I am on the mini bus on my way to Kittitian Hills and there is a buzz in the air as today we are playing Irie Fields, an Ian Woosnam designed course sitting on the hillside looking out to the Atlantic Ocean and the islands of St. Eustatius, Saba, St. Maarten and St. Barts. I had a sneak peek at the course two days ago when we were shown around the stunning hotel and villas, which are in the middle of development, and we slightly badgered the owners into letting us play the course.
Standing on the tee of the 390 yard opening hole with two bunkers on the left, right in the landing zone, Zeke – Zeke Percival is the professional at Irie Fields – informs us to just take a 3-wood. The hole doglegs round to the right, but it's the views to my right that keep me taking my eye off the course, they are truly stunning.
The second is the first of four par 3s all of which offer some fantastic views, this one plays to a wide narrow green that is protected by four bunkers at the front and at 166-yards playing slightly up hill is a great test. The third is the first of four par 5s and at 535-yards from the tips it's two mighty blows for the average golfer to make it in two. You also have to manoeuvre the ball between two trees that stand like guards protecting the very small undulating green which also has bunkers left and right. I laid up and just hit a wedge to give myself a birdie putt.
The forth hole is another great dogleg right that is played from an elevated tee, with the second shot having to be played over or threaded through some trees depending on how far back you are.
My favourite hole on the front nine has to be the par 5 seventh, it's all risk and reward if you play your second shot blind over the bushes and heavy grass to your right, you may just give yourself a chance of making the plateau green in two. Or you can play up to the bunker on the right of the fairway where the hole doglegs right to give you a view of the green and play a 9-iron/wedge into this smallish green and take your chances on a single putt birdie.
The back nine just keeps on giving great hole after great hole and the iconic par 3 tenth gets it all off to a great start. This is the courses signature hole with St. Eustatius and the Atlantic Ocean as its backdrop, it really is a camera moment and your group will all be posing for photos here.
The eleventh is another par 5 that sits beautifully in its surroundings and you will need to make sure you have enough club on the 12th to clear the stone wall that protects the front of the green. The sixteenth is another hole played from an elevated tee and offers some more fantastic views and this is the start of a rising crescendo to the course. The seventeenth is another great par 3 with more stunning views that brings you to what is a fitting finale to a wonderful golf course. At 519-yards from the tips played from an elevated tee it certainly gives you a chance to finish on a high.
The good news is that even if you miss out on making eagle or birdie, you will still be on a high from playing a course that has stunning views on every hole. I have played some great courses by the sea, but not one that offers views like this from every hole, it truly is a wonderful setting and Ian Woosnam has done a fantastic job making the most of them.
At the time of writing the owner is trying not to use fertilisation on the course and I totally understand that philosophy, my only concern is I am not sure it is possible. I think you can get away with not fertilising the golf course but when it comes to the greens I think he will have to bite the bullet.
It's a philosophy that is used throughout Kittitian hills with everything being organic, it really is a wonderful place, but I bet there are a few metal nails holding those wooden beams in place throughout the complex!
Some things just need a little hand and I think once the course has finally bedded in a little fertiliser on the greens, isn’t straying too far from the resort's raison d'ętre and it is a course and a resort that certainly demands the best and once the greens are bedded in this will be one of the must play golf courses in the Caribbean.
Uphill green at the 7th holeMore great views at the 9thThe beautiful downhill 16th hole
Looking across the 10th green at Irie Fields to Statia Island
A fitting finale, looking down the 18th with its Alantic Ocean backdrop