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The Devil's Triangle: at Mahogany Run in St. Thomas, golfers must navigate the Caribbean version of Amen Corner.

At this breathtaking golf course in St. Thomas, carved and blasted into a steep coastline overlooking the Caribbean Sea, the so-called Devil's Triangle casts an imposing presence. Like Augusta National's Amen Corner, the Triangle is a fearsome trio of holes, Nos. 13, 14 and 15.

This cliffside stretch has bedeviled masters of industry and commerce, as well as heads of state. The list includes Microsoft's Bill Gates, who, dressed in wrinkled shorts and ah untucked shirt, went unrecognized by the staff; Geoffrey Bible, former CEO of Philip Morris; and most famously, when the first family was visiting the Virgin Islands, Bill Clinton. The former president took time out from his mulligan-taking to pose for photos with the staff.

Despite its modest 6,022 yards, the par-70 Mahogany Run, designed by the noted architects George and Tom Fazio in 1980, offers a demanding test of golf. Water comes into play on nine of the holes. With narrow fairways and, in most cases, postage-stamp greens, the course demands in accuracy what it lacks in length. The assertive, often swirling winds can wreak havoc with golfers' club selection and errant shots into the yawning surf. On top of that comes the unusual challenge of hitting around pelicans, iguanas and Caribbean parrots.

Anyone who survives the Devil's Triangle with no penalty strokes receives a certificate proclaiming the feat. It may seem like a small memento, but otherwise nonchalant golfers come charging into the pro shop asking for theirs. And more than a few players, it's believed, have been less than honest in claiming success. "One executive came in and told us he'd done the 'Devil,'" says Rebecca Carter, a spokeswoman for the course. "He said we didn't need to give him a certificate, however, because he had gotten one a few years before--but this time it was for real."

The Devil's Triangle combines the natural beauty of the island with some imposing obstacles. The 327-yard, par-4 13th hole, a dogleg left, sets the stage. From an exposed tee, you hit to a sliver of fairway. Trouble, in the form of a ravine, lurks left. A grassy hillside, which sometimes yields friendly bounces, looms right. Miss the green left, and your ball will tumble onto a rocky beach; miss long, and it will sail into the ocean. And there's not a lot of chitchat; the wind is often so fierce that you can't hear your playing partners speak.

The next hole is even more dramatic. The 159-yard, par-3 14th requires you to hit over a corner of the ocean. The prevailing wind blows left to right, off the water, forcing you to hit out over the rocks and surf and have faith that the breeze will blow the ball back into play.

Then it's on to No. 15, a par-5 of 564 yards, the longest and most difficult hole on the course, even though the green was recently doubled in size, to 6,000 square feet. It demands a precise tee shot. Long hitters who make the fairway with their drives may be tempted to go for the green in two, but to do so they must carry an 80-yard pond and he sure not to overshoot the green.

The only golf course in St. Thomas, Mahogany Run is open to the public, It's a popular destination among passengers on cruise ships, as well as those who treat themselves to the island's many charms with an extended stay. Perhaps only a sterling few will truly earn the Devil's Triangle certificate, but succeed or fail, they ate sure to have stories to tell.
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Author:Schneider, Jodi
Publication:Chief Executive (U.S.)
Geographic Code:1U0VI
Date:Nov 1, 2003
Words:597
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