Golfing in Panama, a look at the links
Panama is on its way to becoming a premier golf destination. With new courses, redesigned layouts and rebuilds of older courses and a new era of professional golf club management, it all adds up to greater opportunities for enjoying this fascinating (and frustrating!) game in Panama.
An interesting statistic is that compared to other locales Panama actually provides adequate opportunity to play, since it has 3.4 golf courses per million residents. Colombia and the Domini-can Republic in comparison only have one course per million.
Golf is a year-round sport in Panama, but it can be completely different in our wet rainy season from May to December (think heavy rain, mud and zero carry on golf shots) to the vastly different dry season from January to April when the fairways can be concrete hard while stiff trade winds blow the ball all over hill and dale. In addition to great seasonal variations, the golf courses on the Pacific coast are in the so-called “Dry Arc” region of Panama and have significantly less rain than courses near the canal area.
For residents and seasonal visitors, it can be important to have a Panama Golf Association (APA) handicap if you intend to play in local events. Home country handicaps are portable and usually valid for competitive and charity events, but you’ll have much more local credibility with a true Panama handicap. One can sign up for APA Golf handicap at the pro shop at any golf course in Panama.For more info about golf happenings in Panama check the web site at http://www.ptygolf.com.
The grand dame
The Club de Golf de Panamá is a storied course and club. It is a private country club and is truly the grand dame of golf clubs in Panama. It is located in the Cerro Viento area out towards Tocumen Airport (near the Metro Mall). The Club de Golf traces its roots back to the beginning of the game in Panama. Host for the last 12 years to the PGA Tour’s Web.com event, the golf course has undergone a complete renovation of all 18 greens and other much-needed improvements to bring it up to true championship form.
Since it is a private club, one is not going to gain entry to the grounds much less play golf unless invited by a member or, alternatively, by participating in periodic events which are open to the public. If you are an avid golfer or an aficionado of the game, the Panama Golf Club should be tops on your list and you should make an effort to wrangle an invitation to play.
Contact: clubdegolfdepanama.com; (507) 266-7777.
Santa María Golf & Country Club is located adjacent to the Southern Corridor about halfway between Panama City and Tocumen Airport and is the most recent addition to golf in Panama.
It is a private golf course which is part of a large residential development and only open to members and invited guests.
Contact: http://www.santamariapanama.com; (507) 340-9300
Canal Zone style
Summit Golf and Resort, like the Panama Golf Club, also traces its historic roots back to the earliest days of golf in Panama. Originally a course in the Canal Zone for American canal workers and US military personnel before the reversion of the canal, the course was taken over and renovated twelve years ago and opened up for public play as well as membership.
Open to the public for daily play, Summit is a full golf facility within a mile of the Centenary Bridge over the canal. The 6,626 yards course is at 72 par and was designed by the famous American designer, Jeffrey Myers. It is set in picturesque surroundings with stunning views of the Panama Canal and the Camino de Cruces National Park
The course offers multiple forms of tee-boxes, generous landing areas and moderately contoured greens. There is a driving range, pro shop and experienced golf staff. If you need any assistance with golf lessons, club-buying advice or group events just ask the personable, fully bilingual director of golf. In addition to the challenging 18-hole course, it offers an on-site Radisson hotel, with pool, gymnasium and upscale or casual dining facilities.
Contact: www.summithotelgolfpanama.com; (507) 232-4653; www. radisson.com; 232-3700.
Just over the Canal
Tucán Country Club and Resort is located a few minutes from Panama City on the West Bank of the canal adjacent to where the new Pacific locks are being built. It is another course which traces its roots to the American era. Originally called Horoko and operated by the US military, this golf facility also underwent extensive renovation and is now a centerpiece for a gated, upscale housing development of 180 acres (74 hectares) where you can find everything from sophisticated apartments to luxurious villas, all complemented by the beautiful, natural.environment
Like Summit, Tucán is open to the public for daily play and offers a full 18-hole, 6,618 yard course. Nine holes border the famous Panama Forest Reserve, while the other nine offer a beautiful panoramic view of the Canal and Panama City. It is an excellent course where tees, fairways & greens are strategically designed, giving the golfer the opportunity to experience a full range of strokes.
Be sure to warm up at the driving range and practice on the putting green.
Before or after play peruse the construction of the adjacent gigantic new locks which are a centerpiece of the canal expansion project.
Contact: http://www.tucancountryclub.com; 507 316-4133.
Just like Switzerland
Boquete in the Chiriqui highlands sports a challenging executive 9-hole course called Quebrada Grande within the lovely Valle Escondido residential and hotel development. The course consists of three par-four holes and six par-three and. almost every hole plays over the river at least once, so if you make it through without losing a ball to the Quebrada Grande, you have joined the ranks of only a select few! This “Hidden Valley” also sports the LaVida Health & Beauty Spa with an indoor, heated, 25-meter salt-system pool, artisan jacuzzis, sauna and steam baths, and full service spa menu. Their tennis court has high fencing and a Plexi-pave sport finishing system while their racquetball court has a fine hardwood floor and a glass observation area for family and friends. The hotel offers luxury accommodation and fine dining amid charming grounds.
Contact: http://www.vresort.com; (507) 720-2454.
Golf in Boquete
Near Boquete, Chiriquí you’ll find Lucero Golf and Country Club. Panama’s highest golf course, Lucero is a full 18-hole course located in the spectacular mountains and presents one of the most visually stunning courses in Central America.
The par 72 course was designed by renowned golf course designer J. Michael Poellet.
In addition to the spectacular views, the golf is some of the most challenging you will find in Panama, requiring precision shot-making. Bring extra golf balls as some fairways drop off into areas where you’ll not want to search very long.
At the beach
Another long-established course is the Fazio-designed layout in Bluebay Coronado Golf & Beach Resort, one of the toughest tracks in Panama located an hour and fifteen minute drive from Panama City. Open to the public, the course is quite busy on weekends due to the high number of weekenders up from the city. This is an 18-hole par 72 course offering 7116 yards for professionals, 6637 yards for men, 5926 yards for seniors and 5545 yards for women.
It is a challenge to both amateurs and professionals, with strong breezes during Panama’s five months of “summer”. The sixteenth hole is the most spectacular – a par 3 over water with a green surrounded by sand.
A great feature of the Coronado golf facility is a 9-hole, par 3 mini course located adjacent to the driving range. Lighted for night-time use, this facility is a great way not only to sharpen the short game but fun for players of all ages.
If you are a golf fan looking for a property next to your favorite sport, Punta Vela, a residential tower with luxury apartments and full amenities, is located in the Coronado Golf Club, surrounded by the golf course. Membership to the golf club is included.
Contact: http://www.bluebaycoronadobeach.com; (507) 240-3158.
My name is Mantaraya
Located near the town of Farallón (between Santa Clara and Rio Hato) you will find the huge Royal Decameron Resort and Villas offering golf at the Decameron Golf Club called Mantaraya.
Open since 2005 this was the second golf course to open in Panama’s popular Pacific beach area. A full, challenging 18-hole course winds its way through the extensive privately owned villas. Open to the public, one finds golfers from Royal Decameron’s all-inclusive hotel, members from villa owners and golfers who just pay daily green fees.
An interesting feature of this course are two holes (1 and 10) which present golfers with big trees right in the middle of the fairway. Another demanding experience is a stretch of four holes (13 through 16) that are especially difficult because of their length.
As with most of the courses along this stretch of Panama’s Pacific beach, dry season trade winds and drier ground demands a different and more exacting type of golf than rainy season.
Contact: http://www.decameron.com; (507) 993-2255.
Located a few miles past Coronado yet before the town of San Carlos, is the Vista Mar Golf and Beach Resort and its excellent golf facility by golf architect J. Michael Poellot. This is a full 18-hole, par 72, fun and demanding test of golf with the best sea and mountain views in Panama. There is a club house, driving range and practice putting green.
Contact: http://www.vistamarresort.com; (507) 345-4096 /97.
Santa Clara’s finest
The Sheraton Bijao Beach Club and Resort in the Santa Clara area offers a 9-hole full-size golf course with a practice putting green, but no driving range. Open to the public, this fine course offers a golfing challenge to players of every level.
Contact: http://www.bijaobeachclub.com; (507) 304-9800, (507) 908-3600.
Aprivate course in the upscale JW Marriott resort and Buenaventura community in Rio Hato, the Buenaventura Golf Club is a Jack Nicklaus design 18-hole championship course that is one of the finest in Panama.
Play is reserved for guests of the luxurious JW Marriott in Buenaventura, members and their guests.
The finest elements of Nicklaus design and Troon Golf management are on display as the course winds its way through and around magnificent corotú trees, water, sand bunkers and natural sand waste areas. Take advantage of the practice range and putting area to get full enjoyment of this first class facility.
Contact: http://www.buenaventura.com.pa; (507) 908-3200.
For love of the sport
The city of Chitré, Herrera province, right in the heart of the country, in addition to being an historical town full of colorful traditions, has another claim to fame: the first home-made golf club. Yes, that is right, no Jack Niclaus design here, only what nature offers. Its origins are very interesting. A group of golf enthusiasts got together to buy a plot of land that until then had been used to keep cattle and there the Chitré Golf Club (Club de Golf de Chitré) was born in 1976.
However, golf is one of those sports requiring big spaces and even more land was needed. Help came from an engineer named José Antonio Holguín, who years before had purchased several paddocks for his cattle. He sold them to the golf club at the same price he paid originally. Those became the fairways.
It is not difficult to imagine, due to the limitations presented by the natural terrain, how golf was played in Chitré back then. The course did not have greens as such, and although today’s fairways are similar, each shot was at the mercy of oily spots and sandy patches that would impede the ball’s ability to roll smoothly. Where shots were taken, a plank of wood was used to smooth the surface and ready it for the next player.
Each of the nine fairways has two small greens in order to play a full 18-hole round. Apparently, this style was the brainchild of one of the founding members who had seen something similar in a Middle Eastern country.
Currently the club, located in Barriada San Martín, Via Hogar de Ancianos, has a restaurant, bar, swimming pool, tennis court and events rooms.
Check the Golf Tournament Calendar below: