Panama As A Golf Destination

“When I come down, will I be able to golf?”

I was recently asked this question. I wanted to respond, “I don’t know,  do you know how to play golf now?” but I didn’t. I did wonder, however, if the gentleman had done any research about Panama before picking up the phone and calling me. It’s always summer in Panama, we have pretty much 12 hours of daylight, 365 days out of the year and we have numerous resorts with the word “golf” in their name. We are a huge retirement destination and lots of retirees like to play golf every day.

“There are several options for playing golf” I said pleasantly since I had already consumed a cup of coffee. “Do you know what area of Panama you are interested in exploring because there are golf options on the beach, in the city and in the mountains. I can make all kinds of suggestions.”

“I’m with P&G” he responded, referring to the international company of Procter & Gamble which has regional headquarters and a large workforce in Panama. “My office will be in Costa del Este so I was wondering about courses in that area. I know it sounds a bit silly, but golf is the one thing that keeps me centered. If I could have a nice course close to the office or close to home, I would love it!”

A Golf Course In Costa Del Este

Costa Del Este Golf
The Santa Maria golf course has the skyline of Costa del Este as a back drop.

I smiled thinking of the ultra private Santa Maria Golf and Country Club, a stunning 18-hole Jack Nicklaus designed course with views of the ever developing Costa del Este skyline. “There is a golf club very near to where your office will be, but it’s very exclusive,” I offered. “You know membership is limited and by invitation only. To be a member you would need to own a residence in Santa Maria, a gated community sitting adjacent to Costa del Este,” I continued trying to paint an accurate picture.

“How long does it take to get from Costa del Este to Santa Maria?” he continued without pausing. “It’s about five miles so count on ten minutes depending on traffic and time of day,” I said.

“If I don’t want to be that exclusive, what are my options?” he inquired.

A Course The Americans Left Behind 

“Well, you have the Summit Golf Club which is located in the Canal Zone and was left by the Americans when they occupied the Panama Canal. Obviously, it’s a pretty old course, but well maintained. It was designed by Jeffrey Meyers and is well ranked, but not as high as Santa Maria. It’s actually lovely because it is located in a rain forest and the views are stunning—especially in the mornings.” I could hear him making notes.

“There is also the Golf Club of Panama that is in the city. It’s fairly close to Costa del Este, but you could get some traffic during rush hour. I’m not as familiar with that course, but I hear good things about it,” I continued as I stared at the computer after Googling golf in Panama. “I see where Panama has been a member of the International Golf Federation since 1972, so we aren’t all that new to the game.”

“Are there golf tournaments in Panama?” he asked and was now sounding a bit more hopeful. “I guess I could look all of this up, but I like getting the view from someone in Panama,” he explained.

The Canadians vs. The World

Omar PGA
Omar Tejeira is a Panamanian who is currently playing on the PGA Tour.

“Well, there is the annual Canadians vs. The World championship” played at the Coronado Golf and Beach Resort, located about an hour’s drive from Panama City,” I laughed, “but I guess you weren’t asking about a bunch of retirees playing for bragging rights!” I paused just long enough for him to know I had a sense of humor.

“I guess you wanted to know about big time competitions sponsored by the likes of Lexus, Claro and BMW. We’ve had all of those and the Panama Championship was completed in February of this year. I actually watched part of that on the Golf Channel and some American won. That is an annual part of the tournament. The good thing about Panama is that we are a small country and it’s just easier to get up close and personal to the action.” I love that part about Panama.

“Supposedly, the very best course is the Mantarraya Golf Club and it’s located next to the Royal Decameron Resort, about 90 miles from Panama City. There are several courses in that region—five in total—which is very close to the Pacific Ocean. Several of the resorts have an agreement with the golf club and it’s very popular. It has a ranking of 9.0 from the “Best Courses” folks. People from all over the world play that course,” I continued.

$75 Green Fees On The Weekend

“Pretty expensive?” my caller inquired. “About $75 on the weekend in high season. Fifty on week-days,” I said. “You are kidding,” he responded. “Maybe I should think about Santa Maria if golfing is that reasonable.”

“The green fees are about twice that at Santa Maria, but if you become a member, you can just golf forever. There are some great places to buy in Santa Maria and then you’d live on the golf course and have the right to at least apply for membership,” I continued.

Go To The Beach Or Mountains

Panama Golf Course
Playing atop a mountain is like playing on top of the world and Lucero, Panama’s highest golf course delivers. Sitting almost 3500 feet above sea level in the highlands near Boquete

“On weekends or for a weekday treat go out to the beaches and play those courses. Vista Mar has a nice course and Buenaventura Golf Club is an 18-hole Nicklaus designed course that is a long course because it really combines the natural surroundings with the course. Lots of bunkers and water features.”

Then, I remembered the course in Boquete. “There is another fabulous course in Panama and it’s nowhere near the beach or the city. Lucero Golf and Country Club sits on top of a mountain and about 3500 feet above sea level. The weather is cooler and the surroundings are stunning. Boquete is worth the drive even if it didn’t have this outstanding golf course.”

Sold On Panama And Golf

Santa Maria
As a guest of the hotel, you have the right to play golf at the exclusive and highly rated golf course.

“Ok—I’m sold on golf in Panama which is really nice considering I love golf and I’m moving to Panama,” continued my caller. “I guess I want to go back and discuss Santa Maria. I’m single and if I want to put my money into golf then let’s discuss how I can play a few rounds and then consider the essential step of owning property to be able to join.”

“You are in luck,” I said quickly. “While the only people who can play regularly at Santa Maria are property owners and individuals who have been invited to join, all you have to do is stay at the hotel in Santa Maria, pay the green fee and test the waters. Look up The Santa Maria—it’s part of the luxury collection of the Marriott/Starwood hotels. You’ll spend around $150 a night, but it’s a really stunning place. If you can’t get a reservation on your own, let me know, I’ve got a couple of connections!”

“What are the residential prices like in Santa Maria?” he continued as I could hear the clicking of keys on the computer.

Interesting Neighbors

“Expensive,” I said quickly. “But worth every penny. It’s luxurious, there is every type of amenity from infinity pools for adults and separate pools for children, there is fine dining and plenty of room to entertain. The neighbors are interesting.” I could hear him laugh.

“You know your friends will want to come visit. You’ll need at least a couple of bedrooms and lots of places to stack your sticks. You are going to love Panama. Let me know when you can come down and I’ll help with the details,” I continued. “Did I mention Santa Maria is just minutes from Tocumen International Airport?”

“Thanks” he said warmly. “I will be hitting that airport fairly often and hopefully the greens at Santa Maria.”

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