Royal St. Kitts Golf Club, now a full 18 holes, emerges as a top Caribbean golf course
ST. KITTS β Everywhere you look, from nearly any vantage point at the Royal St. Kitts Golf Club, you see either distant, cloud-shrouded mountains and volcanoes or the deep blue sea.
Sometimes you see the deep blue sea from on high, sometimes you see it from the down low, but make no mistake, you will see it, and of course, if you're not careful, you'll be in it β or at least your tee shot will.
Take your pick: the turquoise Caribbean Sea or the aquamarine Atlantic Ocean. Here, you get two for the price of one: Two full holes on the Caribbean and three on the Atlantic.
With the opening of nine new holes, Royal St. Kitts Golf Club has become one of the more scenic Caribbean golf courses in a region where scenery is so abundant it is often taken for granted.
Royal St. Kitts Golf Club opened in 1976, making it one of the older courses in the region, but really came into being with the re-design by Canadian architect Thomas McBroom in 2004.
Nos. 1, 14, 15, 16 and 18 are all new holes, and many of the others have been altered. The first nine and the new clubhouse opened in November of 2003 and the whole shebang opened the next year. I happened to play Royal St. Kitts Golf Club just before the official opening of all 18, and was given a glimpse of what it would soon be. I'm glad I came back.
Royal St. Kitts Golf Club is all about water, just as its neighbor, the Four Seasons course on the island of Nevis β a short ferry ride away β is all about the volcano that dominates the island.
Royal St. Kitts doesn't have only two of the world's great bodies of water for your viewing pleasure; the inland section features a series of interconnected lakes, which are starting to lure back some marine life after the sprawling Marriott Resort and Royal Beach Casino completed its desalination plant.
The whole darn course, St. Kitts is a picture postcard, but the show seriously starts on the back nine, at No. 11, where you climb up from the relative flatness of the front nine, up to an elevated tee with a nice view. Now you're heading toward the ocean.
The show builds to a crescendo at No. 14, a short par 4 that plays sharply uphill via an extremely narrow fairway. To the left, a vast field of native grasses billows in the ocean breezes like amber waves of grain.
To the right, past the green, is the ocean, still there primarily as a photogenic backdrop. Don't get too caught up in the view here because the elevated green at Royal St. Kitts Golf Club's 14th hole slides back toward the fairway, and if you're above the hole, especially off the green, you'll face a treacherous putt or up-and-down.
"Now, you're walking into the three best holes," Head Professional Sean Gradomski says as you make your way off the 14th green.
The climax is No. 15, a downhill par 3 that will take your breath away. You feel like some conquering explorer standing high up on the hill and the elevated tee, looking down at the green, which looks like a picturesque little peninsula surrounded by the ocean.
No. 16 is a 390-yard par 4 that parallels the churning ocean. No. 17 is even more dramatic; the ocean is still there just to your left, but with a rock-lined green that juts out into the ocean. When you putt, you're out there with the waves and dolphins.
Royal St. Kitts Golf Club: The verdict
Green fees at Royal St. Kitts Golf Club range from $135-$175 for visitors and $105-$135 for those staying at the Marriott resort.
Those green fees may sound a tad high compared to your average U.S. resort course, but they are in line with the higher costs generally associated with the Caribbean. If you're staying at the Marriott, you're already paying the big bucks.
You get an excellent course with world-class views. You also get wide fairways and big greens to accommodate the ever-changing wind that can restructure the character of the layout in a single afternoon.
Royal St. Kitts Golf Club is a good course for women, whose tee boxes take quite a bit of the water out of play.
The course plays at 6,900 yards from the back tees, with a benign slope rating of 129. You might as well play it from back there, because the slope rating from the black tees is 128.
It's in excellent shape, grassed with seashore peplum, a type of paspalum, an increasingly popular strain specially designed to handle salt spray.
Royal St. Kitts Golf Club is managed by Marriott Golf, and the clubhouse and the service are both top notch.
Stay and play
The Marriott resort is a huge, impressive facility that includes the largest casino in this part of the Caribbean, the Royal Beach Casino.
The resort has 648 rooms in the resort area of Frigate Bay, on the windward side of the island.
January 18, 2007