Before and After
An interactive look at Cabot Saint Lucia’s incredible transformation
The pitch for the story on the making of Cabot Saint Lucia was just that—go behind the scenes of how one of the most anticipated and visually beautiful courses in the world came into being. I had the opportunity to visit Cabot Saint Lucia three times: in March of 2020, November 2021 and February 2023 to observe the course’s construction in different stages. Each time, architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw were there, and I shadowed them for a series of days, observing how they work and communicate with their associates, with developer Ben Cowan-Dewar and others involved with the project. It was a rare chance to witness the ongoing design and collaboration process of arguably the greatest golf-course designers of this generation, on a piece of land that is in the league of Cypress Point.
The color of the story comes from hearing the thoughts and dialogue of Coore and Crenshaw, which is often animated or in response to the unique nature of the property and the strange setbacks that caused delays. The course is still not complete—Cabot hopes to open Point Hardy Golf Club, as the course has come to be known (a name derived from a nearby outcropping that is somehow more specific but less evocative than Cabot Point, its previous name), in December of this year.
The story is also about the transformation of a mind-blowing piece of earth into a golf course that people from everywhere will want to travel to play. Here is the before, middle and (almost) end progress of five of the course’s most significant holes.
The ocean holes will rightfully stir the most passionate interest, but inland holes like the par-4 second are jaw dropping in their own way. This 477-yard beauty is one of the most natural holes, spreading easily across the upper plateau near the site’s highest point, with views of the Atlantic horizon in several directions. Coore and Crenshaw try to make use of every feature and quirk of nature they find, and here they incorporated a circular rock quarry at the far end of the hole left behind from a previous endeavor—it’s now a fortification that encircles the right side and rear of the green.
When I first saw the land of the fifth, I didn’t think there was any way it could be turned into a golf hole. This was one of the course’s most significant engineering projects because the only thing that existed was a steep, vegetated ravine that water coursed through after heavy rains. A large wall of earth near the tee had to first be knocked down, then Keith Rhebb and other workers spent much of the COVID delay pulling dirt down from the sides of the valley to fill in the bottom before re-routing the river to the right. Then they had to manufacture a green. But it works, and when you play the fifth, you’ll gasp at this downhill 418-yard par 4, but for different reasons than me.
The thought of a new golf course coming into existence usually brings nothing but excitement, but at Cabot Saint Lucia the feeling was bittersweet. The beauty of the site, which had never been developed or built on, made me question whether some places, even as breathtaking as the golf is, would be better left alone. The ninth hole, a 160-yard downhill par 3 with a green set naturally on a bluff with very little alteration, was where a group of wild horses often grazed. To the right was a dense grove of organ pipe cactus. Those have been preserved, but the horses had to be moved along.
If anyone suggests that the par-3 16th, playing 156 yards across an ocean cove, will be one of the most photographed golf holes in the world, take the bet. It looks like the green was just sitting there waiting to be grassed, but there was much more back to front slope than there appears, and it all had to be massaged into the peninsula. It still possesses a shelf and major back-to-front orientation to help hold long irons and even hybrids and woods that will be hit into it when the wind is rushing toward the tee. Interestingly, a Jack Nicklaus routing of this part of the property from the late 2000s (for a project that went bankrupt just as they were beginning) used this same green site, but at the end of a long par 4 that started at the 15th tee. It works much better, and more sanely, as a par 3.
Like the fifth, it was hard to visualize how the 17th would work. All the ingredients were present for one of the most heart-pounding, intimidating par 3s imaginable—Coore frequently referred to it as “fantasy golf”—but there didn’t seem to be any place for the green to go. Rhebb and Trevor Dormer somehow got an excavator up to the top of the rock edifice and began cutting, pushing and scraping the land, taking the machines perilously close to the edge of the cliff to scoop the needed material to expand and level the green and short fairway approach. From the tees below, players will drive blindly 187 yards across a chasm of crashing and misting waves, hoping to find land. Helping slopes on the left will direct shots that clear the ocean toward a putting surface that itself looks like the roiling sea.