For Classy Classic Golf, Go To Panama

Panama City is a mix of cosmopolitan style, Spanish Colonial charm and tropical beauty. Downtown Panama City is a bustling center of international commerce, towering skyscrapers and urban energy. Meanwhile, enchanting neighborhoods such as Casco Antiguo, Costa del Este and Casco Viejo showcase the cobblestone streets, crumbled ruins and historic architecture that trace this city’s lineage from the pre-Columbian era to the days of pirates and Spanish Conquistadors to the arrival of French and American prospectors, politicians and engineers. The region is rich with attractions—the Panama Canal, the Panama Viejo Museum, beach trips, eco-adventures in the rainforests, along with some great golf opportunities.

Panama City’s main golf attraction is the Santa Maria Golf & Country Club, managed by Troon of Scottsdale, Ariz. The club’s 18-hole par-72 course is by Nicklaus Design on a 700-acre site located just on the outskirts of the Panama City. The course incorporates a number of elements such as various water features with strategically placed wetland areas, together with extensive landscaping using indigenous plants.  The turf itself within the playable areas is state of the art and thus allowed the developers to conserve water not only on the golf course but also surrounding areas without sacrificing playability.

It is 7,153 yards from the back tees but four sets of tees offer something for players of all levels.  

Close by is The Santa Maria Hotel & Golf Resort. This five-star hotel has all the amenities you might expect, including elegant gourmet dining—cuisine with an exotic Panamanian-Mediterranean fusion style. The hotel also aims to take guests to new levels of health, wellness and relaxation through a variety of luxury wellness treatments inspired by indigenous healing traditions and seasonal local ingredients. There’s a hotel luxury spa, too, comprised of 6,450-square-foot oasis with five treatment rooms.

Travel some 80 miles southeast and you reach The Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort Panama, Autograph Collection, a premier resort on Panama’s shoreline. The resort’s coastal location means you’re close to world-class beaches such as Playa Blanca and El Faro. You’re also within easy reach of outdoor adventures, such as hiking and four-wheel drive tours.

Accommodations include luxury rooms and resort villas for families, with five separate pools a short distance from the beach. Nearby is a golf pro shop.

The world-class 18-hole course is another Jack Nicklaus-designed masterpiece, unveiled in 2012. The par-72 design  is open for play to members and resort guests, and utilizes the surrounding natural landscape to create a unique experience with well-placed bunkers and stunning water features.

This article first appeared in the PGA TOUR December 2019-May 2020 issue, which can be read here.

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