Golf Travel to Ras Al Khaimah: An Emirate full of interesting surprises

The Al Hamra Golf Club is hosting a DP World Tour tournament for the third time. After the first two tournaments in Dubai, the European Tour is making a stop in the northernmost of the seven Emirates as part of the International Swing, which is being organised for the first time this year. We make our way there and land in Dubai in less than six hours, and from there, we continue northwards by car in just under an hour.  

Impressive architecture in a style typical of the country

Everything here is more tranquil than in the neighbouring Emirate of Dubai. No skyscrapers dominate the skyline, instead more normal sized buildings. One of the few exceptions is the five-star luxury hotel Waldorf Astoria, built in 2013 in the shape of an Arabian palace, which can be seen from afar.

An architectural masterpiece. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

An extensive renovation of the hotel, part of the Hilton Group, was completed just in time for the tournament. Several areas, including some new ones, now shine in new splendour. Its tastefully furnished 203 rooms and suites offer plenty of space and views of the sea or the golf course.

Imposing reception area and impressive lobby. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Our welcome at the hotel is extremely warm. As soon as we enter the lobby, we are overwhelmed by the magnificence and opulence of the palace and the hospitality of the staff. In the centre of the lobby sits a remarkable giant clock, a trademark apparently of every Waldorf Astoria hotel. 

Our room is decorated in subtle colours whilst the bathroom, on the other hand, is a different story altogether with its black marble and golden mosaics. From the box seats on the terrace of our extensive room on the 7th floor, we enjoy a panoramic view of the second and third holes of the Al Hamra golf championship course.

King Premier Golf Course View Room. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Tournament with strong German participants

As accredited representatives of the press, we are up close and personal for the two final rounds of the tournament. Although admission is free, the reasonable number of spectators  allows us to experience the golf professionals up close. The winner of the tournament is the Dane Thorbjørn Olesen, who prevails over his compatriot Rasmus Højgaard with a sensational 27 under par and is the proud recipient of the winner’s trophy. We follow these two and Frenchman Frederic Lacroix in the last flight on the final day from the start and are repeatedly impressed by the incredible length of their shots. 

Olesen goes into the final round with a four-shot lead over Højgaard. He halved this lead on the second hole with an unexpected double bogey. At the eighth hole, both are level on 22 under par when the preliminary decision of the tournament is made. Højgaard misses his tee shot and makes an unexpected bogey on the par 5. Olesen, on the other hand, bangs his second shot next to the flag and holes out for an eagle. Out of the blue, he is three up again. Højgaard never recovers from this and finishes the tournament six shots behind his direct rival.  

Beaming winner and enthusiastic volunteers. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Five of the German professionals make the cut. Max Kieffer and Yannik Paul played outstanding final rounds of six and four under par respectively and shared a fantastic fourth place with three other players on 17 under par. Marcel Siem manages an eagle on the final hole, which catapults him up to tied 37th place, where Freddy Schott also finishes. Max Rottluff is tied 59th.

Golf Travel: A sporting challenge for all HCP classes

We play the par 72 course, designed by the internationally recognised golf course architect Peter Harradine, on the days following the tournament and can now see for ourselves what a great achievement the professionals have accomplished. Whilst they had 7,400 yards (the longest course in the UAE) to cover, we have 6,703 from the white tees and 5,815 from the red tees. Indeed five different tees offer a suitable challenge for every skill level.

The mostly flat course, which was established in 2007, continues to be in sensational condition during our rounds and everything is top-notch and well maintained. This makes golfing fun. The course is run by Troon Golf, a company that stands for top quality. We encounter wide fairways, huge bunkers and large, firm and fast greens.

Unsurprisingly, there is plenty of sand on a course surrounded by desert. A total of five million cubic metres were moved to build the course. The fine powder in the bunkers, next to the fairways and in the numerous waste areas makes playing from these a real challenge. The neighbouring development with mostly two-storey buildings in the typical local style is discreet and at a sufficient distance from the fairways.

Sand to the max. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The routing runs through four interconnected lagoons in the Arabian Gulf, which often come into play. This is the case for the first time on the third hole. On the right-hand dogleg par 5, the tee shot has to be played over the damp water, as does the shot into the green. For us, this hole is one of the most beautiful, also because it offers a great view of the Waldorf Astoria.

A rocky road to the green of hole 3. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The other holes are mostly dead straight and allow for a good score.We also like the tenth, where we have to place our shots into the green perfectly over a frontal water hazard and a bunker behind it.

Attention at hole 10. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The 18th hole is the crowning glory of the round. The 576-yard, par 5 is accompanied by the bright blue waters of the lagoon over the entire right-hand side. The opposite side is lined with trees that reach right up to the huge bunker in front of the green. The slightly elevated green, which rises towards the back, allows an aggressive attack that can be rewarded with a birdie or at least a par.

Full concentration at the final hole. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Afterwards, we enjoy a refreshing beer on the terrace of the clubhouse. The building’s normality is impressive and it doesn’t stand out due to its size or unusual architecture.

Our evening round under floodlights is an interesting experience, even if it is not easy for us to get used to the unfamiliar circumstances at first.

Nightgolf – a special experience. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The Al Hamra Golf Club attaches great importance to sustainability. It is the first golf club in the Middle East to be run completely plastic-free. It sets a new standard in this respect and thus contributes to the global environmental protection initiative.

Records by the dozen

After our laps, we enjoy the hotel’s own stretch of beach and the adults-only Sunset Beach Lounge with infinity pool. A promenade is being built between the beach and the hotel complex, connecting the neighbouring hotels and inviting walkers and joggers. From here, it will be even easier to watch an absolute highlight along the coast. Stretching for more than 4.5 kilometres, Ras Al Khaimah’s famous New Year’s Eve Fireworks displays have achieved several Guiness World Record titles for five consecutive years.

Like everything else in the hotel, there is plenty of space in the two pool areas and on the beach. The sun loungers and parasols are generously placed apart from each other and offer plenty of privacy. Everything here is also extremely well maintained and of a top standard.

Top culinary delights too

The Waldorf Astoria Hotel has eight restaurants, bars and lounges. The elegant Lexington Grill & Bar offers the finest Wagyu dry-aged steaks and seafood, the UMI serves Japanese delicacies, the brand new Azure serves Mediterranean dishes and the Beach Club Lounge has a little bit of everything. Everywhere we go, we encounter high quality, although this comes at a price, higher than what we are used to in Germany.

The attentiveness , friendliness and politeness of the entire staff is striking. We quickly become accustomed used to their constant smiles and the reserved, warm demeanour, which we would not want to miss. 

Plenty of adrenaline on a ride into the depths

Another world record is held by the Jais Flight zipline on the nearby Jebel Jais in the Hajar Mountains. From the start at a height of just under 1,680 meters, you can plunge headfirst into the depths for almost three minutes at a top speed of up to 160 km per hour. With a length of more than 2.8 kilometres, it is the longest of its kind in the world.

Not for the faint-hearted. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

To get in the mood for this adrenaline rush, the toboggan run located on the way up is ideal for reaching a maximum speed of 40 km/h downhill.

Who brakes is a coward. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

After these experiences, we stop at the highest restaurant in the United Arab Emirates, which is named ‚1848 by Puro‘ after its height above sea level. The view from here of the Hajar Mountains stretching out before us is sensational. 

However, a stay in the mountains offers much more. Various trekking tours and survival training courses lasting from several hours to a full day are offered here. You spend the night in tents in appropriate camps. The annual Highlander adventure attracts a large number of enthusiastic nature lovers who push themselves to the limit in the rugged mountain landscape.

Ras Al Khaimah holds another unique experience, as it was here that pearls were dived for several thousand years ago. Today, the pearls are cultivated in a lagoon. We take a traditional boat from the harbour to the floating information centre of the Suwaidi Pearls Farm, where we learn all about pearl diving and cultivation. Suddenly, a huge flock of flamingos flies past us. The pearls obtained from the oysters here have a maximum size of 13 mm. We are lucky because in the one we are allowed to harvest, we find a small specimen that we can buy.

Unique in colour, shine, size and shape. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Haste is the order of the day

Our stay in RAK was a complete success. In addition to the golfing highlights, we got to know parts of the Emirate that we hadn’t expected, but we were absolutely thrilled by them. The unaccustomed tranquility and deceleration we encountered were a pleasure. 

This may change in the future, as the construction boom has also started here. Tourism currently accounts for 5% of the gross national product. There are currently around 8,000 hotel rooms, but the aim is to increase this share to 30 % by 2030 and double the number of rooms. So let’s head to Ras Al Khaimah before things get too developed there and perhaps one day become just as hectic as in the neighbouring Emirate of Dubai.

Juergen Linnenbuerger, Cologne/Germany, February 2024


Apes Hill Barbados Makes It A Formidable ‘Foursome’ At The World Golf Awards

Apes Hill Barbados was a star performer at Monday’s World Golf Awards in Abu Dhabi, with the Caribbean resort and residential community winning in four categories, including ‘World’s Best Golf Real Estate Venue’ and ‘World’s Best Eco-Friendly Golf Facility’.

The venue’s critically acclaimed new golf course was also named the best in both Barbados and the Caribbean, completing an impressive quartet of wins.

The 10th annual World Golf Awards ceremony was hosted at the exclusive Radisson Blu Hotel Yas Island and Yas Links Abu Dhabi. With the event rewarding excellence in the golf tourism market, Apes Hill Barbados’ success is yet more recognition for one of the world’s most exclusive and luxurious golf destinations.

The ceremony brought together industry leaders from more than 65 nations across Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East, Latin America, North America and Oceania.

A long-standing staple of the Caribbean golf scene, Apes Hill Barbados has undergone an extensive transformation since investment from Canadian entrepreneur Glenn Chamandy in 2019. Legendary architect Ron Kirby was entrusted with overhauling Apes Hill’s original golf course and the new-look, par-72 layout reopened to rave reviews at the end of 2022. The award-winning design was Kirby’s final work before he passed away in August.

Upon opening, the layout was commended for its fun factor and playability for all levels of golfer and singled out as one of the sport’s most aesthetically pleasing new courses. Kirby’s design makes full use of native Barbadian flora and rockery, and is enhanced by views that – from 1,000ft above sea level – stretch across the Caribbean Sea and out to the Atlantic Ocean.

Meanwhile, earning the title of ‘World’s Best Golf Real Estate Venue’ is testament to the success of the resort’s ambitious real-estate development. Apes Hill is home to an eclectic range of properties and lifestyle amenities to suit the needs of any resident, each favouring a contemporary and luxurious design that blends effortlessly into the Caribbean landscape.

Complementing the championship course is the Performance Centre – a state-of-the-art facility packed with the latest technology and equipment to develop every aspect of a golfer’s game – further establishing Apes Hill as the Caribbean’s leading destination for passionate players.

Meanwhile, a short par-three course – named Little Apes – is in development for families and more casual players, while a ‘19th hole’ island-style par three, based on the iconic 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, is nearing completion.

The World Golf Awards also recognised the pioneering sustainability efforts carried out across Apes Hill’s 475-acre resort with the ‘World’s Best Eco-Friendly Golf Facility’ honour. Most notably, Apes Hill’s championship golf course is irrigated exclusively with recycled rainwater from a 58-million-gallon reservoir, drastically reducing resort-wide water usage. Turf and vegetation is carefully selected and maintained to reduce the need for fertilisers and other harmful chemicals, leading to the resort receiving prestigious Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary for Golf certification in 2023.

Away from the fairways, Apes Hill is committed to farming livestock and growing fresh ingredients – including crops, herbs and fruit – on-site, contributing to a vibrant ecosystem.

Sunil Chatrani, executive chairman of Apes Hill Barbados, said: “We are honoured to be recognised in multiple categories in the most prestigious awards in our industry.

“Together with Ron Kirby, we set out to build one of the best experiences in golf, and recognition as the best course in not only Barbados, but the whole Caribbean, means a great deal to us as we strive to establish one of the region’s leading destinations.

“Ron’s passing in August was felt by all who he touched the hearts of at Apes Hill Barbados – and the wonderful golf course he created has left a lasting legacy on the island of Barbados. We would like to dedicate these awards to Ron’s life.

“We are also very pleased to see our sustainability work recognised, while our relatively new real estate offering being named the best in golf so early into this project is proof of the unique work we are doing to build a true community.”
Press release written by The Azalea Group

International Travel

Dubai Golf rolls out VIYA rewards app to international audience

Dubai Golf has officially rolled out VIYA to international audiences. VIYA allows customers, both in the UAE and around the world, to book world-class golf, dining, experiences, spas, and more at venues in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

VIYA is a one-stop-shop for those in, and visiting, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The platform offers golf bookings and seasonal promotions at Dubai Golf’s world-class golf venues: Emirates Golf Club, Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, Yas Links, Yas Acres, Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, and Topgolf Dubai – in addition to numerous other venues in the region.

In addition, the platform contains a variety of dining offerings at a plethora of restaurants and all the pro shops located at each of the Dubai Golf clubs. It can also be used to book spa days and treatments, as well as individual or recurring fitness experiences.

VIYA has been designed to reward customer loyalty, by offering 1 UAE Dirham (local currency) back for every 10 UAE Dirhams spent at a Dubai Golf venue and every other venue on the app – a 10% rewards programme. Whether it be in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, rewards earned on the platform can be redeemed at any other VIYA venue – this includes all restaurants, golf courses, pro shops, spas, gyms, beaches, and at Topgolf.

Christopher May, CEO of Dubai Golf (operator of VIYA), said: “VIYA really is the go-to platform for booking golf, leisure activities, and dining in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It contains the very best of what the area has to offer and features a number of fantastic promotions every week. We also created VIYA with the goal of rewarding our users. We’re delighted that with every purchase, users earn rewards in UAE Dirhams that can then be redeemed at other VIYA venues, no matter which they choose to visit.”

He added: “While VIYA is a brilliant platform for residents to enjoy, it is now very much a tool that visitors and holidaymakers can utilise during their stay. It’s the easiest way to book tee times, dinners, and leisure experiences, and the rewards can be redeemed instantly, allowing visitors to benefit from them during their visit.”

VIYA has evolved from its original form as a golf bookings app for members of Dubai Golf clubs, to a fully servicing booking portal for activities and experiences throughout the region. It also now includes a variety of partners from outside the Dubai Golf business, to further enhance the user experience and create a broader offering for customers.

VIYA has already acquired more than 120,000 users in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and visitors from around the world can now utilise the platform.

VIYA is free to download, and you can do so by heading to any mobile app store. To explore VIYA, head to: 

For more information on Dubai Golf, head online to:

International Travel Uncategorized

Ayla Golf Aqaba – from minefield to jewel

Every day a new highlight

Originally, golf was not on our agenda when preparing our trip. For I had not known that golf was played in the country, whose Arab tribe of Hashemites goes back to the great-grandfather of the Prophet Mohammed. 

I only became aware of this through the huge urban future project ‘Ayla’ in the city of Aqaba on the Gulf of the same name. In 2008, construction began on a super-modern holiday destination, including the Ayla Golf Club. It is located in the pulsating Ayla Oasis, the great impressions of which we will review at the end of our round trip.

But before that, we will visit Amman, Jerash, Bethany, Mount Nebo and Madaba, whose visits would be worth a separate report. From there we continue to the thousand-year-old rock city of Petra.

The early morning walk through The Siq, a narrow path surrounded by rock walls up to 90 m high and leading to Al-Khazneh/The Treasure House of the Nebateans, is a top highlight of our visit. Close behind ranks Ad Deir /The Monastery which requires further climbing up the valley almost 900 steps through Petra and rising up 200 m in altitude, offering breathtaking views.

Way to the Treasure House through the Siq and view of Ad Deir/The Monastery. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Those who do not dare to make the walk through the gorge or the ascent alone can enlist the help of experienced four-legged professionals.

Four-legged taxis in Petra. (Photo: Juegen Linnenbuerger)

The overnight stay in a tented camp in the middle of the desert and the balloon ride over Wadi Rum are equally unforgettable.

Overnight stay in comfortable tents iand early morning balloon flight over Wadi Rum. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

We feel transported to the great scenes of the films ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’, ‘The Martian’ and ‘Dunes’ which were filmed here, and still feel the desert sand on our skin and the bumpy tours on the back of the Bedouin pickup trucks.

Relaxation on the Gulf of Aqaba

After pillars, temples, rocks and sand, the sea calls. The coastal city of Aqaba is located in Jordan’s extreme south on the Red Sea, close to the border crossing with Israel. Its seaport is the only one in the country and the gateway to the rest of the world.

Aqaba is a free trade zone and has more than 150,000 inhabitants. It is located at the northernmost tip of the Gulf of the same name, a branch of the Red Sea, and is bordered on its western side by Israel and the Sinai Peninsula and on the eastern side by Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Surrounded by turquoise sea 

We spend a few relaxing days at the five-star Hyatt Regency Aqaba Ayla Resort, which is located just over four kilometres from the centre of the port city. It is surrounded by bright blue lagoons with water from the Red Sea and has 286 modern rooms and 43 suites.

All have a balcony or private terrace with a great view of the marina or the imposing, majestic mountains. Our Standard Bedroom on the 4th floor has purpose-built furnishings and offers beautiful views down to the golf course.

View of the lagoon and the Hyatt Regency Aqaba Ayla Resort. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Hotel amenities include the La Plage Beach Club on the lagoon, a large relaxation area with infinity pool set amidst the perfectly maintained gardens, a luxurious Aqua Spa with Hammam, a gym and tennis courts. 

Guests can choose between international and regional dishes in five restaurants and bars; we recommend them all! (alcohol is served to foreign guests in all of them).

Wi-Fi is free of charge and works well in the public areas, at the pool and in the beach club, and in our room most of the time.

The service of the staff is attentive and unobtrusive and fortunately we can communicate very well in English.

The resort has been awarded global Green Key Eco status in the hotel category, recognising its efforts and commitment to public health and sustainable environmental standards in tourism. These are felt throughout the resort, which is exceptionally clean and well maintained.

Staying at the pools and the hotel’s own stretch of beach on the lagoon in our customary swimwear is fine in this country, which is dominated by Islam. Local women wear a black suit that covers the entire body, including the head with only a small section left free for the face, hands and feet. 

No fear of the great white shark 

Just a few kilometres outside the resort are fantastic snorkeling and diving opportunities, where you can gaze at a variety of fish in the crystal clear waters. Sharks, such as the harmless giant whale shark, are also said to occur here.

We also encounter one of these species at Ayla Golf Club, as its designer is none other than Greg Norman, known as the ‘Great White Shark’. He designed the 18-hole par 72 championship course in 2016, which spreads over an area of 800,000 square metres and is harmoniously integrated into the original desert landscape. 

Final hole (left) and holes 9 and 18 of Ayla Golf Club. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

A par 3 9-hole floodlit course and a Golf Academy with PGA-qualified pros and excellent practice facilities complete this comprehensive golf offering. 

In harmony with nature 

Specific requirements were given to the world-renowned company, Greg Norman Golf Course Design (GNGCD), to ensure the design interfered as little as possible with the environment and to comply with ecological aspects. The Ayla Oasis area, contaminated with over 60,000 mines from the Six-Day War in 1967, was first completely cleared and the golf course was built with excavated soil from the huge lagoon landscape.

Attractive holes in front of an impressive backdrop. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Several artificial lakes and wadis were created that are fed by rainwater from the surrounding mountains mixed with lagoon water and serve as reservoirs for irrigation and act as stopovers for migratory birds, complementing the natural ecosystem. Most of the electricity is provided by solar panels.

Plenty of water at Ayla Golf Club. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Early bird tee time

The hotel shuttle takes us to the nearby clubhouse in five minutes. We start early in the morning, as in May, it is already 25 degrees at 7.00 a.m., though the heat is easily bearable due to the low humidity. 

The wind that comes up during the round does not interfere with the game, but we find it blissfully cooling as the temperature rises.

Offering up fantastic views of the mountain scenery beyond, the open, mildly undulating course measures 7,152 yards from the back black tees. The fairways are gently curved but if you don’t find them, huge sandy waste areas await though in most cases you can play out of these quite easily. Water hazards come into play on half of the holes. Both fairways and greens are seeded with Paspalum grass, which is ideal for high temperatures.  

Sandy waste areas surround the fairways. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Five different tee boxes offer on all 18 holes makes it amenable for all HCP classes.

Good conditioning in all areas

Its layout is most appealing, the conditioning well maintained. The grass of the fairways has some yellow patches at the moment as it is still in partial hibernation. We hit the countless, fairly deep bunkers more often than we would like, but since most of them are under renovation during our visit and marked as GUR, we continue playing without a penalty stroke. Those completed are boast gleaming fine, white sand.

Renovation of the huge bunkers. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

There is nothing to criticise about the quality of the partly large, fast greens. They are true to track and a pleasure to play. Not only the course, but the entire facility is very well maintained, thanks to a team of 50 greenkeepers who do an excellent job. All the paths are paved and easy to negotiate with a buggy.

We are almost alone on the course and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere in the club, which currently has 120 members of the 400 players that exist in Jordan. As we learn from the friendly, South African Head Pro, Jason, about 5,000 green fees are currently sold per year. They would like to increase this moderately through targeted marketing measures and contribute to the Ayla Oasis developing more and more into an attractive, internationally recognised sporting and golf destination. 

The Mena Tour, for example, has already made a stop here. In 2019, the Jordan Mixed Open was held for the first time, a tournament format in which players from the European Challenge Tour, the Staysure Tour and the Ladies European Tour took part under the motto ‘We share the same drive’. 

In 2022, the idea was taken up of hosting the Jordan Open Golf Championship, in which men, women and juniors from 14 countries compete for victory. 

We enjoy the fair course with its varied holes and undisturbed play. 

An award-winning clubhouse 

Just as impressive as the course and its practice facilities is the clubhouse with its extraordinary design. Paying homage to the Bedouin architectural heritage. Renowned architectural firm, Oppenheim Architecture & Design, designed the structure from undulating concrete in an organic, contemporary style.

Clubhouse and Comfort Station in same style. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Ahlan wa sahlan

We feel extremely welcome and safe at all times throughout our journey. Everywhere we are warmly welcomed and well looked after. The decision to take a trip organised by a tour operator with an experienced guide was spot on. Our guide studied in Germany and with his extensive knowledge gave us deep insights into the Arabic religion, culture and history, which we would never have been able to discover on our own in such a short time. If necessary, I will be happy to establish the relevant contacts.

In spring and autumn, Jordan is a great travel destination that now also offers golfers a new, attractive alternative, but coming here just to play golf would not do justice to the Arab country with its extensive range of offers. We were thrilled by the combination of culture, unique landscapes, well-appointed hotels, gastronomic delights and getting to know the Ayla Oasis with its superb golf course.

International Travel

Apes Hill designer Ron Kirby: “Make something that’s fair for the player”

Golf course architect Ron Kirby in an interview about his jobs on the golf course, his style as a designer, the influence of well-known architects, sustainability and the redesign of Apes Hill in Barbados.

Ron Kirby: “Get any job you can on a golf course”

What made you decide to get into golf design?

Ron Kirby: My career began with a talent I had for sketching when I was a teenager, just north of Boston. If you had the means, you could get to the Museum of Fine Arts for free art lessons on Saturday mornings. My brother and I would ride the subway to get my art lesson, so I knew how to sketch and handle a brush. Later I won a caddie scholarship, and I went to greenkeeper school.

When it snowed in the winters, I went to Florida – where my dad had a club pro job – and I realised that the movie stars in golf were the course designers. There was a centrefold in Sports Illustrated with two architects who were the flavour of the month: Robert Trent Jones and Dick Wilson. They were superstars.

Define Ron Kirby’s style…

Ron Kirby: I’m just looking for fun, different holes to build. I look for a chance to make the short holes more exciting and I always want to make something that’s fair for the player. Because I was a greenkeeper, I want to build things that can be maintained, kept neat and manicured.

Tell us about the people you’ve worked with over the years. Who were the most influential and why?

Ron Kirby: Trent Jones was a visionary. He could take any piece of ground and he would get the best layout – he knew how to put the holes in the right position for the wind, the sun direction, and his routings were very good. Another thing I learned from working with Trent Jones is that he didn’t do it all. He did the layouts, but he had a team of people working for him. You need good staff. And I had a lot of good staff.

I’ve also worked with Jack Nicklaus, who would always get the best sites and the best budgets. Nicklaus was a finishing school in golf design because of his strategy. He knew what a golf ball could and couldn’t do.

What advice would you give other designers from what you’ve learned?

Ron Kirby: Respect the ground. Try and make your golf course fit. It’s a lot of fun being a golf course designer, but you’ve got to be patient to get the right assignments. I’m proud that I got a chance to put my two cents in. The best thing to do is get any job you can on a golf course – even pulling the carts out. I grew up on a golf course, and I’ve never worked anywhere else.

Apes Hill Barbados: Stunning views and fun holes

You have just completed work at Apes Hill in Barbados – what hole there most reflects your style?

Ron Kirby: The second, for sure. It was a par three; now we’ve got a two-way hole. We extended the green and moved the tees back. It was almost an unplayable par three: into the wind, uphill… nobody would love this hole, so you’d play two holes and already you didn’t like the course. We turned it into a really fun, friendly par four. You have a chance to get out of there smiling. I didn’t have to go too far to find a hole I would love.

The idyllic par-4 2nd hole of Apes Hill Barbados. (Credit: Azalea)

How did you bring to Apes Hill what you learnt from designing Old Head?

Ron Kirby: Old Head is basically an island connected with a little isthmus at the gate. But you have almost 360° of cliffs, so you try to get as close to the cliffs as you could to use those features. When I saw Apes Hill, you’ve got some super vistas. You can look at two oceans in some places! So, I said, “all we’ve got to do here is make sure that players can take in the vistas”.

What is your message to everyone who is about to experience Apes Hill?

Ron Kirby: Well, if I could meet every one of them, I hope they would buy me a beer and say I did a good job. I want people to enjoy their game and want to come back again.

The 14th hole of Apes Hill. From the tee you have a great view over the east coast of Barbados. (Photo: Azalea)

Over the years, what’s changed with sustainability and what have we done here at Apes Hill?

Ron Kirby: Sustainability means don’t build anything that you can’t maintain. Number one was the bunkers – we couldn’t maintain those, so we’ve eliminated two thirds of the bunkers. That’s cut back on the maintenance of the bunkers, the sand and erosion, and of course the irrigation. Zoysia grass is tolerant to drought, so we don’t have to keep pumping water on to keep it green and alive, it will maintain itself. We’ve taken away around 1,000 sprinklers, reducing irrigation by a third. Supply here is from a huge lake, which collects the mountain rainfall instead of letting it run off into the sea, millions of gallons. There will also be a par 3 for kids and families.

Tell us a bit about that…

Ron Kirby: We’ve taken inspiration from some of the world’s most famous par-three holes. It’s great for the kids and the families to go out and have fun, but a lot of golfers will say, ‘I’ve never played the Postage Stamp, I’ve never been to Royal Troon”, so they can come here and try it. We also built a 19th hole similar to the famous 17 th hole at TPC Sawgrass, where it’s so dynamic because it’s an island green. You’re either on the green or in the water.

Was it a priority to make the holes diverse enough that people of different skill levels could play?

Ron Kirby: Yes. We only needed four tees per hole, but we put them in spaces where they could cover all types, of players, from guys who can hit it pure to the average guys and then the poor players like me. We have friendly tees for the ladies, challenge tees for the better ladies’ players. It’s fun for everyone. Pick your poison and see where you want to tee it up from.

How do you feel about the finished product?

Ron Kirby: What we’ve done here is the result of a lot of hard work and it wasn’t an easy job. The weather was hitting us hard with storms, Covid delayed us… but I’m proud to be part of it. I can sit back and say this is one of mine. I can say that about maybe 150 golf courses, but this is a special one.


Quinta Do Lago 2021 Breaks Offer Golfers the Benefits of Nature

Enjoy savings of 21% on stays of two nights or more

After all the stresses of the Covid pandemic, who isn’t dreaming of their next summer holiday and Quinta do Lago is teeing up a treat for golfers and families in 2021, including savings of 21 per cent on breaks of two nights or more at the luxury Portuguese resort this year.

Europe’s premier golf, leisure and lifestyle family resort is offering an array of discounts when staying at its boutique The Magnolia Hotel over the coming months including Easter and summer, with reductions of more than a fifth on short-term stays.

Savings of up to 30 per cent on holidays of two weeks or more are also available while guests will have complete peace of mind when they book, with Quinta do Lago’s ‘Flexi-booking’ option offering guests the opportunity to change their booking to another date within a 12-month period without any charge.

Taking time out to relax in natural surroundings has never been more important following an extended period of lockdowns. Nestled within the privacy and security of the Algarve’s Ria Formosa Nature Reserve, Quinta do Lago is the ideal place to unwind, with its five-star facilities including three 18-hole championship golf courses, a premier sports hub, a golden sandy beach and a plethora of first-class bars and restaurants.

The resort’s relaxed vibe extends to its boutique Magnolia Hotel, with facilities including a saltwater pool, colourful restaurant and cocktail bar, cinema, gym and spa, plus a schedule of iconic poolside events to keep guests of all ages entertained.

Bed-and-breakfast breaks of two nights or more start from €77 per night for a double room while the resort’s extended holiday packages, which are perfect for families and are bookable throughout 2021 except July and August, cost from €68 per night staying in one of The Magnolia Hotel’s vintage-cabin style cottages.

A range of attractive three, five and seven-night golf stay-and-play packages are also available at the Magnolia Hotel, which also feature the resort’s ‘Flexi-booking’ option.

Located just 15 minutes away from Faro airport, Quinta do Lago is regarded as Europe’s premier golf and lifestyle resort and was one of the first to be awarded Clean & Safe approval by the Portugal Tourist Board after the Covid-19 lockdown.

The award-winning venue boasts a combination of world-class golf and lifestyle facilities and has invested a further €7m in a recent golf-course improvement programme, including a major overhaul of its famous South Course and the reopening of its main golf clubhouse following a modern and sophisticated makeover.

As well as three renowned golf courses – the North, South and Laranjal – and outstanding practice facilities, guests can stay in shape at The Campus, a world-class sports hub designed for professionals and amateurs alike to keep fit.

Complementing the facilities is a choice of 12 first-class bars and restaurants that deliver a range of delicious world cuisines, including the acclaimed Bovino Steakhouse and recently-opened Dano’s Sports Bar & Restaurant, and accommodation at the boutique The Magnolia Hotel.

For more information about Quinta do Lago’s 2021 offer and to book, go to

(Text: Azalea Group Press Release)