Golf in St. Lucia
By Katy Gash
A future in sports tourism
St. Lucia has only one 18-hole golf course, for now. The St. Lucia Golf and Country Club at Cap Estate is a 71-par championship course, and one of the finest in the Caribbean. However, the national development plan calls for up to 4 golf courses in St. Lucia.
“Golfing is about a destination and not a golf course,” says Lawrence Samuel, the Chief Operations Officer at the St. Lucia Golf and Country Club.
His organization has taken the initiative and already plays host to several popular regional and international tournaments that attract hundreds of neighbouring Caribbean teams.
The Desmond Skeete Memorial Tournament is held during the St. Lucia Jazz Festival season, in the month of May. This charity tournament attracts dozens of local and regional teams. Upon completion of the 18-hole competition, golfers are treated to a live concert entitled Jazz on the Green.
The St. Lucia Golf Open is a two-day 36-hole tournament that draws teams from all over the Caribbean. It features several titles, naming champions in the five categories of Men, Women, Junior, Senior and Super Senior.
The Rotary Club of Gros Islet Golf Tournament is held in November. The Caribbean Hotel Association Tournament and the Inter-Island Club Tournaments add to the tournament calendar on the island.
However, the most exciting event is the Sir Vivian Richards Golf Tournament, played under the auspices of this West Indian “Living Legend” of Cricket – otherwise known as the “Master Blaster”. The Sir Vivian Richards Golf Tournament is held annually to coincide with the tour of the visiting international test cricket team. Most of the participating golfers are recognized cricketing champions or well-known international cricket media personalities.
Chris Harries, Director at the St. Lucia Golf Resort and Country Club, revealed that major cricketing heroes such as Jeff Dujon, one of the region’s best wicket-keepers ever, Gordon Greenidge, Ian Bishop, Ian Botham and Sir Garfield Sobers have all participated within the last 2 years.
“Last year, six ex-captains of the English test cricket team entered the tournament,” noted Harries. “Fans came to the golf club in droves and were amazed to get so close to their cricket heroes.”
The potential of this event has yet to be fully exploited.
“This sport’s icon has lent his name free of charge to this tournament and has participated every year. The competition needs more exposure,” says Reds Perreira, Sports tourism officer at the St. Lucia Tourist Board.
Lawrence Samuels agrees but he says that the golfing infrastructure needs to improve.
“The Sir Vivian Richards tournament should be played on a different course every year,” he says. “When golfers go to a golf destination, they want to play two or three courses, not just stay on one.”
The next five years promises to be exciting for golf in St. Lucia. Major projects will come on stream. Cap Estate is poised to welcome the island’s premier Jack Nicklaus 18-hole signature golf course, the Pointe at Cas en Bas. This course will be accompanied by luxury villa and condominium residences as well as a five star hotel. Completion is scheduled for 2009.
The developers of the Westin Le Paradis Beach and Golf Resort on the rugged eastern coastline of St. Lucia announce a January 2008 launch. Encompassing a one-mile stretch of shoreline and 600 acres of prime real estate, this development will also feature an 18-hole Greg Norman championship golf course.
These projects will enhance the golfing potential in St. Lucia. The sport attracts the high end of the tourism market. It is also a fast growing sector.
“There is stiff competition for the golfing market but there is plenty of room for everyone as golfing continues to grow by 5 percent a year. It is one of the fastest growing sports in the world,” says Lawrence Samuel.
The Cap Estate developers plan to capitalize on this potential. They are building a hotel in the middle of the existing golf course. They are exploring the possibility of establishing a Jack Nicklaus Academy on the island.
“That will give us an edge,” says Lawrence Samuel.
Cap Estate hopes to host the Caribbean Junior Championships in 2007. A golfing alliance with the London Club is currently under negotiation.