Ron Kirby’s Parting Gift: Apes Hill Golf Club in Barbados

There’s a common misconception about Caribbean golf, and it’s that all the golf courses in the turquoise waters region are good.

They are not.

Most of them are pretty, but not always in excellent shape. In fact, sometimes Caribbean golf is disappointing. Saltwater is hard on golf courses—it dries out root systems and it beats up maintenance equipment. And in Barbados, it’s harder to get mower replacement parts than mainland USA.

Yes, there’s a daily shower to water the flowers and the sun shines year-round, but if climate were the only factor for quality golf courses, then all the courses between Atlanta and Charleston would look like Augusta National—they do not. The world’s best golf destinations are a mix of beautiful setting, smart design and perhaps the most important factor—everlasting and relentless maintenance.

Apes Hill Golf Club in Barbados

Caribbean golf course maintenance crews overcome unique challenges that should be recognized and celebrated. Imagine for a moment that every mower, ball washer and water cooler in Barbados has to make a four-hour flight from Miami or brave the sea aboard a freighter. There isn’t a Home Depot with an aisle of blowers and edgers in Barbados’ capital city of Bridgetown. It takes a high-level commitment to build and maintain a beautiful golf course in the Caribbean and that’s what the folks at Apes Hill Barbados are doing.

Apes Hill ambassador Ian Woosnam knows what goes into the magic at Augusta National—he was fitted for a green jacket in 1991. Affectionately known as “Woosie”, he will host a PGA Tour Champions event at Apes Hill this May.

“It is an honor to welcome the Legends Tour to Barbados and an even greater honor to host an event at Apes Hill Barbados as an ambassador for the resort,” says Ian Woosnam, a former World No. 1. “It will be great to welcome the guys back to Barbados. The course is simply breathtaking, serving up a series of stunning holes with views over the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Knowing many of the players on the Tour, I can say firsthand how much they will love the course and it promises to be one of the most anticipated tournaments on the Legends Tour schedule for 2024.”

Replica golf holes are hard to pull off, but Sawgrass is alive and well in Barbados

The only way to play the Ron Kirby golf course, its TPC Sawgrass No. 17 island replica 19th hole and Little Apes 9-hole short course, and fine tune the golf swing at the Performance Centre is to stay at Apes Hill. Its three- and four-bedroom villas with swimming pools start at around $800 a night and are large enough to host a group or family. There are four other golf courses on the island of Barbados—including Sandy Lane, infamous for the Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren wedding and subsequently defunct marriage. From its elevated perch, The Noisy Cricket restaurant and bar offers the best ocean views on the property. And for the non-golfer or golfer taking a day off, there are tropical hiking trails, tennis courts, padel courts and a fitness center with yoga and other group exercise classes.

Barbados is a small, cozy island—just 21 miles/34 kilometers long and 14 miles/23 kilometers wide. Caribbean golf is otherwise dominated by the Dominican Republic and Mexico, but this little piece of paradise now has four of the top-ranked golf courses in the region and is officially a burgeoning global golf destination. The Apes Hill Championship Course is the last design from Ron Kirby, also responsible for the legendary Old Head in Ireland. He passed in August of 2023 at the age of 90 while working on a project in Denmark. And while the Barbados golf love story is just getting started—Kirby’s contribution there with “Woosie” carrying the torch, will live forever.


All photos for this story were captured by Russell Kirk







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