On one tiny Caribbean island, you can have the
perfect relaxing holiday with golf. Someone had to
go to Nevis to check it out. Robert Green did
It’s bright and early on a December morning,
the sparkling sun casting a silvery sheen over
the landscape. It’s a beautiful setting. But
enough about the drive to Gatwick. You’ll be
wanting to know about the Caribbean.
In fact, it may be that there’s no better
time to visit Nevis (it’s pronounced ‘Neevis’)
than between December and February; how
much more glorious the weather is there
then versus what one might expect in the UK.
Around 30 degrees by day, 25 at night, with
the atmosphere being regularly refreshed by
those wonderfully brief Caribbean showers –
about the only occasion on which a British
holidaymaker might admit to being happy to
see the rain.
There are no international flights into
Nevis but the 35-minute evening boat ride
across the water from the airport at St Kitts
is a lovely experience. It’s kind of romantic,
you get complimentary cocktails (how West
Indian is that?) and from the jetty at the
other end a personal golf-cart chauffeur
takes you to your room. Check-in and all the
boring stuff waits until the morning.
The Four Seasons Resort Nevis opened in
1991. It has 196 rooms and the property is laid
out over 350 acres. The centrepiece of the resort
is the Great House, where two of the hotel’s
restaurants are situated. The guest rooms are
generously sized and all have balconies, fronted
by palm trees which in part might inhibit views
of the sea but, on the other hand, afford some
shade if that’s what you want.
Then there’s the golf course, designed by
Robert Trent Jones Jnr. It’s a hugely enjoyable
layout. Beginning with a dogleg par-five
that veers to the left, the holes are demanding
without ever being unfair. From the back
tees (the golds), the course runs to 6,766
yards, although there are also blue tees and,
shorter still, the recommended ‘resort’ length
from the whites is 5,614 yards.
The course starts to become spectacular
from the 8th, a sinuous uphill par-five that
seems to be twice as long as it says on the
card, particularly if you’re walking the hole.
(See cart advisory in a moment.) From the
green, the views out over the resort and the
Caribbean are astounding. So is the vista
when you play the 11th, a gently downhill
par-four that heads towards St Kitts. There
follow three terrific par-threes (the 12th, 14th
and 16th) and the monstrous par-five 15th.
This is 663 yards from the tips, and the bold
or foolhardy can make it even longer than
that by attempting the 247-yard carry from
the special black tees inserted on this hole.
You’ll be relieved to learn that it plays downhill
– that’s doing it an injustice; if it had
snow on it, it might make the Hahnenkamm at Kitzbuhel seem a doddle – and the view
from the tee, as from the 8th green, is truly
memorable. The round concludes with the
longest par-four on the card ending beside
Green fees are $195 per round for hotel
guests, $205 for non-guests, golf cart included.
And you couldn’t manage this course
without a cart. The resort suggests three
walking routes (basically for non-golfers), the
two most arduous of which include hiking
from the sports pavilion at sea level up to the
14th tee. This involves not only a considerable
climb but negotiating the road that
bridges a chasm between the 14th and 15th
holes. That’s about a five-minute drive in a
golf cart. You would not want to do it while
carrying a bag.
Back across the water, St Kitts has a fine
golf course, too, managed by Marriott Golf.
Opened in 1976, Royal St Kitts has been significantly
revamped and upgraded over the course of the past nine years. It measures
6,851 yards from the back tees and notably has
two holes that run beside the Caribbean and
three more on the Atlantic shoreline. Water is
in play on ten holes, so it’s perhaps not a layout
for the faint-hearted, but overall it is definitely
worth making that return boat journey
one further time in order to sample the experience.
In sum, while this combined destination
doesn’t turn Nevis/St Kitts into the equal of
Barbados for the avid golfer, it does make it a
Thankfully there are no nasties such as
snakes on Nevis but there are many impishlooking
green vervet monkeys. On the Saturday
afternoon we were there, with the temperature
in the high 20s, the only other primates on the
golf course were several families of these creatures.
It was a quiet place for humans if not for
the simian populace. But then the course had
less than 9,000 rounds in 2012. “It’s never very
busy,” I was told in the pro shop. You will be
glad to know that the five-hour round is pretty
much an unknown phenomenon on Nevis; even
four hours is rare.
Nevis has a population of about 10,000 and
measures less than 60-square miles. It does
have a ring road; that is, one main road pretty
much rings the island. The country was named
by Christopher Columbus, who called it
Nuestra Senora de las Nieves, which from the
Spanish translates rather incongruously to ‘Our
Lady of the Snows’, presumably on account of
the almost permanently white clouds that sit
atop the summit of the now dormant volcano,
Nevis Peak, the 3,232-foot highpoint of the
island. (So, no, it’s nothing to do with Ben
Nevis.) Tobacco and sugar trading were the staples
of the Nevis economy in bygone days but
today, as with much of the Caribbean, tourism
provides the financial heartbeat of the island.
The Four Seasons Resort was bludgeoned by
Hurricane Omar in 2008, the ground-floor
rooms being largely flooded then, consequently
renovated now. It has three restaurants, each
markedly different in style. The Coral Grill is
primarily a top-class steak restaurant, Neve
offers Italian food, while Mango, which has a
fabulous al fresco location beside the sea and is
only a one-minute saunter from the 18th green,
serves Caribbean cuisine.
The local colloquial term for relaxing or chilling
out (‘chillaxing’ I guess, if you’re David
Cameron) is ‘liming’. And there are plenty of
different ways in which to do this. There are
three outdoor swimming pools. The attendants
not only bring you towels and fruit-flavoured
water but also a gorgeous selection of sorbets.
There is, as you would probably expect, a
sumptuous spa. More strenuous activity can be
enjoyed on the tennis courts (there are regular
clinics and competitions), in the fitness centre
or, of course, on the water, with sailing and
many other aquatic options catered for.
Children aged between 3-9 can be entertained
at the Kids’ Club.
This Four Seasons is a particularly environmentally
aware operation. For example, the
property is dim-lit at night in order to protect
baby turtles from the circling pelicans.
Apparently, if the resort resembled Blackpool
Illuminations after dark, that would lure the
egg-laying reptiles towards the lights rather
than laying their produce on the sand, and
their offspring wouldn’t then have a prayer of
making it back to the sea before being scoffed.
Although there is a great deal to be enjoyed
on site, it would be remiss not to venture further
afield. Just up Pinney’s Beach from the
resort (I know, that’s not very further afield) are
a collection of apparently somewhat ramshackle
bars and cafes/restaurants which in
fact are vibrant and fun. The one with the
biggest reputation is Sunshine’s Bar and Grill –
“Sunshine is like a rock star on Nevis,” we were
told – where the photos of various celebs adorn
the walls and the house speciality cocktail is
the Killer Bee. I didn’t risk one but I’m told that,
to no surprise, it does feature a lot of alcohol,
not all of it rum.
We tried two places elsewhere on the island,
both inland, towards Nevis Peak. Bananas is a
terrific restaurant with a fascinating menu and
a very cool bar; Golden Rock, set in exotic gardens,
overlooks the ocean to the eastern side of
the island, where the next landfall looking out
would be somewhere in Africa. They are both
well worth the excursion.
We were driven to Bananas by a charming
woman who reminisced about the Queen visiting
the island when she was a child (the lady in
the cab, that is), although I’m not convinced
that a business card that prominently displays
the words ‘Isaiah 43 – Fear Not’ is a great idea
for a taxi driver.
It would also be a hard strategy to keep in
mind with a driver from those black tees on
Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine