Is this the ultimate golf destination in the Caribbean?

In 20 years of covering golf, I’ve played and visited some of golf’s most incredible facilities and destinations. From Canada to Singapore, from European classics to modern masterpieces in the Middle East. My wife will confirm that I have made a fair number of “investigative” trips. Sorry dear. I’m going to put my neck on the line and propose that this September I take the most surprising, most enjoyable and quite simply the best golf trip of my career to date.

It’s been a busy 2023 and I almost forgot I’d been booked to join an end-of-summer press trip to visit Apes Hill to play the refurbished Ron Kirby course there. But I was very pleasantly reminded of this when I received an email confirming my rather exciting itinerary, including golf and much more – as the UK was in the final days of summer… “Oh, I was going to Barbados,” (Younger readers may want to substitute Ibiza to get the musical reference there.)

Barbados seems like a far away tropical paradise but it is closer than I expected. One of the most southerly and eastern islands of the Caribbean, it takes just eight hours to fly from London, and only seven and a half hours on the way back. It’s not really a long-haul flight, and after a couple of movies, we landed in Bridgetown with a bowl of pasta and the obligatory G&T (or two).

There are beautiful beaches in Barbados

(Image credit: Fergus Bisset)

It may have been hot when we left London, but boy, did it feel even hotter when we got off the plane – it definitely shocked me – a bit like opening the dishwasher straight after you’ve finished running it. Early September is just as hot as it is in Barbados and they were enjoying a particularly hot day. The temperature there is very pleasant all year round. To be honest, even in the hottest temperatures (about 33°C), it is not prohibited. I didn’t want to get vaccinated on a construction site, but walking around a golf course or drinking rum wasn’t a problem.

A 30-minute drive from the island (it’s only 22 miles long and 12 miles wide), we reached Apes Hill. Located approximately 1,000 feet above sea level, it is the highest golf course and community in Barbados, and in fact it is only 3 km from the highest point on the island – Mount Hillaby. The elevation means that Apes Hill offers fantastic views over the beautiful Scotland region and towards the sand dunes on the east coast of Barbados.

Ibis Hill Villa

(Image credit: Ibbs Hill)

We were staying in one of the newest properties built at Apes Hill – a luxury villa alongside the par-5 18th hole. The properties throughout Apes Hill are incredibly stylish and luxurious and there is more to come – the developments are scheduled to be completed by The year is 2025 and there are still opportunities for those lucky enough to have the means to get a “bolt hole” in this instead. A very unique and attractive community.

The course at Apes Hill was redesigned by the late Ron Kirby. A great deal of work has gone into creating a championship 72 stroke design of great quality. The layout offers stunning views, passing through lush forests, stunning rock formations, water hazards and sprawling bunkers. It is a fantastic redesign and has clearly elevated this elevated course to the status of being considered one of the best courses in the Caribbean.

Monkey hill

(Image credit: Russell Kirk)

The greens are of exceptional quality – TifEagle’s Super Dwarf Bermuda Grass – they are incredibly true and very fast indeed. According to course supervisor Ed Baskins (a very knowledgeable and entertaining Kiwi – he took us on a tour through the forest at one point which was stunning – like visiting a botanical garden… but natural!) they would have been faster if not for the trade winds constantly blowing fresh across Course. The fairways are a drought-tolerant Zorro Zoysia grass that is difficult to establish, but when it is, it is very resilient and good for play. Sustainability is a big thing at Apes Hill, and one of the things they’re really proud of is the fact that all of the irrigation for their championship field, Level 3 field (Baby Apes – good name!) and practice facilities comes from their own 58 million gallon rainwater tank.

Jungle walk

On a walk in the woods with Ed

(Image credit: Fergus Bisset)

Back to the course – The front nine offers a solid test with a selection of interesting holes, but the design really shines on the back nine, particularly the section referred to as “Apes Hill Amen Corner”. The twelfth is a stunning par 3 descent over 200 yards long, then the 13th is a majestic par 4 where you drive between towering bearded fig trees (from which Barbados gets its name – Portuguese for bearded trees) on the left and a prominent rock formation on the left. right. With the wind blowing from the left, this was a terrifying shot. On the 14th, the hole curves from right to left and plays between huge palm trees. In the green area, the views are fantastic, as shown in the main photo above.

Monkey hill

(Image credit: Russell Kirk)

The home run is a tough one with a big challenge awaiting at 16th level 3 – there’s a lack of water and a natural cave in the back. Amazing stuff. The home hole, which plays next to our villa, is a large par 5 hole that extends towards the clubhouse. It is a highly memorable track, maintained in excellent condition. I think it could be a very good venue for a tournament, maybe a seniors event…

Speaking of which, our tour of Apes Hill was doubly enjoyable as we had a rather helpful playing partner. We’re joined by 1991 Masters champion and former world number one Ian Woosnam. He has a home in Barbados and is a regular at Apes Hill. Woosie is one of the nicest and funniest people in the game of golf and his company during our stay was more than excellent. Not only did he impress us with his prowess on the fairways (despite suffering from tennis elbow, he hit the ball 69 from the back tees) but he also doled out advice, told many stories we promised we wouldn’t print, and even had us return to his stand For a beer…what a guy!

Ian Woosnam

(Image credit: Fergus Bisset)

Woosnam spends a fair amount of time at Apes Hill, not just for the course but also for the obvious camaraderie that exists between members there – it’s a very relaxed place where people are friendly and sociable. He also goes there for the state-of-the-art performance studio and fantastic on-site rehearsal facilities. Looked after by Scottish Head Professional Jodi Addison, I have never seen such a spacious and impressive swing studio – featuring Full Swing and Putt View cam technology with pressure pads and all sorts of custom fit options to play with, it’s a golf geek’s paradise… in heaven!

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