An experience to remember at Royal St. Kitts Golf Club
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts -- It's a tiny slice of the West Indies, this island on which Christopher Columbus arrived in 1493 and later pirates lurked and stowed treasure in hidden lairs.
Today, you drive on the left side of the road and tee shots soar high amid countless views of ocean beauty at Royal St. Kitts Golf Club.
Where else on earth can you play the third and fourth holes on the Atlantic Ocean, then later tee off at the 14th through the 17th on the Caribbean Sea?
Royal St. Kitts Golf Club opened in 1976. Designed by Peter Thomson, it took over land that was once a cotton field. The golf course blossomed in 2003, when Canadian Thomas McBroom remodeled the 6,859-yard, par-71 layout to include 83 bunkers, 12 lakes, wide fairways, large greens and irrigated seashore paspalum grass that tolerates sea water. The advanced hybrid turfgrass helps keep the course lush and green all year.
Royal St. Kitts Golf Club: Entering a new era
"Aside from the introduction of paspalum grass, I think McBroom's reshaping of the bunkers made the biggest hit," said Scott Lien, golf professional of the Marriott-operated golf course. "Ask just about anyone what they like about it, and they start thinking about the 14th hole, followed by the next three."
The 15th, Lien said, sits on the highest point, with a stunning panorama of the Caribbean Sea and neighboring islands of Saba, St. Maarten and Nevis. The 163-yard par 3, all downhill, can be conquered or doubled, depending on the wind.
No. 16, a 390-yard par 4 with the sea to the left, makes many a golfer push it right, demanding a negotiation of palm trees on the second shot. No. 17 can be a bear. A 405-yard par 4 with the Caribbean left and a pond right, it requires a thread of the needle.
Royal St. Kitts Golf Club's finale, a 451-yard par 4, heads back inland with a lake right. When you finish, your numb brain will think it was a par 5 if playing against the wind.
"We have people come play every day for a week, and they tell me it is different each day because of the wind changing," Lien said. "You are just not going to get bored."
Royal St. Kitts Golf Club: The verdict
Needless to say, this is a place you should visit -- first the golf course, but also don't miss the St. Kitts Marriott Resort and Casino, with its Emerald Mist Spa.
You won't soon forget this golf experience. The bunkers are outstanding, and the golf course's variety makes it fun for all levels.
The Royal Golf Academy specializes in all levels of golf instruction and offers short-game lessons by the PGA-certified golf professionals, including Lien and Sean Gradomski. The Royal St. Kitts Golf Club, managed by Marriott Golf, allows guests to book tee times as they reserve rooms through its "rounds and rooms" feature at www.marriottgolf.com.
Legends Celebrity Golf Weekend
This would have ranked as a fun outing even without the Legends Celebrity Golf Weekend, at which a retired sports legend joined every golfer. My partner was NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Harry Carson of the New York Giants. Other headliners included linebacker Lawrence Taylor of the Giants, boxer Gerry Cooney and even a couple actors -- Richard Roundtree of "Shaft" and Glynn Turman of "A Different World” and "The Wire."
Bruce Smith, the legendary Buffalo Bills defensive lineman, and outfielder Dave Henderson of the Oakland Athletics hosted the event, but chatterbox Bills' running back Thurman Thomas stole the awards ceremony.
Thomas quipped that Eric Dickerson, the Hall of Fame running back, "made more money at SMU than he did playing pro football."
All proceeds from the golf tournament and the silent and live auctions went to Operation Smile, a non-profit organization that works to surgically repair facial deformities in young children around the world. The event raised more than $20,000. With each procedure priced at only $240, more than 80 children will undergo surgery free of charge thanks to the generosity of these stars and others who participated in the events.
Stay and Play: Marriott's Royal St. Kitts Hotel and Casino
The Marriott resort is huge -- 648 rooms -- and located on the Frigate Bay, the windward side of the island. Royal St. Kitts Hotel and Casino strives to deliver an authentic island experience and aims to promote the Kittitian culture. The Royal Grille Steakhouse ranked as my favorite among many restaurants.
St. Kitts was once ruled by the sugarcane business, which is now defunct, but the hotel features a unique fountain at its entrance made of a sugar-boiling cauldron known as a copper. It stands as a symbol of St. Kitts' sugar-producing history. All coins tossed into the fountain by Royal St. Kitts Hotel and Casino's guests will continue to go toward donations to a local children's home.
May 28, 2010