Why Apes Hill’s ‘Caribbean Masterpiece’ Is Becoming One Of The Most Talked-about Golf Courses In The World

After reopening to critical acclaim in late 2022, Ron Kirby’s new design has been earning rave reviews… and for good reason!

The 16th hole at Apes Hill
The signature par-3 16th, named the ‘Cave’ hole, features a long carry over water
(Image credit: Apes Hill)

Positioned 1,000 feet above sea level, Apes Hill Barbados – designed by Ron Kirby – has quickly built a reputation as a bucket-list venue for all golfers.

We say ‘all’, because with four teeing options ranging from a little over 5,000 yards to 7,000, the layout aims to welcome an eclectic mix of golfers: from passionate beginners to seasoned veterans.

Laid out on an enviable and enriching stretch of land – much like another Kirby classic some 4,000 miles across the Atlantic at Ireland’s Old Head – the layout is surrounded by ancient coral rock formations, streams and gullies along with some dramatic changes in elevation.

“When I saw Apes Hill for the first time, I saw there were vistas that were just superb,” Kirby says.

“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.”

Apes Hill golf course photo

The beautifully framed green on the par-3 5th hole

(Image credit: Apes Hill)

It was 2019 when Kirby first started work on reimagining Apes Hill into the wonder he has created today. After being commissioned by owner and Canadian investor Glenn Chamandy - whose own aim is to redefine Apes Hill as a luxury retreat with a number of key developments over the following 12 months – Kirby identified a number of key changes to the original design that first opened in 2006, with playability at the forefront of his strategy.

The thinking was simple: why build a golf course for only the best players to enjoy when everyone should be able to sample the delights of his ‘Caribbean Masterpiece?’

“We put four tee boxes in so that we could cover all types of players,” Kirby said. “From those who can strike it pure to the average golfer and then beginners.

“To everyone who plays at Apes Hill, I want them to walk away and say this was a fun golf course.”

Some more subtle changes would follow, crafting the layout with respect for the area’s natural surroundings with sustainability at its heart. The course uses an environmentally friendly grass that cuts back on water waste. What water is needed for the turf is natural rainwater housed in a 58-million-gallon reservoir. The new-look layout reopened to members and their guests last November, with Apes Hill transformed into a wow-a-minute feast for all.

Apes Hill golf course pictured

Ron Kirby has crafted the second hole into a risk-reward par 4 that tempts players to attack the green 

(Image credit: Apes Hill)

After a gentle opening designed to ease players into their rounds with a thrilling risk-reward, drivable par four at the second hole, the layout serves up a stunning run of vistas with views out and over the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

While there is plenty to get excited about on the course’s outward nine – with the fourth hole and its tee box positioned on one of the highest points of the course - the inward half delivers great excitement. Notably, the run from 12 to 15 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.

Off the course, a new state-of-the-art Performance Centre opened in January under the watchful eye of Tim Cutshall – a man who has built a reputation as the best in the business for designing hi- specification teaching facilities.

Apes Hill performance center

Apes Hill’s world-class Performance Centre opened in January

(Image credit: Apes Hill)

Meanwhile, a short par-three course will be ready for play later this year, along with an island-style 19th hole – ideal for settling scores left over from your round on the championship layout – while a modern and contemporary clubhouse is close to completion.

Stay-and-play villa rentals will be available from late 2023. The resort, when complete, will also encompass a new racquet centre with traditional and padel courts, a health club, spa and jogging and nature trails.

But at Apes Hill’s heart lies Kirby’s Caribbean Masterpiece. It is hard to imagine a finer spot for a round of golf.

Elliott Heath
Senior Staff Writer

Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Elliott has interviewed some huge names in the golf world including Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Bernd Wiesberger and Scotty Cameron as well as a number of professionals on the DP World and PGA Tours. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-6. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max

Hybrid: TaylorMade SIM Max

Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x