The e(xc)lusive Green Monkey
Queen Elizabeth II, Elton John and Oprah Winfrey have all signed Sandy Lane Resort’s guest book. So too have Bill Gates and Michael Jordan, along with a host of other entertainers, politicians and sports celebrities.
By Rick Young
But did anyone in that group of the rich and famous sign a scorecard? Did scheduling allow them time for a round on the Green Monkey, the 18 holes of the Country Club course or the legendary Old Nine? If not, their Sandy Lane sojourn didn’t check every box. Just playing the Green Monkey alone is a more than four-hour adventure that blasts the stigma of cookie-cutter resort course boredom into gleeful oblivion.
One could say the same for the property itself.
To do that in lockstep with the accommodation and amenities, golf needed to be addressed. Charming as the original 18-hole Sandy Lane Golf Club was, the new owners knew two things: It didn’t have nearly enough product to befit a premiere destination profile; and it didn’t align with the exclusivity level of the resort’s nearly half-billion dollar makeover. A major upgrade and expansion were required.
The visionary American golf land artist Tom Fazio used the owners’ open-wallet approach to construct the Green Monkey, at the time (2000) one of the most expensive golf-course projects ever undertaken, at a reported $25 million.
“It afforded me a chance to push creativity to the limits on a challenging site,” Fazio has said about the Green Monkey, named for an African species that was brought to Barbados centuries ago. “Quarry settings can be dramatic, but you have to be mindful that the visuals only complement the golf.”
Perhaps, but it is near impossible for those backdrops not to be top of mind on the ultra-exclusive 72-par, 7,343-yard course.
For the first eight holes, Fazio settles us in with a beautiful set of more traditional holes that require fine play and almost every club in our golf bags. But this is just the preliminary to the main event. Starting at the ninth hole, the Green Monkey cascades down into a former abandoned quarry setting with near 30-foot coral walls. Textures and colours are as striking as they are memorable. To his credit, Fazio does his best to keep golfers focused with a captivating routing, well-considered green complexes and vivid design.
For some, playing the 226-yard 16th hole alone might well justify the near $400 greens fee. One of the world’s more stunning par threes, Fazio has put an exclamation point on the hole with a Green Monkey-shaped island in the middle of a mammoth front bunker. Truly, it’s a photo op in waiting.
From quarries to ocean views
Ocean vistas take the place of coral walls on Sandy Lane’s Country Club course. Making full use of nine holes from the original golf course, Fazio added a second 18-hole venue to the resort’s inventory, highlighting a more traditional 7,060-yard setting that takes full advantage of the gentler, but still captivating, land form. Forget cookie-cutter. Bunker and green complexes on the Country Club are as intriguing as they are challenging. And the expansive 450-yard driving range with two-sided north and south tees offer practice-makes-perfect chances to beat the trade winds.
The other nine holes from that classic first course have been put to great use by Fazio in re-fashioning the Old Nine—today, a spirited 3,345-yard, par-36 experience for those who want less golf and more time for other Sandy Lane amenities.
Together, Sandy Lane’s 45 holes are world class. Each course promises its own unique experience, without even a hint of duplication. For golfers, that alone is paradise.
Award-winning golf writer/author Rick Young is one of Canada’s most trusted voices on golf and matters related to the golf industry. A founding member of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada, Young’s articles have appeared in publications throughout North America.