When the tom fazio–designed Green Monkey golf course officially opens at Sandy Lane next year, it will mark the culmination of the Caribbean resort’s long journey back to preeminence. But for hotel guests—who until then have exclusive access to the course—the transformation of this West Indies institution is all but complete.
Sandy Lane opened on Barbados in 1961. One of the region’s most fashionable destinations for three decades, the resort had been surpassed by new hotels offering more extensive amenities by the late 1990s. Sandy Lane was still good, but not good enough for its new owners, a consortium of five businessmen headed by Irish financier Dermot Desmond and horse-racing magnate J.P. McManus. After purchasing the property in 1998, the partners promptly closed the resort and embarked on a three-year, $280 million renovation. By the time Sandy Lane reopened on St. Patrick’s Day 2001, every building on the property had been razed and rebuilt. “What you see today is the same footprint as the old resort,” says the resort’s general manager, Colm Hannon. “But virtually everything is brand-new.”
Sandy Lane expanded and updated its public areas and guest rooms, added a spa, created the Treehouse Club for children, and built a golf clubhouse to go with its two new Fazio designs, the Country Club and the Green Monkey. The Country Club course debuted with the resort in 2001, but the Green Monkey—named after the primates that wander the course’s gullies in search of bananas and mangoes—will not officially open until early 2005. “We’re still working on the landscaping,” says Mike Davern, general manager of golf. “The owners are avid golfers who want this course to be perfect when it opens.”
If it is a work-in-progress, the Green Monkey promises to be a masterpiece. Fazio began with an old coral-stone quarry, from which he hacked out seven spectacular holes. Golfers get a glimpse of the quarry from the first green, but it does not come into play until the eighth hole, a par-3 that hugs the formation’s upper lip. Holes 9, 10, 11, 15, 16, and 17 play into and through this stunning landscape, where towering white walls form the backdrop.
The balance of the Green Monkey course, which totals nearly 7,400 yards from the Masters tees, roams over exposed tabletop land and old sugarcane fields. Throughout, golfers enjoy ocean views and fairways lined with thousands of sapling trees, hundreds of transplanted mature trees, and acres of bougainvillea.
The Country Club course, which is open to the public, is no slouch, either. Wide open off the tee boxes, the course offers a fine complement to the more demanding Green Monkey. Still, if played from the 7,060-yard back tees, the predecessor proves a worthy nemesis.
While Sandy Lane’s golf courses present ample challenges, a stay at the resort is virtually free of inconveniences. Sandy Lane’s service reaches a pinnacle at the resort’s private-entrance, five-bedroom villa, which includes the assistance of a butler, chef, and housekeeping and security staffs. The villa also has its own swimming pool and a 50-inch plasma screen television, amenities that will no doubt make Sandy Lane’s Caribbean competition green with envy.