The glamour endures at Tryall, coconut plantation turned exclusive retreat, where members commune with colonial ghosts and Monday never comes.
There is a picture on the wall of the pro shop at the golf course of the Tryall Club, here on Montego Bay in Hanover, Jamaica. It’s a black-and-white photograph of a young Frank Pringle on some distant afternoon, finishing up 18 holes at this very course. His hair is dark, skin tanned, and he looks like the fifth member of the Rat Pack as he stands beside his friends Bill Paley and Bing Crosby. Pringle points to the picture, taken in the sixties when his cousin John Pringle had just joined a group of American investors to rebirth a fail- ing coconut plantation as a vision of private homes and championship golf. There is no hotel here of the sort found at nearby Round Hill, but Tryall is no practitioner of brute exclusivity; the world has far lower limbo sticks. The club’s plot owners are its members, and there are more than a hundred of them, with many renting out their villas throughout the year.
Outside, the day is bright and made precious by the knowledge that for the rest of the world it may be Monday morning, but here in Tryall it is eternally 2:15 on the Saturday afternoon of a three-day weekend that everyone is quietly stretching to four.
The first hole shines before us like a Photoshop trick, uniform greens given dimension by palms that make sizzling sounds in the ocean breeze. The hills of Tryall are set back above us. A mist gathers atop them each morning and in the afternoon becomes the most gentle, nap-inducing rain. Overlooking the hills are the villas, with gently sloping cedar-shake roofs and picture windows facing out to a sea once home to pirates. The Tryall aesthetic is an architectural echo of that earlier period, the homes all taking significant cues from Tryall’s Great House, the onetime home of the Browne family, wealthy coconut and cattle merchants whose decline and dénouements might have come from the last pages of a García Márquez novel; Charlie Browne was living in a modest concrete house just behind the beach when construction on Tryall began….
And what started as a $600,000 lark is now a full sphere of economic activity, a tiny pleasure republic all stirring with gardeners gardening, nannies nannying, laundresses laundering—lords-a-leaping! Tryall villas now go on the market for millions and rent for anywhere from $3,000 to $40,000 a week. And the place continues to grow, with 14 new plots cleared from the jungle and put up for sale in the last year alone. It is a lucky man who, in his later years, gets to see his dream pan out so fully. It is a luckier fellow still who gets to play golf on it.
The Tropic of Cancer being more or less right above our heads, we pause to apply sunblock.
“It’s a bit too late for me, I’m afraid,” Frank Pringle says, regarding his forearm with a resignation passed off as humor. Looking at his skin, you’d think that it must have come into this world so pink and delicate—a Scottish baby born in colonial Jamaica! Fair Albion’s seed! Seven decades later it is all crinkly browns, autumn leaves pressed into wax paper.
The first of Jamaica’s Pringles, John, came from Scotland in the early 1870s as a young impoverished physician, soon marrying a daughter of the prosperous Levy family, Jews who had fled persecution in Portugal. He would rise to become the largest landowner in Jamaica and receive a knighthood. In 1953 a descendant of that John Pringle, also John Pringle, founded one of Jamaica’s most renowned resorts, Round Hill, which he sold in 1962, before leaving for Switzerland. It was from the shores of their forebear’s great success at Round Hill that Frank Pringle, his cousin, a later John Pringle, and Oklahoma oilman Ted Law looked up the coast at the coconut plantation of the declining Browne family and dreamed up the Tryall Club.