Barbados Aims High in Caribbean Golf

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

Apes Hill Club has been a headliner in Barbados since its 2009 launch. (Image: Apes Hill Club)

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

(Last updated August 2021.)

Once reliant on a traditional sun, sand and sea tourism strategy, Barbados solidified its status as a major player in Caribbean golf with the 2009 launch of Apes Hill Club, the newest member of the island’s roster of top-tier courses.

A brawny test of golf, Apes Hill Club dips and twists through lush jungle, an abandoned coral quarry and the reclaimed fields of a former sugar plantation. It’s the centrepiece of an exclusive residential community offering views of both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea from a hilltop site near the community of Holetown. Currently closed while veteran golf architect Ron Kirby completes a US$33-million remodelling, the course is scheduled to reopen in November 2021.

With its autumn unveiling, Apes Hill Club will again take its place alongside Sandy Lane resort’s two 18-hole courses, as well as Royal Westmoreland Golf and Country Club, as a top draw on an 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)

The opening of Royal Westmoreland Golf and Country Club in 1994 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 strong Robert Trent Jones Jr. design near the capital of Bridgetown. Officially opened by Prince Andrew—who impressed 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 marriage of Tiger Woods to Elin Nordegren at nearby Sandy Lane resort focused international attention on the ultra-exclusive property’s new US$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 popular Barbados Golf Club, an affordable and challenging 6,697-yard municipal course that was redesigned by Ron Kirby and unveiled to acclaim in 2000; 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’ strong line-up of courses has placed it in competition with Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico for dominance in the Caribbean golf market.

The island’s newest headliner, Apes Hill Club, boasted an impressive pedigree even before its current remodelling. The luxury golf course and real estate development was originally a partnership between local businessman 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.

Purchased by Canadian entrepreneur Glenn Chamandy in 2019, Apes Hill Club is being given a makeover that, in addition to extensive changes to individual holes, includes the addition of a 19th hole modelled after the island-green 17th at TPC Sawgrass, a new par three course, and the opening of a Titleist Performance Institute.

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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