Now that I’m golf-obsessed, I look at each vacation as a chance, whenever possible, to check out a course I’d never noticed before.
But: Aruba? Aruba is all (albeit magnificent) beach, great dining and some casinos, right?
Try again. On a recent visit to Aruba, I was able to play a super fun, absolutely lovely 18 holes of golf at The Links at Divi Aruba (https://divilinks.com). And while it wasn’t perfectly manicured (Aruba weather has to make that a challenge), and the 18 came via doing the nine-hole set up twice, I found fun, beauty, challenge and yes, more than a few birdies.
OK, so they were actual birds and not low scores, but the time I spend on the course leads me to say this: Don’t miss a day of golf here when you’re next visiting Aruba.
We were able, as guests of the Divi and Tamarajin Aruba (https://www.diviandtamarijnaruba.com) to secure an 8 a.m. tee time, getting us ahead of the early September heat. The Links at Divi is open to the public, but does give preferred times to guests of their all-inclusive resort. That said, it was quiet out there our day, so I’m sure other than super-high season, it’s easy to get the time you want.
We’d brought our own clubs, mostly because while I still have a lot of room to carve off my handicap, I’ve ascended to persnickety when it comes to gear. I would have been fine with their rentals. For just $40 they set you up with high quality Titleist Clubs in pristine condition. They have golf shoes to rent as well.
Carts are mandatory but included in their decent pricing (nine for $81; 18 for $118 and a twilight all-you-can play for under $80 this time of year).
The links course reads straight and simple on the card, but in person it has tricks up its sleeve to keep you thinking. Narrow fairways, a decent amount of water and some fun set-ups meant I pulled every club I have out of my bag at some point.
The tough part? I thought it would be the famed Aruba winds that are steady and strong pretty much every day and night thanks to the unobstructed tradewinds blowing through. But the wind, oddly, wasn’t that much of an issue. Trees seemed to help us, and the course layout lent itself to making adjustments for it doable.
The biggest challenge for me? The rough. This Aruba rough is, well … rough. It’s thick and a bit unforgiving, and you really need to go at your shot to get out of there clean. By the second nine, we had a better feel for it and adapted, which is always fun in golf.
The course is relatively short, but plays longer than its stats. That comes thanks to holes that require lay-ups and others that require pure guts, like the Sawgrass 17th inspired ninth hole, with its island green that – just for fun – sits just below the clubhouse’s soaring windows. I swear, as I overhit the green that first time through, I looked in the eyes of diners up there. That’s OK: pressure is privilege, as Billy Jean said.
The best part of the course has to be the beauty. Here’s where the birdies come in. I’d heard from a fellow resort guest who’d gone on a bird watching excursion that the most – and best – birds were on this golf course, and she didn’t undersell.
We watched Heron stretch and fly. We were squawked at by Lapwings guarding their nest. We saw birds of prey swoop down looking for lunch. On the waterfall hole, they lined up like fans. I half expected one to squawk “It’s in the hole!” They made the round special.
There were plenty of iguanas too, a unique golf round siting.
We were glad we opted for 18. The second time through, we played better and savored the sites even more.
The Links At Divi also hosts weekly tourneys open to all, an affordable and fun way to play. Should you be there on a Wednesday or Friday, you can play an 18-hole best ball or scramble with prizes. You get the entry, your greens fees, club and shoe rentals, a sleeve of balls and two post-round drinks for just $85. The prizes are decent too.
There’s a driving range and putting green (and a bucket of balls is just $3), as well as a nice apres golf dining spot where you can take your turn judging those tricky hole nine shots. And should your travel partner not golf? They allow ride-alongs for just $16 more.
You might not go to Aruba just for golf here, but when you go to Aruba, you need to play a round here. The birdies await.