The Guanacaste region of Costa Rica was once a part of Nicaragua and has many elements of Mexican culture. In recent years golf in Costa Rica has attracted celebrities as well as visiting golfers looking for something new.
One outstanding test of golf skill is the Westin Golf Resort & Spa, Playa Conchal, featuring a course designed by Robert Trent Jones II and built over rolling terrain that offers beautiful ocean views. Lakes and ravines dot the course which places a premium on accuracy, particularly when the winds are up.
The Cariari Country Club, long said to hold one of the best courses in Central America, is built on land that was once a coffee plantation. It was designed by golf course architect George Fazio and built by his now famous nephew, Tom Fazio. This par-71 course measures 6,590 yards from the back tees and is heavily wooded, with narrow fairways and large greens and a wealth of strategically placed bunkers. The bermudagrass greens are grand, roll fast and true and sand traps are situated throughout. The course was the site of the Friendship Cup in 1979 and 1980.
The Guanacaste Country Club was designed by Jack Nicklaus. It has six sets of tees with the Championship 18 playing at a robust 7,124 yards. The forward tees are specifically designed for kids and beginners. The front nine winds through a former sugar cane field with a lake in play on four holes. The inward nine features changes in elevations and offers views of the mountains and volcanoes.
Another fine test is the Four Seasons Costa Rica Golf Club at Peninsula Papagayo. Designed by Arnold Palmer, this 18-hole, par-72 championship course was ranked among the “Top 100 Courses Outside the United States” by Golf Digest in 2009. These are just a few of the better courses in a country that is emerging as a popular golf destination. Don’t overlook it.
The Home of the “Cayman Ball”
Many years ago Nicklaus, who has long warned against the danger posed by technology that made golf balls travel farther than ever, created the “Cayman Ball” that was specifically designed not to go very far. The ball took its name from a course he was designing on Grand Cayman, the Britannia Golf Club, the Caribbean’s first signature Nicklaus golf course. The course has all the natural challenges and hazards of a traditional seaside or links layout. Some holes present golfers with blind tee shots, pot bunkers and two-tiered greens. On the fifth hole, tee shots must carry over the Caribbean waters, while the 510-yard ninth hole challenges golfers to carry water hazards twice. The 5,829-yard course is set up as a nine-hole layout, played twice from different tees with a 135-slope rating.
Another fine course is the Greg Norman-designed “Blue Tip,” a cleverly conceived nine-holer with five long par 4s that play into the Caribbean trade winds. The course is open to guests and residence owners at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, and offers golfers the opportunity to make tee times on short notice.