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X Marks Fiji as a Golfing Hot Spot

By Erica Stokes, Contributor

FIJI - A shimmering aquatic wonderland surrounding a land of swaying palm trees and smiling people in a tropical climate: what else could one ask for? If top-notch golf comes to mind, then look no further: your island oasis can be found in the South Pacific's Fiji.

Rays of golden sunlight shine frequently in this perfect golfer's getaway. Complimenting courses are natural backdrops of lush rainforests, clear blue lagoons and stunning waterfalls. Its coral reefs, abundant sea life and amazing waves make Fiji an excellent choice for travelers who want to combine water sports like diving, snorkeling, fishing or surfing with their love of golf.

In total, Fiji offers visitors more than 300 islands and over a dozen golf courses. While native thatch huts and flower-adorned islanders are reminiscent of a Rogers and Hammerstein musical, the nightclubs, Suva city life and first-class accommodations let vacationers escape to this exotic destination without trading in modern conveniences. Nadi hosts an easily accessible International Airport and island hopping flights are available to several other nearby locations.

Playing in Paradise

Golf is nothing new to Fijians since appreciation of the sport and several courses have been around for many years.

While tournaments like the Fiji Golf Classic, Shangri-La's Fijian Resort Pro-Am, the BMW International Charity Pro-AM and the Aaron Baddeley Junior Pacific Golf Championship help attract golfers, it is the courses themselves, which continue to lure golf enthusiasts. Some of the public golf courses can be found on the islands of Viti Levu, Vanua Levu and Taveuni and all three championship courses are located on Viti Levu.

Nestled in the Nadi area of Viti Levu is the prestigious Denarau Golf Club. Many golfing aficionados consider this resort to be the jewel in the South Pacific's crown. Designed by Japan's Pannya Planning, the par-72 course offers 18 holes of golf amidst coconut palms and more than its share of water hazards.

Wide, flat fairways and breathtaking views of the Pacific and neighboring mountains present players with a perfect place to enjoy this sport. Unique bunkers, fashioned into sea life shapes further enhance this impressive playing ground. Along with a modern clubhouse complete with a fully-stocked pro shop, the Denarau gives golfers the chance to improve with a driving range, practice putting greens, self-improvement clinics (adult and junior) and professional lessons.

The Fiji Golf Club is located on the island of Viti Levu and is the only 18-hole course within the city of Suva. This club hosts many competitions but is often open to visitors. Its well-grassed greens and fairways and level course are worth the wait, which may be encountered at weekends. Golfers face the challenge of aiming for well-bunkered holes on tree-lined fairways. Dining facilities and a pro shop are on-site for added convenience.

Just a short drive away from Suva, the Pacific Harbour Golf Club is situated on the western section of Viti Levu. This par 72, 18-hole course designed by Robert Trent Jones spans over 6,908 yards in a lush setting. Known as the only Pacific Island course with both electric golf carts and full irrigation, Pacific Harbour entices golfers from all over. Tight, well-bunkered fairways and a couple of par fives and fours with St. Andrews-style burns give golfers the chance to test their skills. Scenic wonders include bordering waterways and nearby mountains. The clubhouse has dining facilities and changing rooms with lockers and showers.

Golfers can also try out Fiji's other golf courses, each which offers unique features. Take the Koro Sun Course, for example. This tricky course is planted in the middle of an old coconut plantation: how's that for authentic? Shangri-La's Fijian Resort Executive Golf Course sets itself apart from the competition by being the only area course with Tifton Dwarf grass greens. The Executive holds the esteemed distinction of being designed by Australia's Harris, Thomson and Wolveridge, a golf architectural firm lead by five-time British Open winner, Peter Thompson. And the challenging, Vatukula Golf Club course is centered in the heart of a former volcano.

Experience all that Fiji has to offer

While the golfing is great in Fiji, try not to limit yourself to just one sport. Take some time to discover the other treasures of these islands. Hiking and horseback riding give tourists a fun way to see Fiji's hidden jungles and colorful rainforests. Swim with huge Manta Rays and enjoy famous sea spots like Blue Ribbon Eel Reef, the Great White Wall, Rainbow Reef and Astrolabe Reef by diving and snorkeling. Surfers can ride the world-renowned Cloud Breaker wave that occurs naturally at Tavarua. And shoppers can browse the cosmopolitan centers of Suva and get to see the craftsmanship of street vendors.

Where to stay

Raintree Lodge, Suva, Fiji Islands: (679) 332-0562
The Warwick Fiji: (679) 653-0555
Naviti Resort: (679) 653-0444
Vomo Island Resort: (679) 666-8133
Sheraton Complex: (679) 675-0777

Where to play

Ba Golf Club:(679) 667-4044
Denarau Golf and Racquet Club: (679) 675-0477
Fiji Golf Club: (679) 338-2872
Koro Sun Course: (679) 885-0262
Labasa Golf Club: (679) 881-4252
Lautoka Golf Club: (679) 666-1384
Nadi Airport Golf Club: (679) 672-1500
Penang Golf Club: (679) 669-4002
Pacific Harbour Golf Club: (679) 345-0022
Reef Hotel Golf Club: (679) 650-0044
Shangri-La's Fijian Resort Executive Golf Course: (679) 650-0155
Shangri-La's Fiji Mocambo Hotel Executive Golf Course: (679) 672-2000
Taveuni Estates: (679) 888-0044

Erica Stokes, Contributor

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