Blacktip Island golfers will tee off underwater Friday when Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort opens its 18-hole underwater golf course, allowing scuba divers to tour the island’s reefs while golfing.
“A lot of our guests felt left out,” resort owner Sandy Bottoms said. “Scuba golf reaches out to a broader demographic eager for underwater activities and topside attractions.
“It’s the first of its kind in the Caribbean,” Bottoms said “There was a place over in China tried it last year, but their caddies kept drowning.”
“It’s like regular golf, really,” course designer Rocky Shore said, “Except the course hazards are hungry barracuda, coral heads and jellyfish.”
“Another challenge is mantis shrimp claiming the holes,” Shore said. “We shoo them out, but they scuttle right back. Then one claw snap and BAM! your ball’s in a hundred pieces.”
Resort guests had mixed reactions to the new activity.
“I like to dive, and my wife likes to golf,” visitor Buddy Brunnez said. “Now we can dive and golf together. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. For either of us.”
Non-golfing divers complain the course is laid out across a dozen of the island’s most popular dive sites.
“They’re dropping folks into an incredibly fragile ecosystem to flail around with clubs,” Blacktip Haven resort owner Elena Havens said. “We’ve already seen scolfers blasting out of coral heads with pitching wedges and whacking balls at stingrays.
“And what of the habitat destroyed creating this atrocity?” Haven said.
Bottoms was quick to allay environmental concerns.
“We chose sandy areas for each hole,” Bottoms said. “There was no need to landscape. Well, not too much, anyway. And our course rule is you add a stroke to your score every time you damage coral.”
For island dive professionals, safety is a bigger concern.
“You can yell, ‘fore’ all you want down there, but no one’ll hear you,” said divemaster Marina DeLow. “I had two divers get plunked today. And playing 18 holes, they’re gonna have yahoos blowing their no-decompression limits left and right.”
“We put all these holes in 20 feet of water or less,” Bottoms said. “Getting bent shouldn’t be an issue. Unless you’re a bad golfer. Or get a hole with a mantis shrimp in it.”
Bottoms also plans to build a knee-deep miniature golf course for non-divers and children too young to be certified.
“There’ll be an underwater shopping mall, too,” Bottoms said. “It’ll be tasteful, though, really spruce up the reef.”