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Best of the Best 2012: Golf Courses: The Golf Links at Royal Isabela

James A. Frank

Golf has a rich tradition of amateur architects, design neophytes who put their passion into a project and, on occasion, create something special. Though an unlikely pair of shaping savants, the brothers Charlie and Stanley Pasarell have certainly created a special golf course. Tennis champions in the 1960s and ’70s, the Pasarells are also avid golfers who were determined to bring a world-class course to their native Puerto Rico. The Golf Links at Royal Isabela (www.royalisabela.com) is the first piece of a multicourse resort at the island’s northwest corner, but even if they stop with just this layout, the Pasarells will have achieved their goal. Opened in spring 2011, the stunning Royal Isabela track plays across rock cliffs soaring 150 to 350 feet above the Atlantic, with holes crossing mammoth crevasses and navigating around trees, rocks, and thick native growth. The terrain rises and falls, the wind blows off the sea, and more than once per round the golfer’s heart rises into the throat at the spectacle of the surroundings.

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