As you soon as you drive – by car – through Royal Westmorland’s gates, you can’t help but notice the luxurious colonial-styled houses. These exclusive properties currently range between $700,000 and $10M US dollars and the majority are European owned. Owners include cricketers and footballers from the UK, (Americans tend to favour the equally exclusive Sandy Lane property which is located further south on the popular island of Barbados).
Royal Westmorland is set in the parish of St James and Robert Trent Jones Jnr designed the course, which measures 6,870 yards from the championship tees and par is set at 72. Routed over the island’s higher ground, every hole has a view of the Caribbean Sea and each hole is beautifully manicured and features undulating fairways.
The first few holes ease you in gently, but by the 4th you start to notice the sheer number of well-placed bunkers – in all there are 98 to avoid before reaching the sanctuary of the plush clubhouse.
Considerable use has been made of the natural environment, with the 5th and 6th holes utilising an old coral stone quarry to great effect. The latter, a par five with a well-hidden green that requires two strong shots to even see it.
The par three 7th is my personal favourite, featuring a 150-yard carry over water. I was happy to see my ball land on the other side but happier still to see it roll to within a foot of the pin for and a subsequent simple birdie. The front nine finishes with another tight approach and a watery grave for anything short and right.
The Halfway House was well-stocked and brought welcome rest and sustenance before taking on the back nine.
The par four 10th is a sharp dogleg with excellent use of the rolling land, culminating in a raised green. The 12th, another par three, challenges the lowest of handicaps with its tight green bordering a ravine. It certainly put a blot on my scorecard, but I blame being distracted by a large family of green monkeys playing under some greenside trees where I'd parked the buggy!
Resident, Ian Woosnam, declares the course has some of the best par threes he's ever played. Certainly they seem to get longer and tougher each time you arrive at one. He also suggests that one of the delights of the course is that it demands the use of every club in your bag.
The last third of the course features a number of elevated tees, gorgeous views and tight fairways. By the time you reach the 18th and drop your approach shot to a well-protected green, you know you've played a very special golf course.
As is often the case in Barbados, the weather can change quickly. We experienced overcast cloud & heavy rain (albeit briefly) in the first few holes. Glorious sunshine followed, then high winds on the back nine as my card faltered.
My only minor criticism was the greens on the back nine which were being treated in preparation for the annual Barbados Senior Open a few weeks after our visit. I’m sure the work was needed and well done to the winner Sam Torrance. GPS tracking in the buggies would have been useful, but yardages are on most fairway sprinklers, which are plentiful.
The clubhouse is elegant, cool and very comfortable with sweeping views over the course. The Pro shop is well stocked and all the staff were friendly and very helpful.
The aforementioned Sandy Lane may grab the headlines and the Yankee dollar (not least for Tiger's wedding), but everyone I spoke to felt Royal Westmoreland offered more of a challenge to the seasoned golfer.Article by Simon Kingham.