he PGA Tour first introduced a wrap-around season in the fall of 2013, which means it’s been 10 years since the start of a new calendar year has held any significance for the very best players in the world. Such is not the case for the Korn Ferry Tour, however. Following a three-month hiatus, the tour will kick off its 2024 season with The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, a PGA Tour–sanctioned Korn Ferry Tour event, in mid-January, a tournament that will return to the Sandals Emerald Bay resort for the seventh time.
Those who wish to welcome in the New Year with a week of Caribbean sunshine—especially those who want to pair that R&R with a front-row seat to world-class, championship golf—will love all that Sandals Emerald Bay and The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic can offer. After all, over the years the championship has played host to young, aspiring professionals who have since become household names on the PGA Tour, champions such as Will Zalatoris, Sungjae Im, Max Homa and Wyndham Clark, among others. Even better, guests who stay at the resort over that week (January 11–17) will receive complimentary spectator passes valued at $200 per couple.
Of course, if you’re more inclined to play golf yourself, a visit to the resort any other week of the year grants you access to the same, Greg Norman–designed championship layout that hosts the Korn Ferry Tour’s annual event. Better still, the all-inclusive nature of the resort means that greens fees are free. Just don’t expect a typical resort course experience. Over the past six years, the winner of the Great Exuma Classic has averaged only three under par per round; and during the inaugural event in 2017, only one player finished under par after four rounds (and just barely, at -2). Simply put, it’s a tough track to get around.
Stretching just over 7,000 yards, the par-72 layout opened for play in 2003 and immediately captured the golfing world’s attention. The back nine, for example, boasts a stretch of six holes that run along the coastline of the Emerald Bay peninsula, offering dramatic oceanfront views and demanding shots, especially when the wind blows. Throw in a slew of strategically placed bunkers and boldly undulating fairways that cut through seaside dunes, and the course quickly becomes a venue that can challenge even the most skilled players. Then again, that’s why it’s hosted the Korn Ferry Tour since 2017.
The back nine boasts a stretch of six holes that run along the coastline of the Emerald Bay peninsula.
While its golf course is equal parts beautiful and demanding, the Sandals Emerald Bay resort offers much more than just championship golf. Covering 500 tropical acres, including a mile of white-sand beach, the property features 249 guest rooms and suites, each one located either right along the beach or just a short walk from the Caribbean Sea’s turquoise waters. However, if poolside lounging is more your thing, the resort is equally equipped with two attractive swimming pools, one of which—a resort-designated quiet zone—is surrounded by an idyllic garden. The other—a more expansive, zero-entry beachfront pool—spans half an acre and sports a swim-up bar.
For those who wish to interact with more of the ocean surrounding the resort, Sandals Emerald Bay offers certified scuba diving programs that give guests a chance to explore the depths of the Caribbean Sea with the assistance of expert instructors. (Diving is included with your stay if you’re already certified.) The resort also offers sea tours through Island Routes to several of the cays surrounding Great Exuma, including the spit of land that is home to those famous Bahamian swimming pigs.
Pigging out at the all-inclusive resort isn’t frowned upon either, not with all of the dining options at the ready. From Japanese Teppanyaki and sushi, to Indian, Italian, French and Caribbean jerk (among other offerings), guests are presented with an array of distinctive flavors from which to choose. There’s even a British-style pub, appropriately named the Drunken Duck.
Best of all, getting to the resort is a breeze. The island of Great Exuma is only a one-hour flight from Miami, while Sandals Emerald Bay is a quick 10-minute drive from the island’s international airport. In other words, paradise is easily within reach.