Apes Hill – The Second Time Around

This may have happened to you before, as it certainly has to me: you play a golf course for the first time and (often depending on the score you achieved) you love it.  It becomes a permanent and pleasant memory in your brain, and you rave about the course to all your friends.

Then you visit again, several weeks or months or even years after your first time.  This time around, it doesn’t seem so memorable.   In fact, you’re almost embarrassed at your previous ecstasy.  I can think of a few courses that have fallen into that category for me… although again, in their defense, chances are I didn’t score so well on the mulligan visit.

Well, I’m happy to say that the sophomore jinx did NOT occur last week, as I was fortunate to play Apes Hill Golf Club in sunny Barbados, for the second time.  My first visit occurred three years ago.   I raved about it then (here’s the first article – On Top of Barbados), and I’m raving about it now.

There are several factors that go into making a golf course terrific.  Obviously, the variety and design of the holes is probably the paramount criterion… and in the case of Apes Hill, the design was the impressive result of collaboration between Chris Cole and Jeff Potts.  No, I haven’t heard of them either… which makes their achievement all the more remarkable… somewhat like Jack Neville and Douglas Grant, two fine amateur players who had never designed a golf course before tackling their first and only project – Pebble Beach, in 1919.  A perfunctory Google search on this new pair indicates that Apes Hill has so far been their only opportunity… although that’s not surprising, given the state of the economy and the downturn in the golf design business since Apes opened in 2009.

You can really only judge a course’s design by playing it, but to get a better idea of what I’m talking about here, I urge you to go through the hole-by-hole photos, which you can find (here)

Two other important criteria for judging a course are, of course, its conditioning, and the surrounding scenery.  In the first instance, the course is maintained immaculately, and while the greens are not lightning fast, that’s a blessing because they’re very challenging from a topographical perspective.  As for the views, well, I can’t imagine that anyone would not rank this course in their personal Top Ten for its jaw-dropping vistas alone.

The only negative about Apes Hill that I would offer, certainly to Canadian visitors, is the very steep greens fee.  Because it is not a public course per se, not trying to attract a horde of visitors, the Club keeps its tariff high, and its available tee times scarce.  The fee is US$280 per person, which this week translates to over C$400… not a problem if Daddy left you a fortune, but a deterrent even if you drive a Tesla.  I don’t know whether that’s a negotiable fee, but I suppose you can always try.  Perhaps you can take a stab at tugging at the patriotic heartstrings of Roger Beale, the Head Professional at Apes Hill, and as luck would have it, a fellow Canadian.

Since my first visit, a few more houses have appeared alongside the fairways here, a good sign of a better economy.  But this will never be a Florida-type development where you dogleg around the backyard pools and lanais.  It’s very high-end, a residential golf and polo community conceived, founded and nurtured by one of Barbados’ most prominent citizens, entrepreneur and developer Sir Charles Williams.

That high end will soon become higher, too, with the opening of a new clubhouse later this year.  Gorgeous as it looks, the artists’ rendering doesn’t provide the panorama of the Caribbean that will extend beyond the pool, and basically, forever.

Hopefully, I’ll get another a chance to come and see the Country Club (as they call it) once it’s done, and revisit the course.  I may have to come up with creative new names to secure the invitation… like Arnold Nicklaus or Gary Trevino… or maybe Ronald Trump…

But if Visit Two was any indication, Visit Three will be out of this world.


Jim Deeks
Jim Deeks has been writing for Fairways for over a dozen years. He is a former Executive Director of the Canadian Open and Canadians Skins Game, and currently the Executive Producer of CANADA FILES on PBS.

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