Golf Travel Destinations
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Join the jet-set lifestyle of James Bond and prime ministers to sample how the rich live and golf on the Caribbean islands of Canouan and Barbados
Our private jet circles over turquoise sea and crystal sand before touching down on a tiny Caribbean island. Seen from the air, the fairways on Donald Trump's golf course look challengingly narrow as they wriggle through sub tropical jungle. On arrival, the limo bimps along the only road past the village of Charlestown and the ferry port on Grand Bay.
On the hill beyond, the driver pauses to allow a shiny brown turtle to pick its way from one side of the road to the other.
We are following in the tyre tracks of Leonardo DiCaprio, Tony and Cherie Blair and Daniel Craig to Raffles Resort. Welcome to Turtle Island, officially known as Canouan.
So this is how the rich live. I’m not jealous at all. Not anyway while I’m sharing their hideaway. That means I have a billet with more rooms than my Battersea flat, a personal golf cart to drive myself from beach to spa to tennis centre and a licence to play as much golf as I like on the Trump international. Is that paradise or what?
Canouan Island is part of St. Vincent and The Grenadines, population 110,000 and one of the world’s smaller nations since it became independent in 1979. The island is 3.5 miles long and 1.25 miles wide, a fragment of a link in the 30-strong Grenadine archipelago that also includes Mustique. In 1994 an Italian consortium invested in the luxury resort that takes up a third of the island and the airport opened four years later, ending Canouan’s isolation forever. Nowadays 90 per cent of visitors arrive on flights from Barbados, Puerto Rico, Martinique and St Lucia rather than by ferry.
The Raffles group, owned by Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed, reopened the resort in 2004 on a mission to create a property that guests will never want to leave. The setting is a natural amphitheatre, with 156 villas arranged like tiers of seats on a hillside with sea views. In a world dedicated to providing magical spas, the Amrita’s private glass-floored thatched cabins set on stilts in the water are about as romantic as it can get.
At dawn, I tackle the classic sun salutations in the daily yoga session in an exercise room set high in the cliff. Trainer Mike said that Daniel Craig and his girlfriend attended every morning during their two-week stay. But on this occasion, the rich and famous stayed abed, exhausted perhaps by an evening in the Villa Monte Carlo, where La Varenne peddles Beluga at £200 a pop and the Trump Club Privee cleans up at the blackjack tables.
Lazy so and sos. I need them here and I need them now because there’s no hiding place for the solo sun saluter – and my contortions are worse than most.
Donald Trump is a single digit golfer with a Scottish mother, or so he claimed when he pitched to build the world’s ‘best’ links near Aberdeen in 2007. The Canouan planners weren’t nearly as fussy so he got his licence to develop without difficulty and hired Jim Fazio to design a course that opened in July 2004.
It starts benignly on the valley floor, then rises dramatically to the highest peak - this is definitely not a walker’s layout. With five tee boxes, the longest 6,900 yards, and a diverse range of strategy shots involving severe gradient changes, this is a thoroughly enjoyable example of quality holiday golf. The fairways are more forgiving than they look from the air and the par-3 13th, laid out along the crest of the main ridge, is a stunner, with 360-degree sea views that include Mustique and Tobago Cays.
Avoid the Trump Million Invitational – a 54-hole tournament held in May for 100 golfers who pay £8,000 for the privilege of taking on non-tour pros off scratch – and you might have the place pretty much to yourself.
The best way to enjoy Canouan is to stay there but it’s also possible to fly in for the day from Barbados, 110 miles away. This is what the Blairs did in the prime ministerial glory days, with Tony enjoying a game of tennis while Cherie opted for pampering in the spa. With a 25-minute flight, it’s easy to factor a round of golf and a lunch on one of two Caribbean cliché beaches into the programme.