Barbados, West Indies

Sip rum. Set sail. Golf.
Do you really need another excuse to go?

By Hope S. Philbrick

Someone must have burped—how else to explain the sudden strong whiff of rum as we begin our descent to Barbados? I can’t possibly detect the stuff that’s produced below from this altitude, right?

ambiance_2Barbados may be the birthplace of rum: While the earliest written documentation is dated 1703, evidence suggests that rum production began at Mount Gay in 1663. Today Mount Gay produces over 10,000 bottles of rum each day, 85 percent of which is exported to over 70 countries including the U.S. That leaves 15 percent of the rum for locals (commonly referred to as Bajans) and visitors.

But drinking rum is far from the only thing to do.

Water sports are one way to quench a thirst for adventure—with options ranging from submarine tours to windsurfing, scuba diving to parasailing and more. I opt for a five-hour sailboat cruise on a Tiami Luxury Catamaran, which includes two scheduled stops for snorkeling. The first stop, near an old wreck in a marine reserve, features a sunken ship that’s currently inhabited by several varieties of fish. The second provides the chance to swim alongside sea turtles—who aren’t shy, but who we’re all encouraged not to touch. My favorite element of the cruise is simply relaxing on deck while the boat clips through the waves and passes beautiful shorelines. The boat carries at least 75 people, but the open full bar helps loosen the group’s mood and there’s no worry of hunger. I’m greeted with a Sail and snorkel with Tiami Luxury CatamaranChampagne mimosa upon stepping onto the boat, treated to a light breakfast of fresh fruit, banana and coconut bread and coffee upon setting sail, and then to a buffet lunch with tasty choices like baked chicken, fried fish, rice and peas, fruit salad and bread pudding.

For an island that measures only 21 by 14 miles, Barbados is home to a surprising array of land-based activities, including golf.

Let’s get something out in the open: I do not golf. (To be fair, I avoid all sports.) And so, when invited to tour three of Barbados’ five golf courses, I only perk up when learning that I’ll get the keys to the golf cart.

The Barbados Golf Club, on the south coast, was created in 1974 but was re-designed by Ron Kirby in 2000. The island’s first championship golf course open to the public, it’s an 18-hole, 6,705-yard, par-72 course that’s meant to be fair yet challenging. “It’s very ‘user friendly,’” says Dennis Foster, Director of Golf (and known on Barbados as ‘Mr. Golf’). “The degree of difficulty is exactly where we want it to be.” The “links” course features gently rolling hills, clusters of trees, two lakes near five of the holes, and a series of coral waste bunkers. “We focus on ‘golf for all,’ and amateur championships at this course,” says Foster. “It’s really just a good, old-fashioned golf course.” Albeit one with spectacular ocean views.

The 16th hole at The Green Monkey features its signature carved into a grass island bunkerThe five-star Sandy Lane Resort added two 18-hole courses in 2001 for a total of 45 holes of championship golf; Tom Fazio designed both The Country Club and The Green Monkey courses. Life is luxurious at Sandy Lane; I notice that all the golf carts here feature GPS systems that show my location to the green and hazards as well as carts ahead.

The Country Club is a challenging 7,060-yard, par 74.7 “links” course featuring lush greens, five lakes and open fairways with angled slopes. It boasts five par threes, eight par fours and five par fives.

The Green Monkey course is a championship-style 7,440-yard course carved out of a former quarry. (It is limited for guests of the Sandy Lane Resort and Golf Club.) It boasts dramatic elevations and ocean views. Named for the island’s monkeys, the 16th hole features a signature grass island carved in the shape of a monkey in the bunker. Pointing out course highlights, Superintendent Steve Johnson says, “There are five water hazards, ten different varieties of grass and the first ‘double green’ ever designed.” That ‘double green,’ he adds, takes one hour and forty-five minutes to cut by hand.

Much to my surprise, after the tour I find myself tempted to whack a ball just so I can chase it across the plush greens—that’s how breathtaking and inspiring these courses are.

It seems that’s the intention.

“Experience is a destination, not just a hotel room,” says Stuart Lane, President and CEO Barbados Tourism Authority. His stated goal for Barbados is to be “the number one destination in terms of quality of experience.” Take that as an invitation.

More Information…

Know Before You Go… U.S. citizens need a valid passport. Baggage is subject to weight restrictions. Establishments accepting American Express credit cards are limited.

Where To Stay…

Tamarind Cove Hotel
Rates from $180 per night.

Hilton Barbados
Rates from $220 per night.

Sandy Lane
246-444 2000
Rates from $850 per night.

All rates vary by season and room amenities.

Barbados Tourism Authority

– Photo credits: beach courtesy Barbados Tourism Authority; rum courtesy Mount Gay Rum; catamaran and 16th hole © HSP Media LLC

Research was conducted while on assignment for Sunday Paper, where this article was first published. Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.

HopeP_144Hope S. Philbrick is founder and editor-in-chief of Getaways for Grownups. She became a freelance writer and editor because she believes that work and fun should not be mutually exclusive. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications nationwide. When not writing, she can usually be found on the road or savoring something tasty.

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