The Renovation of Apes Hill Golf Course by Ron Kirby.

In his 1936 book, Bobby Jones on Golf, Jones writes on the subject of golf architecture: “It is the business of the designers and builders of golf courses to discover and to utilise the features that make the superior course more enjoyable. It seems to me that in an effort to construct an exacting course that will thwart the expert, the average golfer who pays the bills is entirely overlooked. The first purpose of any golf course should be to give pleasure, and that to the greatest number of players, without respect to their capabilities”.

Renovation = make it the best it can be.

This wise philosophy from Jones was the cornerstone of our approach for the renovation of Apes Hill.

Strategy & Approach

The design brief’s stated objectives were: i) ‘to make Apes Hill the most spectacular and memorable golfing experience in the Caribbean and ii) have a minimum of nine ‘wow’ holes that use all of the natural assets from this unique site to take your breath away.

These include: deep tropical gullies, coral rock formations, 200-year old, 100-foot bearded fig trees, an abundance of monkeys living in tropical forestation and, above all, the stunning vistas of the two oceans – and especially over the wild Atlantic east coast, seen by too few visitors to Barbados.

To undertake the task, we brought in Ron Kirby, one of the world’s most experienced golf architects, famous for his design of the Old Head in Ireland.

Our second key appointment was the best ‘shaper’ available – the artist who would use a bulldozer as his paintbrush to change the landscape and realise the vision of Ron’s sketches. Justin Carlton filled that role. Many bunkers have been removed and all greens complexes softened. Tees, fairways and greens will be planted with new more environmentally friendly grasses.

Get a taste of the approach taken and a sketch of what awaits you when the course opens in November 2021 below.

Hole 2
Hole 4
Hole 6
Hole 8
Hole 10
Hole 11
Hole 14
Hole 15
Hole 18

Hole 2

Previously played long at 190 yards into the wind, it was a very difficult Par 3 and no fun for the handicap player.

Converting this picture postcard hole to a high-risk, high-reward drivable par 4 makes it fun and challenging early in the round – for both the expert and average golfer.

The ‘creek’ left now plays a more formidable role in the strategy.

Hole 4

The elevated 4th tee gives a sneak preview of the true personality of the spectacular Apes Hill course and what is to come.

One of the oldest bearded fig trees in Barbados sits in the deep gully to the right of the tee.

With extensive clearing, the green is now visible from the tee, presenting a formidable journey through the rolling hillsides and bordering pastures.

Native coral rock has been exposed to bring more drama to the scene.

Hole 6

The key here was to frame the hole against the first view of the beautiful Caribbean Sea.

To do this the tees were moved to the north and the hole shortened to a par 4.

The green is now visible from the tee and the second shot is to a green set against the backdrop of the Caribbean Sea.

Hole 6 is now a downwind par 4, but still a formidable challenge.

Hole 8

This hole from the old elevated tees provided a stunning view but was steeply downhill and down wind.

The new tees to the left of the 7th green provide a completely different aspect to the hole, which will now play at 166 yards with the prevailing wind from the right.

It is a far superior hole strategically to a challenging left-side pin, with a generous bail out area to the right.

The view over the Caribbean sea remains uninterrupted.

Hole 10

Similar to the first hole, 10 was a long uphill slog into the breeze.

The hole is now shortened, and the fairway turned towards the green, which is shaped into the left-hand hillside.

This now provides a ‘breather’ after the challenging par-5 9th hole over the lake, before heading to the wild east coast side of the course for holes 12-15.

Hole 11

This hole was a good example of the problems we found at Apes Hill – too many deep and high faced bunkers (107 in total) completely surrounding the green.

The second shot was partially blind and this was rectified by moving the green slightly to the right and adding a right plateau to the green, which is now clearly visible for the shot.

The left side of the fairway has been softened to make it more playable.

Hole 14

This hole, set between a multitude of royal palms overlooking the east coast, is one of the most handsome on the course.

The fairway on the right-side landing area was raised to provide a better visual for the second shot.

A big ‘cut’ in front of the green has eliminated the blind second shot and the green has been raised to present a challenging target.

Hole 15

Coming off the spectacular vistas of the east coast from holes 12,13 and 14, we were determined to continue the visual experience.

The new tees sit to the east on a rock base at the edge of a deep gully overlooking the island’s east coast.

The new green sits elevated to the west and is visible from the tee.

The blind second shot to the previously sunken green has been eliminated by this work.

Hole 18

This hole has been transformed to a classic, high-risk, high-reward reachable par 5 for long hitters.

The new island-style green is set between two deep gullies, with rock formations on the left side.

It is a hole you will not forget.

Meet Apes Hill golf course architect Ron Kirby