Apes Hill revival emphasises beauty of Barbados

  • Apes Hill
    Apes Hill

    The green on the par-three sixteenth at Apes Hill sits on the edge of a lake

  • Apes Hill
    Apes Hill

    The green complex on the par-three fifth has been rebuilt to expose the natural coral

  • Apes Hill
    Apes Hill

    A new green complex has been built at the par-four thirteenth

  • Apes Hill
    Apes Hill

    A view from behind the new first green towards the Caribbean Sea

  • Apes Hill
    Apes Hill

    Nine holes are expected to open this year and the full eighteen in early 2022

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

The golf course at Apes Hill Club in Barbados is undergoing a renovation by golf course architect Ron Kirby, with nine holes expected to open this year and the full eighteen in early 2022.

The golf course first opened in 2008, part of a development by Landmark Land Company on an old sugar plantation close to the island’s highest point. It closed in 2017 before the club and residential community was bought in 2019 by Glenn Chamandy, founder of Montreal-based clothing firm Gildan Activewear. A reported $60 million investment followed, half of which would be spent on the golf course, and renovation work began in late 2019.

Roddy Carr, who is coordinating the golf project, said: “The key focus is to make golf at Apes Hill the most enjoyable golfing experience in the Caribbean. This means softening the golf course considerably by reducing the slopes on greens, eliminating unplayable bunkers and accentuating all the natural assets of the 450-acre site. This includes spectacular unique vistas over Barbados’s wild Atlantic east coast; deep, winding gullies that wind their way through the golf course that are filled with monkeys and tropical wildlife and plants; beautiful natural coral rock formations; and being able to see both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea on several holes.

“The goal was to get a minimum of 10 ‘wow’ holes from the finished product, which I believe we will accomplish. There will also be over 15 acres of farm produce growing in ‘out of play pockets’ around the golf course. This fits with our farm-totable agenda and supports the 50-acre farm which we shall also be adding.”

Apes Hill’s redesigned par three holes – the fifth, eighth, twelfth and sixteenth – are expected to make a big impact. There has been substantial clearance of vegetation on the fifth, with a green site set among ledges of exposed rock, and the twelfth, which now has clear views of both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

“We were very careful with the design to focus on reducing the footprint of the grasses that need full maintenance, water and fertilisers,” said Kirby. “Using the latest technology for irrigation, we have been able to reduce the number of sprinkler heads on the course by 56 per cent and the new Zoysia Zorro grass we planted needs less water. These factors have helped us to significantly reduce the overall volume of water and chemicals that will be required in the maintenance of the course.”

There has also been a substantial decrease in the number of bunkers on the course, from over 100 before work began to fewer than 50.

Agronomist and superintendent Ed Paskins, who has been on the island for the past 20 years, has assisted Kirby along with a local team of contractors, and shapers Justin Carlton and Gary Shapiro. The irrigation team includes contractor Aqua Turf International and consultant Rain Bird.

The project will also introduce a new nineteenth hole in front of the clubhouse, inspired by the island-green seventeenth at TPC Sawgrass. There will also be a new par-three course, a Titleist Performance Institute, a golf performance and teaching centre and a swing biomechanics analysis bay.

This article first appeared in the April 2021 issue of Golf Course Architecture. For a printed subscription or free digital edition, please visit our subscriptions page.