Putting on The Ritz
The Ritz-Carlton at Rose Hall
by Bruce Levinson

"This is a golf ball."

That’s how it began, an elementary yet necessary introduction to the game. Imparted a mere four years ago by The Ritz-Carlton Golf and Spa Resort to prospective caddies, groundskeepers and clubhouse staffers deep in the elusive golf-wilderness of Jamaica, the resort at Rose Hall has now ascended to the very pinnacle of golfing destinations. And those novices, natives all, who once associated hooks and slices with fishing, now provide world class service befitting the Ritz-Carlton’s breathtaking White Witch course.

Built into the hills overlooking the Caribbean, the awesome beauty of the course is overwhelming—creating a golfing experience in which the lasting impression is of sun-splashed fairways and breeze-swept greens, not the scorecard. Regardless of skill, the aura of White Witch makes it ideal not only for serious golfers, but beginners and casual players as well. The course, the setting, and the extraordinarily attentive caddies, called "Golf Concierge" underscore what this sport is all about.

It is easy to understand why guests at the Ritz-Carlton Golf and Spa Resort want to play The White Witch exclusively, ignoring all other activities. But who can forget that Rose Hall (15 minutes from Donald Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay) is on the lush island of Jamaica. Blessed with idyllic beaches and near-perfect weather year-round, Jamaica’s allure is only illuminated by the Ritz-Carlton. Offering water sports, tennis and scuba diving, the resort is an Eden unto itself, making it almost a shame to focus solely on swings.

Local tastes and international cuisine are available in either formal or casual settings. To those unwilling to miss a single ray of sunshine, there are four outdoor restaurants including the top-of-the-world eatery located on the veranda of The White Witch clubhouse. Of particular note is Mangos, nestled between the Caribbean and the pool, which serves up bountiful buffets of aromatic delicacies for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Then there is The Jerk Center, an authentic and laid-back purveyor of jerked chicken, pork and fish. The spicy sauce comes in various degrees of hot, and should be chased down with a guava daiquiri or enigmatic named blended concoctions such as a No Problem Mon, Hummingbird, or Bonzai. All the while, reggae music wafts through the air—seemingly easing digestion and relaxation.

It is said that 10,000 native Jamaicans applied for 850 jobs when the hotel opened. Only the best and most gracious were chosen, resulting in a service staff that is genuinely friendly, never obsequious or intrusive. Attentiveness and pampering is the order of the day. Waiters, bellhops, concierges, cleaning staff, and business center representatives all exhibit obvious pleasure from being able to help the resort guests.
To jaded foreign visitors, Americans especially, this is a

Rooms are spacious and supplied with every amenity,
and most offer views of the ocean. For the more grandiose, the Ritz-Carlton’s Club Level is located on the exclusive top floor and accessed only by an elevator keycard. Club Level guests enjoy their own concierge
and a complimentary array of food and beverages day
and night in the lounge, but it should be said that no guest—of whatever level—will feel neglected.
It is easy to wax rhapsodic about The White Witch. Just as every professional musician longs to play Carnegie Hall, anyone who calls himself a golfer should aspire to play the masterpiece at Rose Hall. Winding through the mountains and carved out of 600 acres of lush greenery, the Robert von Hagge and Rick Baril design features dramatic ocean views on most holes.

That said, it must be added that the Ritz-Carlton is primarily a family destination.For example, the charms of the spa makes relaxation almost an intense experience—if you have an ache or issue, it will be cured. Then there is the kids’ program (up to age 12), a huge swimming pool, hair-braiding, volleyball, exercise programs, and an armada of floats bearing vacationers, lolling atop the beach-lapping waves. Different local artisans set up near the water every day and sell wood carvings, baskets, jewelry of shells and beads, and brightly colored clothing. Spirited bartering is expected, if not required. Hundreds more craftspeople work out of stalls at markets in Montego Bay and deserve a visit, along with the Rockland Feeding Station, a tropical Shangra-La where hummingbirds land on your finger to feed on sugar-water. Further echoing the infectious hospitality here, should you purchase a four-foot tall giraffe carved from cedar, the Resort will arrange to ship it home for you.

The question is no longer what a golf ball is, but how far the Ritz-Carlton and its excellent staff can go. The White Witch is a gem, but golfing is only the beginning. Touch down in Mobay and they will take over—swinging, soothing, shopping, spoiling—at one resort that visitors will seek any excuse to revisit.

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