Four Seasons Nevis brings golf and spa to the next level
By Ted McIntyre
With all due respect to the lovely nation of St. Kitts, there’s nothing quite like falling into the warm embrace of their neighbours to the south just moments after landing at Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport in Basseterre, St. Kitts. Greeted at the baggage claim area by Four Seasons Nevis staff, we were whisked to the nearby port for the 35-minute boat ride of bottomless rum punches to the Four Seasons pier in Nevis, a 92-sq.-km island that sits at the arc of the West Indies’ Leeward Islands, just as the chain begins to dogleg south.
While the resort’s five-star string of two-storey, seaside buildings faces the setting sun, it’s the 3,200-foot Nevis Peak to the east that dominates this diminutive isle. And it’s the dramatic foothills of that dormant volcano that provided the challenging—and ultimately rewarding—canvas for Robert Trent Jones II, whose team had to negotiate dense jungle and deep ravines in sculpting one of the Caribbean’s most stunning layouts in 1991.
“Due to the difficulty posed by the terrain, we kept the bunkering simple, setting splashes of three or four small bunkers in some fairways and around greens, which are themselves subtle and receptive,” notes RTJ II’s firm. Unfortunately, there was not a lot of sand in those bunkers during the first week of November, making it somewhat difficult for players to extract the ball from tight lies without blading it, given the bounce of the rental-club sand wedges. But that was more than made up for by the awesome beauty of the 6,766-yard layout.
Easing players into their rounds, the opening three holes lay on relatively flat ground, a highlight being the ruins of a former sugar mill behind the second tee, often accompanied by families of Vervet monkeys—among the troop on this particular day was a baby clinging upside down to his daddy’s midsection as the elder scampered up the rocks and away from the whirring of our approaching golf cart. Monkeys are a regular sighting on the golf course grounds, most often in the late afternoon, and while I spotted nary a simian on my first trip here eight years ago, they were everywhere this time around.
As the routing turns toward Nevis Peak at the par-4 fourth, it begins a gradual 10-hole ascent with a spicy mix of holes, from the temptingly drivable par-4 fifth to the monster uphill dogleg-left par-5 eighth. The first nine concludes with an inspired par-4, with the distinct smell of jasmine at the tee, a ravine to the left and a high slope to the right that houses a volcanic sulphur vent, its crusty and burnt edges tinged with the telltale yellow.
The 10th tee provides another great venue for Vervet monkey sightings, but from this higher vantage point there are also numerous views of the Caribbean as the back nine progresses—none better than the 13th fairway, which skirts a ridge and provides a sweep spot to watch the sun sink into the sea, and the tee at No. 15, which dives downhill and requires a heart-stopping drive across a corner of jungle to the fairway below.
“Although RTJ II absorbed much of the elevation gain and loss in transitions between holes,” his firm explains, “the plunge from numbers 14 through 18 provides an exhilarating ride.”
While players are hard-pressed to avoid a concrete culvert that runs from the landing area past the green at No. 17, they can exhale on the shortish finishing hole, which concludes at the edge of Pinney’s Beach.
With a generally quiet tee sheet (primetime rates run from $160-$235 US), three-hour rounds are not uncommon, despite the layout’s demands, and guests also have the advantage of a pair of complimentary weekly clinics, as well as a $90 US nine-hole pro-am alongside staff members (which includes alcoholic beverages and appetizers afterward).
But the ultimate recovery can be found at the Four Seasons Nevis spa, with its collection of pastel-coloured cabins and superb locally derived products. While they don’t overwhelm you with amenities—although there is a lovely stone hut tub grotto and waterfall—it’s the absolutely exquisite, passionate service that separates this spa from virtually all others I’ve visited in the Caribbean. My new bride Mary raved about her therapist Reginald’s big, strong hands and his detailed explanation of the procedure along the way. The first of two oils used in the treatment—infused with lemongrass, which they grow here—was applied along the length of her spine, while the second, more of a paste laced with lemongrass and coconut milk, was used to withdraw toxins from the body. Heated stones were laid upon her legs and feet along trigger points—reflexolgy-like—before Reginald rolled the hot rocks across her spine and neck to relieve knots. The process was administered along the front of her body before a serious of twisting motions and stretches were used on her legs and arms, right down to the tips of her fingers.
Over in the Tamarind room, meanwhile, Nikita was lavishing me with another of the resort’s signature treatments, a Rum Tonic mud wrap. As opposed to many seemingly mechanical treatments I’ve had in the past, every single stroke and touch felt personal with Nikita. Lightly draped, I was exfoliated—front and back—with a papaya-pineapple scrub, followed by a detoxifying rum/honey/seaweed mix. I was then cocooned in plastic while she worked in detail on my feet and toes, and then a thorough scalp massage, before being thoroughly rinsed off as I lay there beneath a warm, six-shower-head Vichy shower cascade. Then there was a final massage—front and back—with a papaya-pineapple moisturizer. (This 80 minutes of bliss runs $250 US, which includes taxes but not the mandatory 10% service charge.)
There’s also a delightful spa menu of juices, smoothies and bento-box lunches, but the most lasting memory remains the quality of Nikita’s treatment. Further evidence that there’s nothing quite like falling into the hands of the Four Seasons Nevis.
CONTACT: Four Seasons Nevis: www.fourseasons.com/nevis/
GETTING THERE: Unless you have a private jet, you’re typically going to require a connection to St. Kitts, before taking the boat ride to nearby Nevis. I flew American Airlines from Toronto, connecting in Miami.