Jeremy Ellwood spends a few days in a famous owner’s villa at wonderful Royal Westmoreland
Golf In Barbados: A Caribbean Dream
The Caribbean may have eluded me for the first 52 years of my life, but no sooner had I made my maiden journey to the Bahamas late last year than another trip loomed large on my horizon this spring.
This time it was to the world-famous Royal Westmoreland resort on the west coast of Barbados, the small island in the east of the West Indies that is actually surrounded entirely by the Atlantic rather than the Caribbean.
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The Caribbean sounds cooler though, doesn’t it, and so it would prove over my all-too-brief three-day visit.
All I knew about Royal Westmoreland was that there had been a Senior Tour event there for many years, and that Ian Woosnam owned a house on the resort.
It transpires that Wayne Rooney is among the other property owners – a very fine villa by the 13th tee in which we were privileged enough to stay during our visit.
Although we would eat out several times at some of the most exceptional restaurants I’ve ever visited, on the night of our arrival a highly proficient in-villa chef rustled us up something very special live on our terrace, with marlin and chicken among the gastronomic highlights.
The next day I tackled a front nine featuring many standout holes in the company of some Canadian visitors.
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Among the highlights were the spectacular par-3 3rd playing downhill over rocks and sand towards the ocean; the excellent 4th with its launchpad tee; the dramatic 5th with its green cut into a rockface; and the testing risk-reward 6th with its blind drive towards another exposed rockface before a sharp turn left to a green set in an old quarry.
Later on I played the back nine in the company of director of golf, Bill Longmuir, a now 60-something eight- time Senior Tour winner who still hits a mighty fine ball.
The 10th is a sweeping, almost U-shaped dogleg that proved very tough into the wind, while the 11th proved even tougher, with Bill suggesting a 3-wood for my uphill 191-yard approach into a fierce wind. He was right!
The 15th is then another cracking downhill par-3 (Woosie reckons Royal Westmoreland has the strongest cast of one-shotters he’s ever played) where big trouble awaits short and right in the form of a deep gully.
Of course, it would be a travesty to travel all this way and only play golf, but if the course and restaurants I frequented were pretty special, so too was the Cool Runnings catamaran we boarded on our second full day for a five-hour cruise.
From nine in the morning, the rum punch flowed like water to the strains of Bob Marley, Eddy Grant (and Peter Andre!) booming out of the on-board sound system.
Think Thames cruise, then ramp up the relaxometer and coolness gauge a hundred notches to get an idea of how much fun it was.
I made my snorkelling debut, though I couldn’t do it straightaway as my mind wouldn’t let me believe you could still breathe with your head under water at first.
We visited shipwrecks, and swam with turtles to add to my Caribbean memories of swimming with pigs last time out in the Bahamas.
As for dining out, The Cliff restaurant a short drive away boasted a truly spectacular setting with the outdoor seating areas illuminated by flaming beacons, while the Lonestar restaurant is a former garage set right on the beach where the staff wear petrol attendant overalls.
On the final day, we took lunch at Mullins Beach, where Royal Westmoreland guests can enjoy a private beachfront dining deck right by the lapping waves.
Our whistle-stop tour also took us around the resort for a look at some of the property ownership options for individuals blessed with considerably greater wealth than a humble golf journalist.
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But, allowing myself to dream just for a minute, a two-bedroom Royal Apartment, complete with balcony and colonial styling at just $600,000, didn’t sound too bad, even if the reality would be a straight choice between that and my home in England.
I haven’t even dared suggest it to my wife!
All that was left to do ahead of the early evening flight home was a morning tour of the island, taking in the only remaining sugar factory, St John’s church, which couldn’t be more Anglican if it tried, and Bathsheba beach on the eastern coast with its extraordinary mushroom-shaped rocks that are actually striking coral reef formations whose bases have gradually eroded away.
As we boarded our 5.45pm return flight to Gatwick, I was left to reflect on another all-too-short visit to the other side of the world, attempting to banish all thoughts of an unlikely early retirement, or even more unlikely unexpected family windfall.
HOW TO GET THERE
Virgin Atlantic and BA both operate a daily direct flight to Barbados from London Gatwick with a flight time of around 81⁄2 hours.
WHERE TO STAY
ROYAL WESTMORELAND, ST JAMES, BARBADOS
Stay in the Royal Apartments for ten nights and pay for just seven (from £1,890 per apartment). Includes four free complimentary rounds of golf plus 10% off food and 20% off drinks (latest return date December 15, 2016).
Stats: par 72, 6,640 yards
T: 01524 889587 (holidays)
T: 01524 884266 (ownership enquiries)
WHERE TO VISIT
COOL RUNNINGS CATAMARAN CRUISE
A five-hour cruise and snorkel tour, including on-board lunch and drinks plus a swim with turtles, costs US $90 (approx £69) per person.