There’s something special about The Abaco Club. Golf Trip Experts’ Darin Bunch knew it immediately as he discovered the many facets of golf and grandeur beyond the entrance. Greeted with an island beverage, he hopped into a golf cart and headed toward tranquil Winding Bay, catching glimpses of the ocean-view golf course designed by Donald Steel and Tom Mackenzie, driving past the cool, circular Flippers Beach Bar steps away from the white sand and eventually (after more than a few Wow moments) finding his way to an inviting cabana with the golf course on one side and a walking path to the water on the other.
And he wasn’t the first. David Southworth, one of the most successful real estate developers in the United States, had that same feeling the first time he was introduced to this island paradise in the Bahamas.
“I was really blown away,” Southworth says in Episode 138 of the “Talking GolfGetaways” podcast. “I remember taking a walk on the beach and said to myself, “If we don't do anything down here business-wise, this still might be the perfect place for me to hide away in wintertime because it was just so spectacular and so beautiful. … I remember that that first walk like it was yesterday.”
And that walk led to Massachusetts-based Southworth Development eventually taking over as owner and operator of this former Ritz-Carlton property in the Abacos islands and turning it into “one of the best sporting clubs in the world” and home to the annual Bahamas Great Abaco Classic on the Web.com Tour.
Of course, taking on a project of this size was nothing new for Southworth. His company has grown significantly over the years by melding hospitality, real estate and golf back in the United States — from Cape Cod to New Jersey to Virginia — creating “high-end heavily amenitized private residential-resort type communities.”
So what makes these developments succeed?
“Memories. If you can create memories and send people home with memories … when people have left your property and they’ve been home for three months or six months and they can sit back and remember, ‘That was just an awesome experience.’ You know, they might forget that the meals came out at the perfect temperature or at the right time or the beer was cold or whatever — they might forget a lot of the little things that go into that — but in general you’ve tried to create a memory, and if you’re successful at that, it’ll continue on.”
And more than a few memories are waiting to be made at The Abaco Club, especially when it comes to an experience few destinations in the world can match. And that’s why Southworth considers what they’ve created to be one of the best sporting clubs in the world, both for what his team brought to The Abaco Club but also for what was already there.
“The club has everything money can’t buy. The bay and the beach are irreplaceable. I’ve traveled many places in the world … and it’s truly a one-of-a-kind. The terrain on the property, the elevation changes and grades enabled us to make a very unique and special golf course. … The weather, the fact that there’s deep-sea fishing five minutes off the shore, the bone fishing is world class, and that’s right out our front door. So all these things — you can’t buy it, you can’t orchestrate it. It was just there.”
As for “the things money can buy,” The Abaco Club has it all. The golf course, which USA Today has dubbed the best in the Bahamas, is entertaining throughout and includes some amazing waterfront views of both the bay and the open ocean. The cabanas (and cottages and villas) are first-class accommodations of all shapes and sizes (and many are available for purchase should you decide to make The Abaco Club one of your homes away from home).
And the dining, from island drinks and menu (including the Wednesday barbecue) at Flippers down on the beach to the Cliff House restaurant with its sweeping views of Winding Bay, is equally unforgettable. (You can hear Darin rave about the Grilled Bahamian Lobster, and the process it takes to harvest it, in Episode 124.)
“We really wanted to get back to some of the basics there and focus on all of the fresh fish,” Southworth says. “We buy our fish directly from the fishermen, pulling it out of the water. Our specials and offerings in many instances change by the day depending on what the fishermen bring us. So it’s a great way to take advance of what’s really at our front door.”
And there’s so much more to experience out that front door — one visit will never do The Abaco Club justice. However, one visit might be all you can get unless you want to become a member or real estate owner. The Abaco Club allows one-time visits for non-members to sample all the club has to offer — “kick the tires, so to speak,” as Southworth says — but after that, you’ll need to make a commitment.
We’re guessing most who have the means will take the plunge. The Abaco Club is simply that good. Golf, dining, fishing, boating, swimming, lounging, spa treatments, sealife-spotting (so many sea turtles) — it has it all in a setting that you’ll never forget, on the island itself and in the surrounding waters.
“Going out of Winding Bay leads you right to the Sea of Abaco, which is a natural preserve,” Southworth continues. “All the Bahamian waters are spectacular, but you know the Sea of Abaco is even more so if it’s so special that they’ve made it a nature preserve. … And we’re just finishing building the marina down in Little Harbour, which has direct access to the sea. So between between that and the connection from the bay to around the corner, it’s all available to us [from The Abaco Club]. And it’s kind of the icing on the cake.”
All of which leaves guests wanting more. And that’s exactly what Southworth Development is banking on — that every new visitor will feel exactly the way Darin does after a single visit.
“We started this off with you talking about memories,” Bunch says near the end of the podcast episode, “And I think about The Abaco Club all the time — if not every day, then at least every week — wanting to be back there, just relaxing on that beach and having fun on the golf course. So I hope to go back there again at some point, and I just hope more people discover it because it really is an amazing place.”