Delightful Duo–St. Kitts and Nevis

The sky was streaked with the tangerine and lavender of sunset when our plane touched down on St. Kitts. Caught in brilliant silhouette was the volcano on the neighboring island of Nevis. We’d only been in the air 45 minutes from San Juan, Puerto Rico, when the islands appeared–long, skinny St. Kitts looking like a bat poised to hit the almost round ball of Nevis.
In land mass, St. Kitts is no bigger than the District of Columbia, and Nevis is half that size. It was going to be easy for us to “double-dip”– enjoy two islands and two golf courses in one vacation.Four Seasons Nevis -- Pinney Beach. Copyright Donnelle OxleySt. Kitts and Nevis gained independence from Great Britain in 1983 and have shared a prosperous, secure existence ever since. This is a pleasant counterpoint to the 17th century, when the French and English struggled for control of the rich sugar industry in the West Indies. When the Treaty of Paris awarded St. Kitts and Nevis to the Brits, the French pulled out, leaving behind towns with Gallic names and their pet green vervet monkeys. The monkeys thrived in the islands’ untamed rainforest and today outnumber humans by more than two to one. They are an integral part of the island experience, especially on the golf course, where they chatter and shriek like an unruly Ryder Cup gallery.
In 2004 the Royal St. Kitts Golf Course underwent a complete redesign by Canadian Thomas McBroom (the fellow who designed the Links at Crowbush). He transformed the flat, 30-year-old track into a thought-provoking layout with lots of mounding, aggressive bunkering, and water encounters on ten holes. McBroom raised tees and greens, providing new sight lines and approach challenges. Three holes were added on a high rise overlooking the sea. One is the par-4 fourteenth hole, which plays to a very elevated, shallow green. It segues into hole fifteen, a windy par three dropping 100 feet to a green backed by the ocean.
Unlike most Caribbean courses that are planted in coarse Bermuda grass, Royal St. Kitts’ fairways and greens are fine-bladed seashore paspalum and irrigated year-round. During our visit the maintenance was flawless.Hole 15 on Royal St Kitts. Copyright Donnelle Oxley
When it was time to island hop, we boarded the Four Seasons private launch and were soon skimming across The Narrows, the two-mile channel between St. Kitts and Nevis.
A beautiful sight from the water, the island’s focal point is Nevis Peak, a dormant volcano covered in emerald rainforest, with its summit ringed in clouds. When Columbus first saw it in 1493, he thought the clouds looked like snowcaps, so he named the island Nuestra Senora de las Nieves, “Our Lady of the Snows.”
As the launch neared the dock, the low-rise Four Seasons Resort Nevis was shrouded in trees just off the beach, a beautiful strand sheltered by a jetty. Very visible was the signature fifteenth hole of the Robert Trent Jones Jr. golf course, dropping 663 yards down the mountainside. It has the only black tee on the course, a spot frequented by pros and fools—and the monkeys who gather in the trees to kibbitz. From this tee, it’s a 240-yard carry over a ravine to the fairway. Drives from the conventional tees can run a long distance downhill, but the crowned fairway tends to shed balls into the rough.
Hole fifteen is just one of the natural highs on the course, which rises and falls as much as 400 feet as it circuits the foothills, concluding with a green on the beach. Many greens have infinity edges, creating the illusion that an overshot chip will fall into oblivion. Throughout the course there are views of Nevis Peak or nearby islands with sailboats flitting around them. Looking back from the green of Hole 14 at Four Seasons Nevis, golfers have a great view of St. Kitts across the bay. Copyright Donnelle Oxley

Rental villas and estate homes are scattered about the resort, but we chose a ground floor room with easy access to the beach, restaurants, three swimming pools, and spa. Nearly 200 rooms and suites are located in two-story cottages clustered along the beach or fairways, their weathered wood exteriors blending into the foliage.

At the end of one day filled with diving, golf and exploring, we relaxed in the spa, a garden sanctuary with hot and cold pools and gingerbread cottages where massage therapists worked their magic.

After many years of exposure to the rich and famous (and the not-so), St. Kitts and Nevis are no longer “undiscovered.” However, the islanders are diligent about conservation of their natural resources and a cautious approach to development. Therefore, in the larger scheme of the Caribbean, these islands remain remarkably unspoiled.

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About Dale Leatherman

In the course of her life she has exercised racehorses at New York’s Belmont Park, showed jumping horses on the A Circuit, driven a race car with the late Paul Newman and played the world’s most famous golf courses.