It's The Dawn Of A New Day At Aurora Anguilla Golf Resort And Spa

A visionary owner, bucket list, and brand new Greg Norman-designed short course have made this beach-famous destination a must-play.

I had just sunk a swinging 30-footer for birdie (my first of the day) on Aurora International Golf Club's signature 10th hole, a demanding into-the-wind Par 5 with commanding cross-channel views of St. Maarten's mountains, when I plucked my grubby Pro V1 golf ball from the bottom of the cup and beelined it for unfamiliar territory: the back tees on Hole 11, an oceanside Par 3 that, while walking over a saltwater lagoon on the previous hole's handsome coral limestone footbridge, I vowed to play nearest the sea.

I'm plenty of things on a golf course—club-waggler, fast-hitter, and birdwatcher to name a few—but I know the bounds of my game, and despite being a single-digit handicapper with a grip-it-and-rip-it, happy-go-lucky ethos, I'm anything but a "tips" player. Sure, I had an extra pep in my step from the unexpected curler I'd just buried from distance, but my decision to jump two tee boxes rearward in the middle of a decent round to play from the Rock tees (225 yards out) rather than the friendlier Sunrise tees (188 yards)—which would have made back-to-back circles on the course's best one-two punch a much more doable feat—had nothing to do with confidence and everything to do with the sun-splashed smile that one of the best courses in the Caribbean had painted on my face.

A drone's eye view of Hole 11 at Aurora Anguilla Golf Resort and Spa, set against Rendezvous Bay.
Rendezvous Bay makes an amazing backdrop on Hole 11 of the International Course, as more daring golfers will want to stretch their shots out. | Aurora Anguilla Golf Resort and Spa

Scorecard be damned, this was an opportunity, not an option. How often do you get to let her loose inside of a living, breathing, salt-spraying Corona commercial? No, this wasn't Mexico, it was pint-sized Anguilla, a British Overseas Territory and the northernmost island in the Leeward Islands, and I was a lob shot leeward from Rendezvous Bay's velvety sand and gleaming turquoise tide, a landscape and soundscape I'd happily hit 6-iron 60-feet past a blustery flagstick any round of the week.

On the green, the golf gods rewarded my laid-back course strategy—or lack thereof—with a 12-foot comebacker for par. The nature gods, as it turned out, noticed, too. On the tee, once-in-a-lifetime iPhone footage shot by my playing partner captured a green-throated carib, an iridescent hummingbird native to the Lesser Antilles, christen the peak of my follow-through as though my TaylorMade clubhead might make for a cozy, tropical roost. If only golf commentator Peter Kostis were here with his trademark slow-mo swing analysis courtesy of the Konica Minolta Bizhub Swing Vision Camera to break down the most serendipitous "birdie" of my life (and to date, this writer's most beloved). In the British West Indies, it seemed fortune did favour the bold.

The main pool at Aurora Anguilla Golf Resort and Spa.
To call this reimagined property pristine would be an understatement, but owner Richard Schulze's passion project has resulted in something truly remarkable. | Aurora Anguilla Golf Resort and Spa

This rendition of Aurora Anguilla Golf Resort & Spa—formerly known as CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa—swapped ownership in 2020 when Richard Schulze, the founder of Best Buy, purchased the timeworn property on the heels of a global search to realize a lifelong bucket-list checkmark: owning his own golf course. Since taking over the helm, the spry 80-something businessman has poured millions of dollars into the 380-acre plot of paradise, upgrading and finetuning every last detail from the suites and guestrooms and hydroponic garden to building a waterpark for families and 500-seat outdoor amphitheater for concerts and movies. He's even purchased a fleet of private jets to escort travelers to Anguilla more efficiently.

Schulze's passion project and prized possession is, of course, Aurora International Golf Club, a Greg Norman design that, once upon a time, had eyes for Top 100 lists. Prior to his Anguilla arrival, the now-remastered layout was already a preeminent Caribbean play—and that was before Schulze's team re-turfed every fairway and green, tidied up its sand dunes, and clear cut large swathes of island vegetation for more striking ocean vistas. "California Dreamin'" meets "Georgia on My Mind," Schulze's supersized vision beats like a 1960s playlist.

The Avalon short golf course at Aurora Anguilla Golf Resort and Spa.
Only a few months old, the 9-hole Avalon course rivals the Caribbean's best 18-hole courses in terms of natural beauty and challenges. | Aurora Anguilla Golf Resort and Spa

"I want it to feel like Pebble Beach and play like Augusta National," he told a group of us at the grand opening of Avalon Links, a walking-only 9-hole short course that debuted last November. The Caribbean's pinup calendar shoreline and aquamarine waters supply the Pebble Beach traits. As for that legendary course in Georgia, Schulze isn't seeking to mimic its layout, but its conditioning. "Green all the time, dark emerald- green," he said. 

During my three rounds of play—two laps at Aurora International and one at Avalon Links—I was hard-pressed to find a weed or blemish of any kind (save for the multiple hard-earned snowmans I carded at Hole 6) on its lush, runway-wide fairways. "I'm a 15-handicap," Schulze added. "I love wide fairways." Who doesn't? Resort golf should always be fun golf and as a semi-regular sprayer of the golf ball, Aurora's bailout areas and enlarged putting surfaces were much appreciated when my ball was more than qualified to be exiled by penalty to a neighboring castaway island.

A drone's eye view of Hole 10 on the International Course at Aurora Anguilla Golf Resort and Spa.
Casual golfers might find the design to be challenging at first, but at least they'll enjoy the views from Hole 10 and the neighboring tees and greens. | Aurora Anguilla Golf Resort and Spa

While the ocean can be seen at various points throughout player's rounds, the seaside nook home to Holes 1, 2, 10, and 11 is undoubtedly the happiest corner at Aurora International. A gentle handshake if there ever was one is the 1st hole, a downhill Par 4 flanked by a sandy, seashell-laden waste area that slowly falls toward the sea. At the Par 3 second, a mid-iron will land you on a 16,000-sq. ft. double green, a breezy, beachside dance floor shared with Hole 10. 

As for the best approach shot on the course, that award goes to the Par 4 17th, which plays into a risk-reward peninsula green backdropped by a grand, paper-white clubhouse. Wrapped by swaying thatch palms, the structure oozes Mykonos vibes. (At sundown, it moonlights as a steakhouse, another long-held dream on Schulze's bucket list).

The 17th hole of the International Course at Aurora Anguilla Golf Resort and Spa.
Pinseekers will have a blast hitting for the green on Hole 17, while more casual golfers should probably have an extra ball handy. | Aurora Anguilla Golf Resort and Spa

Along the way, sunbathing iguanas, crowing feral roosters, and a throng of tropical birds— snowy egrets, bananaquits, and the Antillean crested hummingbird—are some of the only gallery-goers you'll encounter throughout your round. If you're lucky, as I was at the turn during my last day, you might spot giggling islander children on the driving range learning to hit a golf ball for the first time. (The course, as written by the government, is accessible to all Anguillans). 

Introducing locals to the sport is part of a bigger plan to give back to the island, so much so that the resort brought Cardigan Connor, Anguilla's most iconic cricketeer (and golf-lover), on board to help spearhead the youth program. Just as well, Schulze has raised the wages of all 560 of his employees. At some point, a forecaddie program will bring even more islanders to Aurora's immaculate grounds.

The spectacular stretch of beach located at Aurora Anguilla Golf Resort and Spa.
Golfers will flock to this island for these courses, but the beaches are still Anguilla's biggest draw. | Aurora Anguilla Golf Resort and Spa

Fairways and greens notwithstanding, Anguilla has long been famous for its creamy beaches and ever-warm waters, which I took full advantage of once outside the ropes. A stone's throw from my walkout, beachfront suite—one of 178 suites on property—I was floating in blue bliss no more than 30 seconds after slipping my swim trunks on. In the morning, I watched in awe as the sun rose over Rendezvous Bay from my spacious terrace while sipping butler-service coffee as Anguilla's national bird, the Turtle dove, ground-fed beneath me.

The ultimate currency and measuring stick of any superb resort stay, no matter how exorbitant or fancy, falls on the shoulders of its service. As a traveling writer, I've been blessed to hang my hat at wonderful properties all over the world and have to say that, to this date, the genuine warmth of the Anguillan people was second to none. 

An aerial view of the property at Aurora Anguilla Golf Resort and Spa, set against Rendezvous Bay.
From the warm hospitality to the spectacular amenities, this resort is set to become a staple in many 'Best' categories. | Aurora Anguilla Golf Resort and Spa

From the luscious rum punch I was served with a smile at check-in to Andrew the gardener going out of his way at 6:30 am to introduce himself and shake my hand to Sherman the lobby bartender recalling my name, room number, and drink order on Night 2, each of Aurora's employees (whose nametags all read "One Team, One Dream") care for guests in a refreshingly authentic way.

"Dawn of a new day," Mr. Schulze told me on where he drew inspiration for the property's new name. "In the morning, the sun rises over the Caribbean and it's the most glorious picture." To the people, sand, and fairways of Rendezvous Bay, we will meet again.