BASSETERRE, St. Kitts and Nevis -- Don't judge the Royal St. Kitts Golf Club by its front nine. Everybody who plays it only remembers the back.
The front nine is perfectly pleasant, featuring some interesting holes framed by hillsides lined with colorful houses. But it's the final loop that catapults the club among the Caribbean's best courses. Six of these gorgeous holes are the work of Canadian Thomas McBroom, the man responsible for redesigning the old Frigate Bay Golf Club into its current routing in 2003. McBroom transformed a vacant shoreline adjacent to the St. Kitts Marriott into a cool five-hole finishing stretch that's as scenic as it is challenging.
The short 14th hole climbs to a narrow, elevated green cut from a hillside. Looking back, the view of the Atlantic Ocean stops golfers in their tracks. On the other side of the hill, the par-3 15th hole drops to a green framed by a stack of bunkers on either side. A howling wind and the elevation change makes club selection and shot-shape paramount. The par 4s at the 16th and 17th ride sidesaddle along the shore. With the wind off the water pushing balls toward a pond on the right, the finishing hole might be the toughest par 4 on the course.
There are some concerns about conditioning, especially bare spots in the fairways, although the views and demanding finish leave such a lasting impression that it's easy to overlook the small stuff. With Irie Fields at Kittitian Hill and the Tom Fazio course at Christophe Harbour still in development, it remains the only game in town.