Legendary golf course architect Ron Kirby, whose portfolio includes The Old Head Golf Links in Kinsale, has given his final stamp of approval to his most recent design at Apes Hill Barbados last month.
In a natural 475-acre setting of lush, unspoiled terrain, Apes Hill is perched on one of the highest points of Barbados – 1,000ft above sea level – resulting in stunning panoramic views over the Caribbean Sea to the west and Atlantic Ocean to the east.
Kirby’s approval followed hot on the heels of an exclusive opening to the Apes Hill Barbados members and their esteemed guests on November 1. The course has enjoyed a whirlwind first month as players highlighted its playability and variation, along with several new ‘wow-factor’ holes that enhance the bucket-list experience.
Kirby, who has collaborated with design greats such as Robert Trent Jones and Jack Nicklaus in a distinguished career, was struck by the scenery on his first visit to the site.“When I saw Apes Hill for the first time,” he said, “I saw there were hills and vistas that were just superb.
“You can see both the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean in many places. You have the elevation, so I thought all we had to do here was make sure that visitors can enjoy the time and take in those vistas; if I could get the holes to play with the vistas in the right position.
“The fun at Old Head and the fun at Apes Hill are the vistas, and you just feel like you want to get out here and enjoy it on a course that has such world-class views as the backdrop. To everyone who plays at Apes Hill, I want them to walk away and say this was a fun golf course.”
The layout has been beautifully crafted around the surrounding landscape and indigenous tropical forests, with sustainability in mind, fairways and tees have been re-laid using the more drought-tolerant Zorro Zoysia grass and the greens with TifEagle. Both surfaces will help reduce the number of sprinklers needed from approximately 1,800 to 800.
The resistance of these grasses to insects also further reduces the reliance on fertilisation and use of pesticides, with a view to eventually becoming ‘chemical-free’. Meanwhile, the construction of a reservoir that can hold up to 58 million gallons of rainwater will help fully irrigate the resort, with hundreds of trees, fruits and vegetables being planted around the property.
Playing the course for the first time since its reopening, members have been struck by a design set against breath-taking topography that separates Apes Hill from any other course in the Caribbean.
The new layout stretches to 7,002 yards, although four teeing options make it playable for all levels with the shortest at 5,034. As well as the test on the ground as the holes weave seamlessly through the island’s natural surroundings, sweeping Atlantic trade winds can dictate the difficulty of your round, bringing the shorter tee boxes into play.
While there is plenty to get excited about on the course’s outward nine – the fourth hole’s tee box is positioned on one of the highest points on the island – the excitement levels rise after the turn Notably, the run from 12 to 15 – perhaps the most popular and stunning part of the layout – that sets up a grandstand finish as players reach the course’s signature hole at 16.
Named the ‘Cave’ with a coral rock hugging the hole behind the green and water lining the right, Kirby has left an indelible mark on Caribbean golf with a par three that possesses many characteristics for which Barbados is genetically famous for.
The course finishes with another short par four at 17, followed by a monstrous downhill par five on the home hole where a gully snakes along the left-hand side and round to the back of the green. It is a high-drama finish that is befitting of top-level championship golf.
Kirby added: “I am proud to be a part of Apes Hill Barbados and I can now sit back and say it is one of mine. I can say that about 140 or 150 golf courses, but this is a special one. It is hard to find a golf course anywhere that has everything we have here at Apes Hill.”
To complement the work that has gone into Kirby’s ‘Caribbean Masterpiece’ and the championship layout, a state-of-the-art Performance Centre and floodlit driving range are due to open soon.
A family friendly short par-three course – with holes ranging from 95 to 150 yards – will open in 2023 while an additional 19th hole played to an island green – in the style of the iconic one-shotter at TPC Sawgrass – and a contemporary clubhouse are set to be completed during the first quarter of the year.
Guests will be able to enjoy a range of other amenities such as a fitness centre and health club, hiking and nature trails, eight flood-lit padel and two tennis courts, while a world-class spa is also in development.
Apes Hill Barbados has a range of luxury real-estate options available with pricing to be announced in the new year. Additionally, golf vacation properties allowing guests to stay and play are in development, with pricing to be announced in early 2023.
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