One of the few positive things to come out of the COVID pandemic has been the growth of golf which had been in decline around the world for several years prior to 2019. There is a new appreciation for how pleasant it is to be out in the fresh air, socially distanced and having fun with friends and extended family for a simple round of golf. The game has seen a surge in 2020/2021 of over 20% worldwide. Women’s golf has grown by 16% and a much younger demographic has emerged and started to play golf.

In Barbados we are blessed with an abundance of world class courses. Sandy Lane with its 45 holes designed by Tom Fazio, Royal Westmoreland’s 18 holes designed by Robert Trent Jones Jnr, the 9 holes at Rockley, Barbados Golf Club 18 holes, the Home of Golf in Barbados, and the newly renovated Apes Hill golf course with 18 holes and a new 9 hole floodlit Par 3 course designed by the legendary designer Ron Kirby. In addition a new state of the art Performance & Teaching Centre at Apes Hill will be the first in the Caribbean.

Barbados is also enjoying this growth trend with 22% more round being played by locals as well an upsurge in visitors taking advantage of the ideal golfing weather year round as tourists return to this tropical island in their droves. The beauty of Barbados for visitors is being able to travel freely and safely around the island where the people are friendly and very COVID protocol conscious, compared to other top golf destinations in the Caribbean where visitors stay ‘on the compound’ of the resorts.

I have been lucky over the last two years to be part of a world class team assembled by the saviour investor of Apes Hill, Glenn Chamandy of Gildan fame, to undertake the extreme makeover renovation of the resort community.

The 450 acre site situated on the highest section of the Island has spectacular views over the Caribbean Sea on the west coast and panoramic vistas over St. Andrew and the Scotland district on the wild Atlantic east coast. The course is weaved between 12 km’s of deep indigenous gullies that are full of flora and fauna with coral caves highlighting the uniqueness of the site. The views over the Atlantic Ocean & Caribbean Sea on three holes are stunning.

 Some of the oldest and most magnificent Bearded Fig trees are a prominent feature along with coral rock formations and coral caves bordering some of the holes.  The Bearded Fig tree is of historical significance as it is how Barbados derived its name from the Portuguese settlers.  Los Barbados, ‘the Bearded One’ they named the Island. The Island was covered with these Bearded Fig trees until the early settlers implemented a ‘slash and burn’ policy after 1627 to clear the way for the planting of sugar cane. As a consequence Barbados was the richest colony of the ‘empire’ thanks to the sugar cane production. The sugar cane industry resulted in a railway line being built on the Island in the late 1883 from the Bridgetown Port to St. Andrew via Bathsheba.

It was fascinating to learn from a Cultural and Heritage study undertaken by Dr, Kerry Hall on the Apes Hill site, that Barbados is 700,000 years old and that the formation of the Island as the most easterly and only non-volcanic of the Lesser Antilles makes it unique in the Caribbean.

The trade winds blowing uninterrupted across the Atlantic Ocean resulted in the seaside town of Bathsheba on the east coast being regarded as one of the healthiest places in the Western Hemisphere and was at one time the centre of health tourism. George Washington came to Barbados with his half-brother Lawrence for health reasons in 1751. This led to the now famous George Washington mansion being built in 1761 beside the Garrison on the South Coast.

Back then the now ‘Platinum’ West Coast was a mosquito infested tropical costal swamp full of mangroves that was not suitable for tourism……how times have changed!

Great care was taken by Ron Kirby with the golf course renovation at Apes Hill to focus on and highlight all these natural indigenous assets to provide the most memorable golfing experience in the Caribbean.

The fifty acre farm that is part of the community will provide farm to table food that is all part of creating a healthy active lifestyle with golf, tennis, paddle tennis, swimming, fitness, fishing, spa and 12 km’s of gully walks among nature. It will be a place where like-minded people and families can live and have fun together in our post COVID world.

As I tell my friends having lived here over the course of several decades and with a Bajan daughter, Barbados is one of the best places in the world to live among a people that are warm, welcoming, educated and friendly.