Saturday, April 24

Final Report on My Puerto Rico Golf Trip

Eileen Earley (Ogilvy), Chi Chi Rodriguez and yours truly at a reception
at the Gran Melia Golf Resort (photo courtesy of Rob Hayashida)

IT HAS BEEN ABOUT a month since I traveled to Puerto Rico for the Puerto Rico Open as a member of a press tour hosted by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. Golf travel and destinations are not my normal beat, but I was grateful for the opportunity to slip away for a PGA Tour event in the Caribbean, especially after such a long stretch of cold, snow and ice in the Mid Atlantic. As a huge bonus, my wife came along while our two school-age daughters stayed with friends, a rare weeklong getaway.

We stayed at the Gran Melia Golf Resort Puerto Rico in Rio Grande, which is just a John Daly 5-iron from the Trump International Golf Club where the tournament was played. I read some reviews on Trip Advisor before we left and was a bit concerned due to comments about the service and food. However, I thought the service was consistently good and at times excellent. For the most part, the staff was genuinely friendly. There are five restaurants on the property, a combination of cuisine options in casual or more formal settings. My favorite was Pasion−I dined there two nights in a row. I tried mofongo, a native dish featuring mashed plantains, and ordered the fresh grouper on my second visit. I also consumed massive quantities of decadent chocolate desserts on both evenings. Life was good. And very fattening.

The property has nearly 500 suites and a handful of villas, including the presidential villa where I believe The Donald was staying (he was on hand for tournament festivities), although it was hush-hush with the resort staff. The suites are spread out and connected by a large loop of sidewalks. Unless you really enjoy walking (I did), getting around is by golf cart. (The staff is always driving the loop and eager to pick up people as they drift out of their suites.) Our suite was large and comfortable. My only problem in the room was wireless reception, which was spotty.

The resort is on the ocean and has a beach area that I was told will be overhauled with new sand. We didn’t swim in the gigantic lagoon-style pool because the water was a little chilly. I liked seeing the iguanas everywhere. They seem to be as common on the island as squirrels are in the States. Some are larger than cats. Really. Other resort amenities include a casino, small store, bars and live entertainment.

Tours and Stuff

While I did my golf thing, which included press conferences, presentations, the tournament and various tours of local golf courses such as Rio Mar, my wife took tours to Old San Juan and the nearby El Yunque rainforest. My one regret was not getting to Old San Juan. Maybe next time.

Don’t leave San Juan on a Sunday unless you have no other choice. Apparently, all the cruise ships return and tourists flood the airport to fly home. I’ve never seen a more crowded airport in my life. It was overwhelming, and some of my fellow stand-in-liners were not dealing well with travel adversity. But my wife and I made are flights.

I also should mention that I enjoyed the company of Eileen Earley (Ogilvy), Marta (Puerto Rico tourism rep), Rob Hayashida (Sandbox8), Stacy and Barry Solomon (Golf for Beginners), Steve Ellis (The Golfer), Art Stricklin (Sports Illustrated) and Tony Korologos (The Golf Space and Hooked on Golf Blog).

It was my first trip to Puerto Rico and I’d definitely go back. Maybe I’ll be there next year for the 2011 Puerto Rico Open.

−The Armchair Golfer

Read more about my Puerto Rico trip:
Gusty Breezes and Missed Putts at the Puerto Rico Open
Skip Kendall Is the Early Leader in Puerto Rico
How to Blow Dry Trump International with a Helicopter
It’s Raining Cats, Dogs and Iguanas at the Puerto Rico Open
Opening Media Conference and More Chi Chi Rodriguez
Chi Chi Rodriguez: Puerto Rico’s Golf Ambassador


Stacy Solomon said...

Neil, Barry and I just received our pictures from Amy too!

It was great meeting you and your lovely wife and fun playing golf with you in Puerto Rico.

Golf bloggers should seriously have get-togethers like this one.

The Gran Melia was the perfect resort to host our memorable five-star week! Hope to see you again!

Heather said...

What a wonderful experience. I've only flown thru Puerto Rico. Next time I must stop and golf!

The Armchair Golfer said...

Stacy, it was great getting acquainted with you and Barry. Thanks, Heather. Yes, there's plenty of golf to be played in Puerto Rico.

Stacy Solomon said...

Heather, you don't even have to bring your golf clubs to Puerto Rico; they are available for rent (I'm a lefty so I bring my golf clubs everywhere "just in case").

There are so many beautiful and ecologically friendly golf courses in Puerto Rico, you really must stop and play. If in the Rio Grande area, try Bahia Beach and Palmas del Mar...simply gorgeous!

Palm trees and coqui everywhere!

Neil, again, the pleasure was all ours!