Cinnamon Hill – Jamaica

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ROSE HALL GREAT HOUSE

Cinnamon Hill Golf Course has a twisted history.  We were introduced to it, and contributed to it, when we were designing the adjacent golf course for the Rollins family, the “White Witch”.


 BACK STORY

John Rollins purchased Rose Hall in the 1960’s and had been developing the 5,000 estate, starting with a couple hotels, some condo’s, some houses….all the beginnings of his ambitious plan for Rose Hall.

In 1969, Hank Smedley was commissioned to design and construct the original (and, Smedley considered his signature) golf course in Jamaica, West Indies for John Rollins and Pan American Airlines. This course was featured as a top 100 courses in the world at one time by Golf World Magazine. The course was then part of “Rose Hall Intercontinental” resort, one of the early hotels developed by the Rollins family.

There was a story of the Rose Hall Intercontinental Hotel being nationalized in the 70’s, and some “… awkward relationships with government in Jamaica going back to the mid-seventies and the Manley government.”  Eventually, the family was able to regain the hotel and it became a Wyndham branded property as some point.

vHS&B became involved in the project in early 2000.  At that time, Kelly Moran was going to be the project architect for vHS&B.  For the next several years, the family attempted to secure a hotel and casino group to invest – based on the expectation gambling would soon be allowed in Jamaica (this exciting “game changer” for Jamaica, is still just a rumor today).   Mr. Rollins tired of the lack of progress and decided start the project.  In order to start the project, the family became the major investor. A deal was cut with Ritz-Carlton to manage a hotel.  By the time the project started in earnest, Kelly Moran had left our office and I was tapped as the project Architect – for the White Witch course.  You can read about my experience with the White Witch here.


A COURSE BY ANY OTHER NAME…

I’m unsure what the course was originally named, when it was part of the Intercontinental Hotel.  When we started in Jamaica, the course was called “the Wyndham Golf Course” because it was associated with the Wyndham Rose Hall resort.  When we did the redesign, the decision was to give the golf course it’s own identity, rather than one connected to the Wyndham hotel.  The chosen name became the “Three Palms” – which was a reference to the “three palms” planted by Annie Palmer (the real White Witch), to mark the remains of her three deceased husbands (which she reputedly poisoned).

The renovated golf course opened as the “Three Palms” and few years later was renamed “Cinnamon Hill” after Cinnamon Hill Great House.  Cinnamon Hill Great House is within the Rose Hall Estate and was owned by the late Johnny Cash and June Carter-Cash.

So, Cinnamon Hill has been through at least four name changes over the years.

Rose Hall history

From the Holiday Inn to the Palms apartments to the Rose Hall Intercontinental (now the Wyndham Rose Hall) on to the Rose Hall Club & Bathing Beach, Mr. John Rollins former Lieutenant Governor of the US State of Delaware has been changing the eastern littoral of St. James from a bankrupt sugar estate into a tourism gold coast. On the land side, premier, architectural and folklore attraction in the west has been the restored and well maintained Rose Hall Great House.

Inland have been the main institutional objects of his charity – the SOS Children’s Village and the Mt. Zion United Church. Another important facility across from the Wyndham is the Ambrosia Gourmet Restaurant for elegant dining-away from the hotels, but only a few minutes away! Spurred on by the mega-developments now in progress next door, the Wyndham owners have embarked upon a major refurbishing and have added a delightful water sports facility fit for all ages – from children to grandpa. Nothing like competition!

Despite his sometimes awkward relationships with government in Jamaica going back to the mid-seventies and the Manley government, John Rollins has continued his love affair with this land and its people. He has attracted millions of dollars of foreign investment to the country and is now embarked upon perhaps the most impressive phase yet of his Jamaican odyssey. And he and his gracious and shrewd wife Michelle declare that they are receiving excellent co-operation from the present government.

THE DIRT

Wes Russell (golf manager for Rollins) called to inform me, he helped convince the Rollins family to update the “Wyndham course” – which is actually owned by the family.  One justification for the renovation was to recuperate some valuable developable land, which the existing course occupied near the ocean. Another reason was to improve the golf offering in Jamaica, with the aim to make it a golf destination.  The original golf course was good.  But, we thought, with some tweaks to the routing (perhaps using land was which not previously available) we could make the course more enticing.

The intention was to use a different designer.   The thinking was: It should be something different and complimentary to the White Witch, built with a lower budget.  They felt a different architect would be suitable – and, even help to differentiate between the two courses.  Of course, we weren’t interested in seeing another architect enter the market – even if the budget was modest and fixed.

I spoke with Rollins project manager and asked about their intentions for the course.   We discussed the pro’s and con’s of the situation. The “fixed budget” (which simply could not be exceeded – under any circumstance) was their greatest concern.  The reality was; they were concerned Robert might not take the budget seriously.  And, they simply could not afford to risk exceeding the budget.

I campaigned to secure the commission by providing a sort of personal assurance that we would respect the budget.  I essentially told them I would be responsible to make sure Robert respected the budget.  (Honestly, I was sure Robert would be unhappy about the budget.  And, I wasn’t truly confident I would be able to deliver on the promise I made to make sure he didn’t exceed the budget.)  I asked for one day to revert back with absolute assurance we could deliver the golf course on budget (this was to allow me time to convince Robert).  In exchange, the project manager agreed that; if I called back with assurance we would deliver the golf course on budget, the commission would be ours.

I explained the situation to Robert.  He wasn’t happy.  It was one of those hard conversations that are never fun.   And, he was not easily convinced that we should agree to the terms.  I guess I really don’t know what eventually convinced him to agree.  What I do know is; we revisited the conversation and his agreement to the terms several times during the evolution of the project.  You see, Robert had the best memory of about anyone I know.  But, when it came to remembering this project had a fixed budget – he showed signs of early onset Alzheimer’s….  (This is a joke.  Robert’s mind was always sharp.  And, his memory was perfect – when he wanted it to be…)

A review of Cinnamon Hill golf course:  Cinnamon Hill review by Robert Fagan – A Position 

A short video on Cinnamon Hill golf course, narrated by Robert Ames, Director of Golf Operations:

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