Prominent developers seek to buck golf industry decline with Caribbean project

Amid a massive industry-wide run of golf course shutterings, with more than 800 closed just in the US in the last decade, prominent developers Mike Keiser and Ben Cowan-Dewar are seeking to reverse the tide somewhat with a new large-scale Caribbean development targeting avid golfers.

The 375-acre Cabot Saint Lucia, located on a peninsula at the northern tip of the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia, is the latest work of Keiser and Cowan-Dewar, who have built several courses routinely among the top 100 courses in America. The latest project, slated for a first phase of completion in 2021, shows a high-end willingness to buck all prevailing industry trends pointing toward declining golf participation rates, fewer rounds played, and little to no developer interest in new course development. 

The project also extends the “Cabot” brand name the pair have sought to make into a much more prominent moniker. The brand originated in Canada, where the pair originally made their mark in the golf industry in Nova Scotia with the Cabot Links in Cape Breton Island, and is now being pegged for wider geographic deployment.

The luxury facility, the pair’s first in the region and open to the public like their others, will include in addition to the course itself called Cabot Point a 50-suite boutique hotel, three restaurants, shops, a spa, and clubhouse. The course will be designed by the prominent duo of Bill Coore and former Masters champion Ben Crenshaw. 

“The Saint Lucia site truly touched us in the same way Cabot Cape Breton did,” Cowan-Dewar said. “We knew it was special from the beginning.”

With Cabot Saint Lucia, the pair will also be extending for themselves something of a non-intuitive business model where each of their golf properties have been noted for their relative difficulty for travelers to reach. But once there, the developers have sought to create a more rustic feel for golfers to reconnect with the origins of the game.

The latest development also marks something of an opportunistic flair for the Keiser and Cowan-Dewar as they have repeatedly sought to find potential projects that did not survive the global economic recession of a decade ago.

“We find the site by looking extensively throughout the Caribbean, focusing on projects that started before the financial crisis and didn’t make it through,” Cowan-Dewar said. “The site in Saint Lucia was an absolutely spectacular site for golf and stood out for that reason.”

Development costs were not disclosed. Local press reports in the Caribbean targeted the land value at nearly $34m.