It didn’t fully hit me until I stopped for lunch at the turn. CuisinArt Golf Resort and Spa’s Greg Norman-designed course stretched out in front of me, running into the warm Caribbean Sea and the mountainous St. Maarten beyond.
“We’re really all by ourselves out here,” I said to the pro.
“Welcome to Anguilla,” he said.
Unlike many islands throughout the Caribbean, Anguilla has remained relatively untouched since its discovery in the mid-1600s. Fast food restaurants? Forget it. Giant water parks? Not here. But the British Territory, just east of Puerto Rico and four hours from America’s East Coast, does have spectacular beaches, an otherworldly respite and a friendly hospitality that will ease any stress you had before coming to the island. And if you stay at CuisinArt Golf Resort and Spa, you’ll truly get the most of your experience.
Once you’ve checked in, grab an early-morning tee time at the course. It’s the only one on the island and the only one you need. The 18-holer plays 7,063 yards from the black tees, challenging golfers with deep fairway bunkers, salt marshes and ocean streams. No. 1, a 390-foot par 4, greets visitors like a dream – mixing a wide fairway and two-tiered green with the flawless Caribbean Sea behind. And if you’re a fan of tropical vegetation (who isn’t?), Greg Norman’s course doesn’t shy away from it. Seagrape trees, palms and mangroves dot the entire course, coming into play most prominently on the 440-yard 16th and the uphill 18th. The toughest holes are probably the par-4 17th and par-3 15th — threatening players with lagoons, bunker-happy greens and windy tee boxes.
But along with having its difficulties, there’s a serenity and beauty you can feel on almost every hole at CuisinArt. No. 10 probably epitomizes this the most. The 590-yard par 5 plummets down towards a fairway-crossing lagoon, making you second guess your second or third shots. An undulating green sits a pitching wedge’s length away, daring players to fall for its front-side bunkers. But before you shoot for the flag, look to your right. Take in the colors of the ocean and St. Marten rising majestically into the sky. It might be your best view of the trip/year.
OK, now go put the ball in the hole.
That quiet and calm doesn’t end after you step off the last green. Head back to the resort and check out the Venus Spa. Couples massages, golf-tailored treatments and Caribbean stone techniques are all used at the award-winning establishment. Afterwards, have some lunch by the pool at Café Mediterraneo. Buffet options with fresh fruit salads and smoothies are readily available. Speaking of drinks, it’s about time you had a strong one. If you have more time during the afternoon, I’d recommend going to Sandy Island. It’s a tiny spot a few miles out in the ocean that you can reach by taxi-to-ferry from CuisinArt. The rum punch and freshly-caught mahi mahi (seriously, I think they caught it right after we ordered it) is worth the trip.
If you decide to stay on property, make your way along the long wading pools to the Beach Bar and Grille. Enjoy a minty mojito made using fresh vegetables from the resort’s hydroponic farm (the only one in the Caribbean) and gaze out across the open ocean. Have another drink. Getting hungry again? Good.
There are three main options to choose from for dinner. Executive Chef Jasper Schneider lends his hand to the AAA Four Diamond Le Bistro Santorini and Tokyo Bay offers an unbelievably authentic Japanese experience. But my choice would have to be back up by the golf course at Italia. Giant white pillars rise up along the outside of the restaurant, corralled by billowing white curtains. Family-style dishes like fried eggplant parmesan (again, fresh from the farm), cherry tomato salad and meatballs al forno will bring out your inner Italian, even if you’re not from that part of the world. Choose your wine carefully — there are more than 3,600 in the resort’s cellar and save some room for Italia’s tiramisu. It’s created by the head chef who hails from the foothills of Palermo. It’s delicious.
Oh, and look off the balcony, there’s No. 18 — still calm, still dignified, still waiting for somebody to come and play it. Maybe you’ll stay another day. Maybe you’ll never leave …WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?