Aruba’s only 18-hole golf course has a landscape that conjures many regions

By Gary Trask

As the words comTierra del Sole out of Oliver Riding’s mouth, you can’t help but be skeptical.

He’s played more than 100 golf courses in 18 countries, and there’s no doubt he’s well traveled and knowledgeable about the game. But since Riding has called Tierra del Sol Golf Course home for most of his career, his opinion of Aruba’s lone 18-hole championship layout isn’t without prejudice.

“I’ve traveled the world and have been fortunate enough to see some very cool golf courses,” said Riding, 45, director of golf operations since 2015 who also served as head professional from 2003-2010. “But, design-wise, it doesn’t get much better than Tierra de Sol. You can play it multiple times and you’ll never get bored. You get out there and you really feel disconnected from the world.”

As you begin your journey around the 6,400-yard layout on Aruba’s captivating, northwest region, Riding’s words start to make sense. As your round gains momentum and hugs the coastline — all but three holes have ocean views — you encounter goats, owls, ducks, exotic birds and palm trees. And in case you weren’t convinced of Riding’s assessment by the time you get to the 16th tee, try gazing down the 360-yard, par-4 fairway and seeing rugged desert, cacti, rock formations and dunes with the Caribbean Sea and California Lighthouse in the backdrop and not nod your head in agreement.

In short, this is Tierra del Sol. Arizona. Scotland. The Caribbean. All meshed into one.

“It’s easy to build a beautiful course but make it unplayable for the bogey golfer,” Riding said. “That’s not the case here. It’s gorgeous, but fair and playable.”

No portrayal of Tierra del Sol — Spanish for “land of sun” — would be complete without mention of the wind. A creation of Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Kyle Phillips, Tierra de Sol demands a keen awareness to the steady breeze, so the designers were cognizant of the prevailing winds on each hole. That’s not a typo on your scorecard: There’s good reason the par-4, second hole is what seems to be an unjust 453 yards while the par-4, 284-yard fifth appears on paper to be an easy birdie opportunity.

“If you had to play 18 holes of golf with a crosswind, you’d go loopy pretty quickly,” Riding said. “The wind here is going to be a factor, but it’s consistent; always at your back, or in your face. You just have to adjust accordingly.”

The course, which opened in 1995 and hosted the PGA Tour Canada-sanctioned Aruba Cup for the first time last year, is an amenity of Tierra del Sol Resort & Golf, which offers condos, villas and estate vacation homes as well as a spa, salon, pool, tennis courts, beach access and restaurants. Green fees range from $109 to $169 depending on time of day and season, and Nike club rentals are available.

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Styles and adaptable belts will put you a notch above the rest on and off the course

When you let it all hang out on your par-5 drives, the last thing you want is that day’s belt to let loose and let it all hang out as well.

But belts are more than waist cinchers these days, as both professionals and amateurs are using the accessory to complement and pull a wardrobe together.

“Belts can be used to make a style statement, create a clear distinction as a sight line between your top and bottom half, add a personal touch to formal wear, tie a casual outfit together and a lot more,” said Thomas Bates, president of TB Phelps, a shoes and accessories company that pulls from the past to create current fashionable styles.

At the core of casual and formal belts are natural fabrics that have stood the test of time.

“It will pay off to get the best you can afford, and, while there are some good polyester belts out there these days, looking and feeling sharp more often comes from natural materials,” Bates said. “Genuine leather is always a good way to go. Bison, an exotic animal since it is only found in North America, produce belts that are wonderfully soft. Another distinguished animal is the American elk, which has the fine feel of deer only stronger and heavier.”

 

Gary Baldwin, national sales manager for golf at PGA Tour licensee Gem Dandy, agrees about the value of leather but cites other trends as well.

“Certainly leather is the classic, but belts using silicone are also quite popular among golfers,” he said. “Stretch material like elastic sells well, too.”

Working from the rule that belt and shoe tones should sync, and that black and brown remain standards, different shades and colors are gaining in popularity.

“White is still viable (and) gray is trending as the new black,” Baldwin said. “What we’re also seeing is a mix of shades in black, brown and white base colors.”

There are technical designs in play as well. One is reducing the heft of buckles, making it lighter at the belly; another is the one-size-fits-all belt where a ratchet mechanism tightens the belt a little at a time, making it popular for wearers whose weight might fluctuate. In general, a belt should improve what you’re wearing without stealing the limelight.

“You can express your personality and be more experimental with your casual belt, but with your formal belt – the one you’ll wear with tailored pants and suits – those should be completely understated, “Bates said. “The idea is that you want your formal belt to discreetly finish off your suit and play a supporting role to whatever you’re wearing. To that end, I’m a natural fabric guy, and a fine leather belt in black or brown contributes best to a well-coordinated look.”

Of course, when all is said and done, your belt has to fit to work properly and be adaptable enough to wear with several outfits.

“Take a good look in the mirror and make sure you have the right size,” Bates said. “It’s not enough to say, ‘I’m a 36.’ Remember, the pants don’t change size; it mostly comes from an expanding belly. Get a comfortable fit and don’t forget to harmonize with your footwear.”

A Maxwell braided leather belt from TB Phelps is perfect for on the course or off.
A Maxwell braided leather belt from TB Phelps is perfect for on the course or off.

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