Barbados Aims High in Caribbean Golf

Apes Hill Club, Barbados (Image: Apes Hill Club)

Apes Hill Club has ranked among the Caribbean’s top courses since its 2009 launch. (Image: Apes Hill Club)

With a stacked lineup of courses that includes the Green Monkey, Royal Westmoreland and Apes Hill Club, Barbados is ready to challenge for dominance in the Caribbean golf market.

(Last updated February 2020.)

Once reliant on a traditional sun, sand and sea tourism strategy, Barbados signaled its arrival as a major player in Caribbean golf with the 2009 launch of Apes Hill Club.

The 7,150-yard layout, which dips and twists through lush jungle, an abandoned coral quarry and the reclaimed fields of a former sugar plantation, is the centrepiece of an exclusive residential community offering views of both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea from a hilltop site near the lively community of Holetown. (Editor’s note: In 2019, Apes Hill Club was sold to Canadian entrepreneur Glenn Chamandy. The golf course is currently closed for renovations.)

Apes Hill joined posh Sandy Lane resort’s two acclaimed 18-hole courses, as well as Royal Westmoreland Golf and Country Club, as the golf headliners of a popular island destination of remarkable contrasts—from the windswept Atlantic coastline to vast meadows of sugar cane to the serene waters of the Caribbean coast, the site of most of the resorts. The former British colony is renowned for its white-sand beaches, hospitable people (known as Bajans) and its refined atmosphere.

Royal Westmoreland Golf and Country Club (Image: Royal Westmoreland)

Royal Westmoreland ignited Barbados’ golf boom. (Image: Royal Westmoreland Golf and Country Club)

Facing increased competition from holiday destinations around the world, Barbados is going after its share of the world’s estimated 50 million serious golfers, who, according to surveys, spend approximately 35 per cent more per trip and travel more often than other tourists.

Barbados ignited its golf boom with the 1994 launch of Royal Westmoreland, a superb Robert Trent Jones Jr. design near the capital of Bridgetown. Officially opened by Prince Andrew—who wowed onlookers by splitting the fairway with his first drive—the 7,045 parkland-style layout offers breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea with almost every shot.

Royal Westmoreland reigned supreme until 2004, when the celebrity-packed but ill-fated wedding of Tiger Woods at nearby Sandy Lane resort focused international attention on the ultra-exclusive property’s new $25-million Green Monkey course. Designed by Tom Fazio, the 7,389-yard behemoth slowly builds drama through the first eight holes before startling golfers with a rapid descent into an abandoned quarry.

So spectacular is the design and seaside setting that the Green Monkey instantly became one of the world’s must-play courses. The only hitch is that access is restricted to guests of Sandy Lane, one of the Caribbean’s priciest resorts. Sandy Lane does, however, offer public play on its other Fazio championship layout, the Country Club Course, a lush parkland-style jewel, and on its nine-hole Old Nine Course.

Rounding out the island’s roster of courses is Barbados Golf Club, an affordable and challenging 6,697-yard government-owned layout, and the player-friendly, nine-hole Rockley Golf Club.

Green Monkey Golf Course (Image: Sandy Lane)

Tom Fazio designed the acclaimed Green Monkey course at Sandy Lane. (Image: Sandy Lane)

Barbados’ stacked line-up of courses has enabled it to join Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico in the battle for dominance in the Caribbean golf market.

Apes Hill, the newest headliner, boasts a pedigree to rival even that of the Green Monkey. The project was originally a partnership between local entrepreneur Sir Charles Williams, whose family came from England to Barbados in the 1600s, and Landmark Land Company, the developer of such renowned golf properties as California’s La Quinta Resort and Club and South Carolina’s Kiawah Island Golf Resort.

Designed by Jeff Potts and Chris Cole for Landmark, Apes Hill winds seamlessly through a rolling and still mostly wild landscape where green monkeys are often seen feasting on Barbados cherries, ackee and breadfruit. Especially thrilling are the jungle holes, 11 to 14, a quartet enthusiastically described by Golf World magazine as “every bit as dramatic and invigorating” as Augusta National’s Amen Corner.

Barbados, after years of building golf courses, is ready to play.

Explore Barbados After Your Round of Golf

Many of Barbados’ best beaches — Paynes Bay, Brandon’s Beach, Paradise Beach and Brighton Beach — are found on the island’s popular Caribbean coastline.

On Friday nights, don’t miss the outdoor fish fry in Oistins, a busy fishing village on the south coast. Two dozen or more booths along the town’s main drag serve-up delicious and plentiful helpings of tuna, swordfish, marlin, mahi-mahi and flying fish.

For fine dining, reserve a beachside table at The Cliff, an open-air, four-level restaurant on the west coast that has been an island standout for years. Be sure to watch for stingrays gliding in the illuminated waters below. Sighting one is considered a sign of good luck.

A highlight in Bridgetown, the bustling capital, is Trafalgar Square, featuring a monument to Lord Nelson erected in 1813. Also check out The Synagogue, on Synagogue Lane. It dates from 1833, making it one of the oldest synagogues in the Western Hemisphere.

Located on the northern edge of Bridgetown is the Mount Gay Rum Tour and Gift Shop, where visitors learn the story of a local rum industry that dates from the first British settlement in 1627.

And found in the island’s lush interior is one of Barbados’ top tourist attractions, Harrison’s Cave, an underground world of streams, waterfalls, deep pools, stalactites and stalagmites, all viewed from on board an electric tram and trailer.


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