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Sports Patrol: Bahamas

Quick Overview

The sun tan from my fortnight’s visit to the Bahamas had barely started to fade when I took my wife to the cinema to see the 2006 re-make of Casino Royale featuring, for the first time, Daniel Craig as British secret service agent, James Bond.

Quite early in the storyline 007 jets into Nassau, from where I had just returned, and then, much to my surprise, Bond set off in his car toward the exclusive Ocean Club resort on Paradise Island where I’d recently stayed and played golf during my familiarisation trip to the island.

As Bond made for the bar and then the beach, the film afforded me a rare moment in my life when, with great pride, I leant over and whispered to my wife: “I stayed there!”   

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Italian-born adventurer Christopher Columbus chanced upon the 700-ilsland archipelago that make up the Bahamas in 1492 when searching for a new westerly trade route from Europe to the East Indies.


Historic documents lead you to believe Columbus barely popped ashore to re-stock his ship, meet the native Lucayan Indians and claim the islands in the name of Spain, before setting sail for Europe.


These days, however, tourists prefer to take a while longer as they discover all that the stunningly beautiful islands have to offer.


Only 55 miles east of Miami and a 25-minute hop from MIA, the Bahamas are known as the family islands for a very good reason. The deeply spiritual people here still respect the family way of life, pay homage to their elders and enjoy a pace of life that remains exquisitely slow.


New Providence Island, with its main town of Nassau, is the hub in terms of government and tourism, and flights and cruise ships land and lay anchor here with startling regularity.


The colonial buildings of Old Nassau Town host Nassau’s famous Bay Street jewellery quarter and Straw Market – a Mecca for tourists and film stars alike. If you can drag yourself away from the bars and shops, a trip to see cigars being hand-rolled at the Graycliff Cigar Company makes for a fascinating diversion.


New Providence is linked by road-bridge to Paradise Island where you’ll find the exclusive Ocean Club as well as the awesome Atlantis which, with over 2,000 rooms to be serviced, employs the best part of 6,000 staff.


With its myriad restaurants, massive aquarium and water slide rides that catapult you through shark infested tanks, a stay at the Atlantis is something akin to enjoying an action-packed vacation at Disneyland.....only with a beach!


Those of you hankering for a more sophisticated holiday or if you’ve an even bigger budget, then the sister resort at Ocean Club is barely a five-minute drive along the coast.


Luxurious in the extreme, this colonial-style hotel boasts beachside, sea-view villas and rooms to die for, while the Tom Weiskopf designed golf course is new recognised as one of the Caribbean’s best.


Back on New Providence Island, and a short taxi ride from Nassau, is the humble, yet homely Cable Beach Golf Club which offers a more informal round. More like a members’ club - I liken it to a Cadillac compared to Ocean Club’s Aston Martin - Cable Beach has palm-fringed fairways and water hazards aplenty...so beware the Trade Winds off the tee!


If you want to sample courses on other islands in the Bahamas, then best take the half-hour flight from Nassau to Freeport, the main town of Grand Bahama Island, where you can pit your wits against The Reef course at Our Lucaya.


The Bahamas answer to a links course; it hosted the USPGA Senior Slam in 2000 won by Hale Irwin with a then course record score of 67. Needless to say, I didn’t threaten Irwin’s score on my trip but playing golf in the Bahamas is a delight whatever you may shoot!


Off-course delights

The biggest tourist attraction in the Bahamas is Dolphin Encounters at Blue Lagoon Island.


After a 20-minute boat ride from Potters Cay you cannot help but enjoy the unique experience of swimming with dolphins. Everyone leaves with a smile.


On Grand Bahama, visit one of the world’s most beautiful beaches at Gold Rock, famed for its powder soft sand that has a pinkish tinge of coral.


Here you can also kayak through mangrove swamps or try snorkelling with manta rays at Paradise Cove. My vacation highlight was a wreck dive courtesy of Stuart Cove’s, Nassau’s leading dive centre, who took me down to see the wreck of the Ray of Hope and the Caribbean Reef Sharks that inhabit these crystal clear waters.


As for my favourite night out, a local golf professional took me to Eight Mile Rock and West End on Grand Bahama to visit a string of colourful, beach-side shanty huts that home various bars and eateries. Humble cuisine in extreme, there is little, however, to beat the conch fritters and barbequed lobster tails served up here washed down with an ice-cold bottle of the local Kalick beer. My idea of heaven!


Mark Pennell travelled to the Bahamas courtesy of British Airways, Bahamas Air and in conjunction with the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.  


June 29, 2023





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