Rose Hall is home to very extensive facilities, including two of the best golf courses in the CaribbeanREAL ESTATE

Rose Hall goes from sugar cane plantation to Jamaica's top golf destination

By Larry Olmsted,
Special Contributor

Jamaica has long been one of the Caribbean's top golf destinations, and nothing on the island compares to Rose Hall.

The former sugar cane plantation spans 7,000 acres on a beautiful stretch of coastline in Montego Bay. Rose Hall slopes up to inland mountains so almost every spot overlooks the azure waters. The site is still dotted with historic ruins from its agricultural days, including the remnants of mills and a stone arched aqueduct that cuts dramatically across one of the golf courses.

These days the things Rose Hall owners are most interested in growing are fairways and greens.

Late American entrepreneur John W. Rollins purchased the property more than 40 years ago and transformed it into a popular vacation destination, residential enclave, and sanctuary for recreation and relaxation.

Today, Rose Hall is home to very extensive facilities. They include: a luxury Ritz-Carlton resort, which manages the flagship White Witch Golf Course; the larger Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa, with a private white-sand beach; the Cinnamon Hill Golf Course, listed among the top courses in the Caribbean; and Sugar Mill Falls Water Park, the largest in Jamaica.

Cinnamon Hill Golf Course - hole 5Each hotel features a full-service signature spa, several diverse restaurants and tennis courts (Rose Hall also has a full-service water sports center). There is a town center and shopping center, and European soccer powerhouse Real Madrid operates a soccer school here. The facilities go on and on and on -- as do the residential offerings.

Robert von Hagge designed both golf courses. White Witch is a bit more eye-candy dramatic, rolling across the waterfront hills and meadows with ocean views from 16 holes while incorporating old stone walls and tropical foliage. Cinnamon Hill runs straight down to the coast and highlights sugar plantation ruins, with an open, windswept front on the edge of the Caribbean Sea and a back nine that climbs into the Jamaican hills.

Cinnamon Hill Golf Course - hole 17Just across the road is the Half Moon Resort with its venerable Robert Trent Jones Sr. course (recently revamped by Roger Rulewich). But despite a rich history, that classic does not compare to these two contemporary layouts.

The original plantation Great House -- once owned by Johnny Cash -- is now a living museum and one of the most visited tourist attractions in Jamaica, believed to be haunted by the 18th-century's Annie Palmer, the "White Witch" for whom the course is named. Famed English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning also lived and is buried at Rose Hall, and Ian Fleming was a longtime Jamaica fan, so much so that the famous cemetery scene from the James Bond thriller "Live and Let Die" was filmed in the plantation's private cemetery.

Residential and commercial real estate at Rose Hall

Here's a look at one of the homes in The Greens, which is among the most recent offerings at Rose HallRose Hall Developments is behind the residential and commercial real estate within the plantation and all around Montego Bay. The master plan indicates more than dozen residential enclaves with names like West Indies Estates and Caribbean Heights, plus several earmarked as "future beachfront development."

Throughout the development, lots are available from $350,000 to around $2 million, and they have been careful about not releasing new real estate until most previous offerings have sold. There are just a few lots left in West Indies Estates.

The two most recent offerings are The Greens and Founder's Village.

The Greens has just seven of 31 lots unsold, and its home sites range from a half-acre to an acre and a half. Land here runs about $350,000 an acre and includes a membership to Cinnamon Hill.

Founder's Village is located near the Ritz-Carlton, 500 feet above sea level, and features large three-to-four-acre lots with unobstructed golf course, ocean and mountain views. Founder's Village is gated, with round-the-clock security, and positioned as one of the most luxurious sections of Rose Hall, with prices for the raw land averaging $500,000 per acre. Residents enjoy preferred tee times and access to a new beach club.

Larry Olmsted has written more than 1,000 articles on golf and golf travel, for the likes of Golf Magazine, T&L Golf, LINKS, Golf & Travel, Men's Health, Men's Journal, USA Today, and many others. He broke the Guinness World Record for golf travel and wrote Getting into Guinness, as well as Golf Travel by Design. He was the founding editor of The Golf Insider, and the golf columnist for both USA Today.com and US Airways Magazine.

March 20, 2012

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management. The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. All contact information, directions and prices should be confirmed directly with the golf course or resort before making reservations and/or travel plans.

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