‘Our vision is to help create a Caribbean masterpiece!’

By Alistair March 24, 2024 09:15

Ed Paskins, golf superintendent at Apes Hill Barbados, highlights some of the challenges he and his team face as they continue to develop one of the world’s most talked-about golf venues, with sustainability at its core…

Can you give us an overview of your time at Apes Hill?

I came to Barbados 23 years ago. I was involved in Barbados Golf Club, and I was fortunate to be the first one on the ground here at Apes Hill with the original owners back when the golf course first opened. We did a great job of building a golf course then, but what we have here now is very special and we as a team really got on board with the whole environmental aspect, and trying to make the whole project sustainable, which is a vision of the new ownership. I oversee the greenkeeping operation but that is just one small part of what I do as the resort and the general maintenance that comes with that is a huge job. We are working across around 500 acres of land! I do not want to sound like it is easy because it is not, but the conditioning of the golf course is never a worry for me as we have such a great set of staff working on it.

Apes Hill’s golf course opened in late 2022 – and has been critically acclaimed. But it must be tough to maintain the standards that come with such a golf course?

It is, but you would expect nothing less. There are some wonderful golf courses on the island of Barbados – Sandy Lane and Royal Westmoreland are close by – and people expect a certain level of quality.

But as I say, I have a fantastic set of staff here and can have anywhere between 75 and 100 working on the resort day to day. That is a high volume of humans to keep positive, but they all buy into what we are doing. As I say, of course the golf course forms the USP of Apes Hill but there is so much more to what we are doing here; people looking after various crops and developing the hiking trails, for example.

In May this year, Apes Hill will host a professional event with the Legends Tour – formerly the European Seniors Tour – coming to the island. Is that creating a lot of work for you and your team?

Yes, but it is work we relish, and the tournament is something we are really looking forward to – and it is credit to everyone at Apes Hill that we have managed to secure that so early in our story.

Everyone is moving in the right direction and the members and property owners really see that. The tournament will be great for golf in Barbados, and it will be extra special as Apes Hill ambassador Ian Woosnam is hosting it.

You mentioned sustainability – why is that so important?

The layout has been beautifully crafted around the surrounding landscape and indigenous tropical forests, and sustainability is at the forefront of the resort’s long-term DNA to make it the most environmentally responsible golf course and resort development in the Caribbean.

Sustainability has to be the most important area for new course developments and if you are not looking seriously at that, then you may as well not bother.

Can you give us an example of some of the things you are doing?

The course’s fairways and tees have been re-laid using the more drought-tolerant Zoysia Zorro grass and the greens with TifEagle. The resistance of these grasses to insects also further reduces the reliance on fertilisation and use of pesticides, with a view to eventually becoming ‘chemical-free’. Meanwhile, the construction of a reservoir that can hold up to 58 million gallons of rainwater will help fully irrigate the resort, with hundreds of trees, fruits and vegetables being planted around the property. Name me another golf venue that is capturing rainwater on farmland in order to irrigate its course, and because we have the Zoysia grass, we are now only having to irrigate where we need to! It is a great project.

You are maintaining a golf course in a tropical country – which must add to the challenge?

The weather conditions here can be very extreme! We only have two weather conditions: wet or dry. We are finding the wet months to be extremely wet, and the dry months to be extremely dry.

The downside of that is that we have almost six months of consistent weather conditions, which can be extremely difficult for a long dry season, whereas in most countries you have four seasons. It is a very difficult environment to grow turfgrass because of the extremes.

Extreme dries and extreme wets. We have managed, with the grass species we have selected, to survive the weather conditions very well, and we have picked the right species for that. However, it is not a walk in the park growing grass on a small Caribbean Island.

Since the construction of the new layout began, have there been any particular weather challenges that have stood out?

During the grow-in construction stage, there was one particular storm where we had 10 inches of rain in two and a half hours. It was a freak storm, and we lost a number of greens and fairways.

When it comes, it comes, and it comes with insanity.

But it is all part of the journey and the challenge. Yes, staying on top of the weather is tough but that is where we employ the staff that we have here because they are very engaged and understand there will be tough days where you are facing those downpours. You have to have thick skin to get through it, and once you do that you get so much from the positive outcome you help to achieve.

Despite being involved with Apes Hill for so many years, I guess you are still loving it?

Of course I love it, and I love the staff and the people I work with here. All the staff are on the same page and every day is a day of meeting and communicating with people with great characters, great attitudes. And in all the years I have been here, I would say the ground staff and greenkeeping team we have now, well we have this nice friendship with one another and that all helps to drive us on. But everything about Apes has a communal feel. Our members and homeowners are high-net worth individuals – hugely successful people but they are decent people who engage with the staff and buy into what we are doing here.


By Alistair March 24, 2024 09:15

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