By Brent Long
There is a certain excitement or buzz that still runs through my veins when I stick my thumb out and hitch a ride – you just never know who you’re going to meet and what might happen along the way.
After spending a brilliant afternoon snorkelling in the warm Atlantic Ocean waters at Smith’s Reef at Turtle Creek and walking nearly three miles of the award-winning seven-mile long Grace Bay beach on the Island of Providenciales, I really didn’t have a care in the world. While I could have kept walking on the soft white sand and eventually arrived at the wonderful Ocean Club resort that I had been kicking back at – all good things come to an end and I was getting hungry.
I probably could have hailed a taxi, but with the flick of the thumb I found myself getting into the back seat of a beat-up pick-up with a new friend. After he jumped out of the driver’s seat to shut my door from the outside because the latch didn’t close, we started sharing stories as he stopped at the local Shell station to put $20 in the tank – gas goes for $5.90 a gallon US! Be warned, they drive on the wrong side of the road here too! Turns out he’s from Montreal, where I was born, and he worked for the Canadian Air Force flying CF-18s before landing a job at the local airport. By the time I told him my neighbour, back in Burlington, flew Lancaster bombers during WWII, our little journey was done. After a quick shower it was off to the elegant Opus wine, bar & grill for a succulent fresh lobster dinner with friends, where live music is a nightly highlight. It should be noted that thankfully, there are no fast food chains to be found – although I did see bank branches for CIBC, RBC and Bank of Nova Scotia, which is telling.
I chose Ocean Club resort for my stay because it’s the closest resort to Provo Golf Club, which was one of the main reasons I decided to visit this island paradise. Literally, I walked across the road and down the driveway to the clubhouse in less than five minutes. Three rounds of golf, on three consecutive days, under sun-drenched skies with the temperature hovering between 83 to 84F every day – just what the doctor ordered to escape the grey dullness of winter in Canada. Did I mention it’s just a four-hour, direct flight from Toronto Pearson to Providenciales (Provo) as belongers (locals) call the island.
Known for its natural, rugged layout through limestone outcroppings, Provo GC combines a solid test of golf stretching from 5,331 to 6,719 yards from the tips with captivating vistas of the natural flora and fauna of the islands. It should be noted that the course opened in 1992 after a three-year build that saw the owner, the Emir of Qatar, purchase the Turks and Caicos Water Company as part of his development strategy that started in 1983 when he purchased 800 acres – today they also operate a couple of resort properties and pour nearly 300,000 gallons of desalinized water on the course nightly to keep it lush.
For that reason the inland golf course, which is relatively flat, is nearly always in awesome shape. The greens were as good as any of the top-end greens you play at private clubs in the GTA and the new passpalum grass that’s being used as they rebuild tee boxes and make minor changes is outstanding. The only knock is that it would have been amazing if they had somehow built a few holes along the coastline or at least given golfers a view of the water here and there. While I played in a two-to-three club wind each day – and I thought that was stiff – apparently those were pretty calm days! There’s room out there off the tee to keep your ball in play, but there’s also six water holes on the front and four on the back nine.
A really neat part of visiting Provo GC for a Canadian tourist is its connection to Canada. Dave Douglas, the Director of Golf, hails from Ontario and so do his two assistants. Douglas, who lives within the golf course community, has hired at least a dozen other Ontario pros during his 15-plus years at the club that caters to a small group of members and then tourists – about 25 per cent come from Canada. Inside of the clubhouse’s bar and grill, the circular ceiling is draped by hundreds of golf course pin flags from all around the world including a couple of dozen from Ontario and other Canadian clubs.
Ocean Club Resorts is comprised of two all-suite properties, Ocean Club and Ocean Club West – and works for families, couples and guests looking for a three to four star retreat experience. Guests can indulge in spa treatments, sailing, snorkelling, diving, fishing, parasailing and of course golf with stay and play packages that are worth checking out. Of course, there is always the option of just relaxing under one of Ocean Club’s signature pink beach umbrellas with a good book on the No. 1 beach destination in the Caribbean as voted by TripAdvisor users.
As for food, there are lots of great places to check out including Ocean Club Resorts’ very own beach front Cabana Bar & Grill and Seaside Café, as well as the ultimate beach bar that’s well worth the taxi drive – Da Conch Shack – one of the best beach bars in the world. If you’re lucky enough to get there have a sip of the legendary rum punch, taste the outstanding Conch Salad and pick me up a signature XL T-shirt – they don’t ship them back to Canada!