Sun | Mar 7, 2021

Playa Hotels gives up on Runaway Bay Golf Course

Published:Thursday | December 26, 2019 | 6:51 PMCarl Gilchrist/Gleaner Writer

Playa Hotels and Resorts has given up the management of the Runaway Bay Golf Course in St Ann after just one year after assuming responsibility because of weak guest interest and the poor state of the course.

The company will cease operating the facility as of next Tuesday, December 31. However, Playa said that it understands that the facility, which was assumed under a lease arrangement when it took over management of Jewel Runaway Bay, should remain open after that date.

“After operational review, Playa has not chosen to renew the management agreement, effective January 1, 2020, due to the need for major renovation and minimal guest demand,” Playa said in a in a statement to The Gleaner.

“It is our understanding that the golf course will remain open after our management contract ends. However, we do not have any additional information regarding planned upgrades or operational details,” it continued in an emailed response to enquiries by this newspaper.

Concerned about jobs

Several caddies and other persons close to the operation of the facility had complained to The Gleaner that while there were indications that the hotel was giving up the management of the course, they had received no official word and were concerned about their jobs come January 1.

It is estimated that around 25 workers from the hotel, Jewel Runaway Bay, are employed directly to the facility and were advised that they would be reassigned to other areas of the company in 2020.

However, sources say that the real concern has to do with the nearly 50 caddies who work at the golf course but are not contracted by the hotel who would be affected if the course closes. They are said to be fearful of losing their source of income.

The Urban Development Corporation is said to own the 21 acres of land in Cardiff Hall, Runaway Bay, that accommodates the par 72, 18-hole championship course, which opened in the 1960s.

The Gleaner was unable to get a comment from the corporation.

Opeton Marshall, president of the Cardiff Hall Property Owners Association, expressed concern that with Playa pulling out, there was a possibility that the course could close.

This, he declared, would negatively affect several property owners, golfers – both locals and tourists – and most of all caddies who earn a living there.

Also, if the course remains closed for an extended period, allowing for overgrowth, the cost to get it back to playable condition could run into millions of dollars, he suggested.

Marshall, who is a golfer, said that closure would negatively affect the tourism sector.

“Between Ocho Rios and Rose Hall, St James, we have the most tourist rooms in Jamaica, plus we have the Falmouth cruise pier and Ocho Rios cruise pier where people come off the ship can play golf, if convenient,” he said.