaurants, and lively casinos where elegantly dressed people reflect the island’s stylish sophistication. Beyond the capital, Puerto Rico’s endless beaches and hilly terrain are perfect for exploring—and make great settings for golf.

Here are the top-10 places to take your sticks when you venture to La Isla del Encanto—the Isle of Enchantment.

Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve—Dorado

The accommodations and amenities at this super-luxury resort just west of San Juan are dazzling—as are the two golf courses, now branded as TPC layouts. The East Course here, originally from Robert Trent Jones in 1955 but restored and updated in 2011 by his son, RTJ II, offers thrills from start to finish. The par-five 4th hole, “Ausubo,” is a double-dogleg delight that’s unique and unforgettable. The Sugarcane Course (formerly “Cerromar”) is a slightly tougher test and features numerous water hazards and deep bunkers.

Puerto Rico
TPC Dorado Beach (photo courtesy TPC Network)

St. Regis Bahia Beach & Golf Resort—Rio Grande

RTJ II did the design work here, too—and again, the results were spectacular. Set against the backdrop of the El Yunque National Forest, you can hear the unique patter of the tiny coqui tree frogs as you journey around a series of lakes before finishing your round along the golden, two-mile beach. The St. Regis is a five-star property in every respect, and the 28,000-acre El Yunque is a must-visit. It’s the only subtropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest system and will blow the mind of even the most jaded nature lover.

Links at Royal Isabela—Isabela

The links-style golf course at Royal Isabela on P.R.’s northwest shore makes the most of its dramatic clifftop location. If it weren’t for the palm trees (and warm temperatures), you might almost think you were in Scotland. At more than 7,600 yards from the tips, Isabela is a tough dame. But the setting is very comely indeed. The 14th hole, “Hidden Pearl,” plays right along the cliff edge to a green perched at the tip of infinity; it and the 200-yard 17th, which calls for a pure strike over a deep gorge, are just two of the heady challenges here. Stay in one of the resort’s luxe suites or casitas for the full experience.

 

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Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Golf & Beach Resort—Rio Grande

Rio Mar is a big, all-inclusive resort—with two excellent courses that are among the island’s best. The resort’s first course, The Ocean Course, is a George and Tom Fazio design that tips out at 6,780 yards. At the par-three 16th, you may even have the pleasure of playing from the beach. The resort’s other track, the tighter and more challenging Greg Norman-designed River Course, heads inland and weaves through lush foliage as it crisscrosses the Río Mameyes.

Grand Reserve Golf Club—Rio Grande

The terrain along the Rio Grande beach may look flat and uninspiring, but once you’re out on the 27 Tom Kite-designed holes at the Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve resort here, the test is real. Two of those nines constitute the Championship Course where the PGA Tour players do battle each year. The other nine on the International Course is well worth staying around to play. It’s testament to Kite’s design skills that the holes are as enjoyable as they are given the nature of the terrain. Wide fairways, large greens, and lots of big bunkers keep you engaged all the way around.

El Conquistador Resort—Fajardo

Located an hour east of San Juan, the El Con is a boutique resort with everything a visitor could want, from a charming private beach to its own waterpark. The Arthur Hills-designed golf course, appropriately, occupies very hilly terrain that makes it a ton of fun to play. The resort closed after Hurricane Maria but is due to reopen in May. The course is open again now, and you’ll undoubtedly love the frequent elevation changes you’ll encounter. The 5th Hole, a downhill par four that snakes to the left around water, epitomizes the challenges here. Wind is often a factor, but you can always count on an enchanting round.

Palmas del Mar Golf Club—Humacao

Keep venturing east along the northern coastline to where it turns south and you’ll come to Palmas del Mar, where two well-kept courses await: The Palm Course and The Flamboyán Course. The Palm, originally from Gary Player, features a tight front nine, broader back nine, and views of the Caribbean and out to Vieques Island from a few holes. Rees Jones’s Flamboyán Course is the one to play if you only have time to play one; longer, more challenging, and more strategic, it features Jones’s signature large bunkers, and while it may not be as scenic, it is the more memorable and enjoyable track.

 

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Costa Caribe Golf & Country Club—Ponce

Costa Caribe offers 27 holes of country club golf on the island’s south shore. You’ll have to negotiate no fewer than 14 lakes here—one of which is home to Puerto Rico’s first and only island green at the 190-yard, par-three 12th hole. You can get nicely priced stay-and-play packages through the Ponce Hilton next door, which has its own on-property casino for après-golf gambling.

Caguas Real Golf & Country Club—Caguas

Caguas is a budget-friendly course in the island’s central mountainous region south of San Juan. The course, from Florida designer John Sanford, offers two distinctly different experiences in one round. The front nine is flatter and more open, with lakes coming into play on numerous holes, whereas the back nine is hillier, so frequent elevation changes add to the challenge. The course’s valley setting makes it feel like you’re in your own little world here.

El Legado Golf Club—Guayama

You can’t talk about Puerto Rico golf without mentioning its greatest ambassador, the ever-entertaining Chi Chi Rodriguez. El Legado, the course he designed in Guayama on the island’s southeast coast, is never going to rank in the World Top 100. The front nine is hemmed in by houses and highways, the greens don’t have much movement, and course conditions can be a little scruffy by upscale resort standards. But the back nine is quite scenic, the course has plenty of length, and there are well-designed holes throughout. So, it’s definitely worth paying El Legado a visit should you venture to that part of the island, if only to pay homage to Chi Chi.

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