That’s the Anguillans’ vision of the place, and they have stayed true to it. Their only airport is too small to handle many commercial flights, so, like a lot of travelers, I arrived by boat from neighboring (and more developed) St. Martin. (Flights are available from Antigua, San Juan and St. Martin.) Goats still wander freely across many of the island’s narrow roads, lined by one-story homes in a typically bright Caribbean palette. There’s no overcrowded town, no real tourist-trap section. Outside the modest gates of the various high-end resorts and villas (most of which, including Temenos, are on the southwestern shore), the Anguillan landscape looks much like it did two decades ago. It was a delight, frankly, to visit a country so dependent on tourism that doesn’t look at all touristy, that’s managed not to turn into a sanitized, Disneyland version of itself. The island’s eastern end is still a working fishing village, and it looks like it. As previously noted, I’m not a beach guy, but as we drove by Shoal Bay East—considered by beach aficionados to be the premier strand in the entire Caribbean—my cab driver insisted that I get out and walk around for a few minutes. It seemed a miracle that any place so beautiful could be so uncrowded, though of course it’s really less a miracle than a marketing strategy—one that’s worked well so far.
Malliouhana opened for business in 1984, Cap Juluca in 1988, CuisinArt in 1999. But none of them included golf. Elsewhere around the Caribbean, championship-caliber courses were popping up one at a time, from Pete Dye’s famous Teeth of the Dog seaside layout in the Dominican Republic in 1971 to Tom Fazio’s Green Monkey course on Barbados in 2004. In general, the Caribbean golf equation is simple: The smaller (and usually more arid) the island, the tougher the economic and environmental logistics of installing a world-class track there. More built-up destinations like Jamaica or Puerto Rico have many great courses to choose from. But on relatively tiny Anguilla, it took decades for the various stars to align.
Norman’s Temenos course vaults instantly onto the short list of the best eighteens in the Caribbean. It’s not the funkiest layout—like Anguilla itself, the terrain is rather flat compared with some of its island neighbors. There are a number of straight-ahead par fours that feature well-bunkered, elevated greens and water up one side. But at seventy-two-hundred yards from the tips, the course is more than challenging enough.
And the winds! Although none of the holes brings the ocean itself into play, there’s no mistaking Temenos for anything but a seaside course: Even the simplest par threes require a lot of ingenuity to hit and hold the greens. The fairways are generous, but the penalties for missing them are severe—on most holes there’s about an eight-foot strip of low rough that gives way to a "native area" of packed sand filled with indigenous flora that is itself filled with Anguillan critters that scattered invisibly but noisily at my first step in there to search for a stray shot. On the fifth hole, I surprised a lizard (or perhaps it was the other way around) that had found some shade beside the tee marker. The whole course is almost absurdly scenic, with view after postcard view of the shockingly blue Caribbean and the mountains of St. Martin beyond.
The St. Regis-Temenos development (ninety-six villa residences managed by St. Regis, twenty-eight single-family homes and the resort itself) is opening in a somewhat piecemeal fashion; it will all be up and running, and no doubt booked to capacity, by the end of 2008. A new luxury-yacht marina is scheduled for construction on Anguilla as well. It’s hard for any country to resist the siren call of money. Profit versus self-restraint: Given time enough, the same side always seems to win that battle. Maybe no place on Earth can maintain the right balance forever, but some spots do have moments where the balance seems just right, and Anguilla’s moment is right now.