CAP ESTATE, ST. LUCIA | A couple of hours, several bad shots and too many jaw drops into a recent tour and playing of Point Hardy Golf Club, Nivel Felicien arrives at his Steve Jobs moment, that part of the presentation when “one more thing” is anything but.
We’d just walked off the stunning, cross-cove, par-3 16th hole that just might serve as the quintessential photo op on most any other golf course in the world, when Point Hardy’s head pro nonchalantly says, “Let’s take a look up here.” It’s up there, through a winding path of thorn bushes, that sits perhaps the figurative pinnacle of golf in St. Lucia. A breathtakingly small, pulse-racing, turret-like promontory that falls into the cliffs on all three sides. It just happens to serve as one of the tees for the 175-yard 17th – the last of a quintet of exhilarating par-3s and the second of back-to-back one-shotters that has evoked comparisons to Cypress Point’s 15th and 16th, one of the game’s most celebrated settings.
This is how it is at Point Hardy, the centerpiece of the new and unfolding Cabot St. Lucia development on the northern point of the eastern Caribbean island. Every moment that necessitates a photo or video and commands a spot in an Instagram post is eclipsed by a better one just a hole or two later.
Situated on a mile-and-half stretch of Atlantic coastline, Point Hardy features seven holes that play along the water, five of which require shots across the ocean. There’s a collection of dramatic climbs and steep descents, as well as a string of plateau holes on the front and back that serve as worthy complements to the oceanfront. A stretch of holes from 15 through 18 criss-cross the Atlantic Ocean on every shot.
This dramatic collection of holes owes itself to three principles: the continued architectural genius of Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw and the rest of their team; the extraordinary vision of Cabot CEO and Canadian businessman Ben Cowan-Dewar; and the island’s natural, volcanic-shaped topography.
“Cabot St. Lucia is just off-the-charts spectacular from a visual standpoint, with an amazing coastline and views,” Coore said. “But that visual drama also presents challenges in the steep hills that lead away from and downhill toward the ocean. We wanted to make sure we weren’t just creating a golf course that was photogenic – that you played once – but one that you wanted to experience on a regular basis.”
Coore will leave it up to others to evaluate the merits of Point Hardy.
Course architect Bill Coore says the visuals at Cabot St. Lucia are “just off-the-charts spectacular.” (Click on images to enlarge.)
But there’s no doubt that the Coore and Crenshaw team has developed a portfolio of some of the world’s most compelling and respected modern seaside courses. Cabot Cliffs in Nova Scotia. Friar’s Head on Long Island. Shanqin Bay in China. Barnbougle Lost Farm in Australia. Tara Iti in New Zealand. Kapalua’s Plantation Course in Hawaii. Sheep Ranch at Bandon Dunes in southwest Oregon.
A clear similarity? Access. Most of these are situated in far-flung locales, at least for most U.S.-based golfers, making that an essential part of the experience.
Point Hardy isn’t much different. On the northernmost point of St. Lucia, it is situated on the opposite side of the Windward Island from the main airport, Hewanorra International. Although only 27 miles away, it’s two hours by car winding through the rainforest, banana plantations and mountain passes; an hour by speedboat around the island or a 10-minute helicopter ride.
Originally envisioned as a resort development centered around a boutique hotel, Cabot Saint Lucia now will comprise 300 custom-built, fairway villas and seaside homes, as well as a beach club and a series of luxury amenities. Point Hardy’s tee sheet ultimately will be filled by resident-members, but will be open to island visitors in the early going. Following a soft opening in June, a grand opening is scheduled for December.
“Having a world-class golf course like Point Hardy Golf Club puts the island of St. Lucia on the map in so many different ways,” said Felicien, a native St. Lucian who spent time working at Los Angeles Country Club and Nantucket Golf Club. “To be considered a golf destination is incredible. This also enhances our tourism product.”
There are two other golf courses in St. Lucia, both part of the chain of Sandals Resorts properties and neither with nearly the acclaim that’s greeting Point Hardy. This wasn’t the first attempt to develop a golf course on this plot of land. In the early 2000s, Raffles – another destination resort – acquired more than 300 acres. Nicklaus Design routed a course on the same property and began initial construction before the 2008 recession shuttered the project.
About seven years later, around the time that Cabot Cliffs opened, Cowan-Dewar began looking for a warm-weather locale. After visiting it, he sent images of the property to the Coore and Crenshaw team that just finished the celebrated Nova Scotia course. Among the photos was one of him standing on what eventually would become the 18th hole and an aerial that includes the land that eventually would become the spectacular clusters of seaside holes from Nos. 15 to 17 and Nos. 7 to 9.
“I must confess that when I visited this location,” Coore said, “I tried to talk Ben out of building the course despite how fantastic and spectacular it was.”
In fact, he suggested that a par-3 course might work best, retaining the best of the seaside potential without having to manage the turf challenges inherent in such extreme elevation changes. But after much persuasion and several visits, Coore finally thought they had figured out a way to link the seaside with a series of plateau holes on the front and the back side.
“We’re just not big fans of getting in a golf cart and going for a long ride,” Coore said. “We really needed to patch together a routing that tied all of it together and made for a course that people would want to play over and over again.”
It may eventually get there. But what’s clear now: It should be the next stop on your bucket list.
“Ben Cowan-Dewar is a man of great faith and conviction,” Coore said. “He was convinced from the beginning that it’s going to be a significant development in the world of golf. And his history elsewhere has proven that he knows what he’s doing.”
Top: The quest for a safe landing can be difficult on a course built literally into the Caribbean Sea, but the trade-off is the view. Photos Courtesy Cabot St. Lucia
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