More British people travel to Barbados than to any other Caribbean island, they like to think of Barbados as "Little England." In fact during World War Two the Leader of the Barbados Labour party Grantley Adams sent a telegram to King George V1 saying: ďGo on England, Little England is behind you.Ē
This small beautiful island in the Caribbean is about to take centre stage to one of the most intriguing family feuds of recent times and golfers around the world are watching in anticipation, because no matter the outcome, golf will be the winner.
Royal Westmoreland is about to become the only resort in the world where Robert Trent Jones Jnr and his brother and nemesis Rees Jones go head to head in golf course design. In a recent interview given to Barbados Sports magazine, Rees stated: ďThis is the first time myself and Robert will have designed courses that are on the same resort, which is something I am looking forward toĒ.
To be fair to Robert, he didnít know John Morphett, the proprietor of Royal Westmoreland, was planning to bring in Rees to design another 18 hole course.
The land that John has recently acquired brings the total estate up to 750 acres and John has some amazing plans to complement the already stunning Royal Westmoreland golf course and resort, including a 100 room hotel, restoration of an old sugar refinery, complete with the original slave bell, into apartments, along with the new 18 hole track.
It wonít be long after Rees has completed the new layout, that I can see Robert knocking on Johnís door, wanting to make some tweaks here and there to the original track.
The elevated 4th teeThe amphitheater at the 6thThe tough par 3 15th
Thatís not to say the existing 18 holes have anything wrong with them, Ian Woosnam who is a resident here along with a catalogue of other top sports stars and celebrity owners, states: ďItís the best collection of par 3s I have ever seen on one courseĒ, and I must admit I have to agree with the former Masters champion and Ryder cup captain, there is not a weak design among them.
With carries over ravines and coral rock they are stunning and I am still not sure what is my favourite among them, with the 3rd and 15th just piping the 7th and 12th.
But my favourite hole is the 6th - a very short par 4 dogleg left, of only 335 yards, where you aim your tee shot at the coral rock face, left side of the fairway, leaving just a little wedge in to a green that is surrounded by the same coral rock face. Itís like a little amphitheatre and an amazingly beautiful little hole.
The 10this an awesome driving hole from an elevated tee, with a ravine running down the left hand side. But the best, as they say, has to be saved until last and the 461 yard par 4 18th is probably one of the most spectacular finishing holes anywhere. From an elevated tee looking out to the Caribbean the fairway rolls away and down hill on this slight dog leg right. Itís a great driving hole and if you catch the right part of the fairway you can leave yourself with just a wedge in, if not youíre looking at hitting a 4/5 iron in to a tight green protected by a coral rock face and a nice 50/60 foot drop, with the clubhouse behind.
I used to think there is no better way to finish a round of golf than a nice chilled beer with friends or when on a golfing holiday in a beautiful clubhouse with fantastic views of the course you have just played. But that long held belief has taken a bit of a dent since I was in Barbados. Both Royal Westmoreland and the Sandy Lane hotel asked us to try full body and foot massages after playing. Now I really do love a beer after playing, and like many golfers I will admit to a history of back pain, but the hands of the masseuse revitalising my tired back, limbs and feet, is a feeling beyond that cool well earned beer slipping past my parched lips. I now understand why my partner loves it and sneaks off for pampering every now and again, and why the tour players have them booked after each dayís play. They really do make you feel like new, revitalised and looking forward to the next dayís golf and are something every golfer should try.
The Green Monkey
The Green Monkey comes with a great reputation, people around the island speak about this Tom Fazio design with reverence, so will this very exclusive track live up to its reputation or is it all hype because so few get the opportunity to play here? I was invited along to find out for itself. From the very moment you step into the award winning clubhouse with its views out onto the west coast of Barbados and the Caribbean sea beyond, you can see why Tiger Woods chose this location for his wedding reception.
I walk to the pro shop and sign in, and the pro announces to everyone whoís in ear shot, so youíre playing the Green Monkey today sir, you are in for a treat itís a fantastic course, everyone in the shop looks around with envy. I am beginning to feel the pressure myself, hoping my game is going to be up to it as I hear myself stating I will be playing off the Masters tees, when asked what tees I will be playing from.
I am introduced to Sean my caddie and I am off pretty sharpish, more from wanting to collect my thoughts than from excitement. I step on to the first tee which looks in better condition than some greens I have played on. It is at this point that you realise why people talk about this track with reverence, I am not sure I could find a blade of grass out of place if I tried. My caddie advises me to aim down the left side of the fairway and that my target should be a tree in the left hand rough. I duly oblige and I am in the middle of the fairway.
I have 165 yards to go and I am thinking 7 iron and Sean is telling me to hit an easy 8 iron. I win the argument and my third shot is from the back rough as I have airmailed the green. Note to self - listen to the caddie, thatís why heís there.
The 12th plays along a quarryThe Beautiful 15th holePar 3 Signature hole
Sean turns out to be a great reader of greens, after the first I have learnt my lesson, even when standing over half my putts thinking, are you sure thatís going to be slow and from the right, to me thatís fast and from the left. As I roll another putt in on the exact line he gives me, I wonder how I doubted him.
The course had been designed around an old quarry and Fazio has used the exposed coral and stone to great effect. The 16th is the signature hole and itís a great hole to play, from the back tees itís a 3 wood down into the quarry its self, with the quarry walls and a pond framing the green. Its not until you get down to the green you realise just how big it really is.
My personal favourites were the 3rd, which is a 423 yard par 4 with a tough second shot to a raised green protected by coral stone with a 40-foot drop in front. The 8th is another great 198 yard par 3, uphill over a ravine. The 9th is a long 635 yard par 5 from a very high tee looking down on to a perfect fairway.
But be careful to concentrate and not let your eyes and mind wander to much out to the spectacular views of the sea, Bobby Jones once said to stop and smell the flowers. There are not only flowers here but the fantastic views. As you walk off the 18th and make it back to the clubhouse to enjoy a cold beer or the aforementioned massage, you can truly say you have played one of the best courses in the Caribbean.
The Country Club
The country club that shares the same club house as the Green Monkey is a combination of nine holes from the original Sandy Lane golf club and nine new holes designed by Tom Fazio. The new front nine gives golfers plenty of room, with wide immaculate fairways, and the different tees will give golfers of all abilities a great test. As you would expect, the original nine holes on this track are well bedded in and offer some challenges and a run of holes from 14th Ė 18th do not have a par 4 among them.
With the new courses coming online Barbados is about to become a great golf destination and if you head over there in the low season there are some great deals to be had . From January 2012 you will be able to decide for yourself whether youíre a Robert or a Rees fan. I for one canít wait.