CHANCES are you can’t get a tee time at Augusta National. Let’s be honest – you won’t even be allowed through the door.
However, in Costa Rica you’re almost guaranteed to be able to schedule your tee time of choice at the nation’s best courses, with their breathtaking views, amazing fairways and tropical wildlife.
Taking into account that the cost to play two rounds at Pebble Beach, with all its stipulations and restrictions, will cost you roughly three times what it would cost to fly down to Costa Rica, play the same number of rounds and fly home, golfers may find that Guanacaste is the destination they’ve been looking for.
About a 45-minute drive from Liberia’s Daniel Oduber International airport, Hacienda Pinilla (680-7000, www.haciendapinilla.com) in Santa Cruz strives to offer great service as well as ideal playing conditions. Because it is inland, unlike several other Guanacaste courses, the par-72 links course tends to have better wind conditions and it is referred by many to have “the best greens in Central America,” according to David R. Vallejos, the course’s PGA head golf professional.
The course offers four sets of tees, ranging from 5,754 to 7,274 yards for players of varying skill.
In planning the course, designers tried to infringe on as little of the surrounding wildlife, moving very little dirt and working around trees. The course is certified by Audubon International for its protection to its surrounding environment, and has a water filtration system for recycling water from the Hacienda Pinilla resort to water the course. The resort is also involved in a local reforestation project.
PROVIDING guests with an enjoyable experience is important to the staff. “Anything a golfer wants we can provide,” says Vallejos. “And we provide it with a smile.”
The course offers lessons and instruction and has an on-site clubhouse with bar and grill.
Playing 18 holes costs $70 for hotel guests and members of Anagolf. The cost for outside players is $125. Cart is included in the cost. Clubs and shoes are also available for rental.
ABOUT an hour’s drive north at the Paradisus Playa Conchal Beach and Golf Resort (654-4123, www.solmelia.com), the Garra de León course, with its spacious fairways, stunning Pacific Ocean views and howler monkeys in the surrounding trees, offers golfers what the resort calls an “eco-golf experience.” With four sets of tees ranging from 7,080 to 5,446 yards, this Audubon-certified par-72 course offers golfers several playing options.
An 18-hole round at Garra de León during the high season costs $140 for guests of the resort, $175 for outside players. Nine holes is $75 for guests, $85 for outside players. Guests 17 and under play free, while outside players under 17 play for $15. Green fees include cart usage, use of the practice facility, range balls, beverages and club storage. Clubs and shoes are available to rent.
THE course also has a PGA-certified instructor, Garra de León director of golf Philip Krick, Jr. and offers private as well as group instruction and video analysis for players looking to improve their game.
About an hour and a half farther north, the Four Seasons Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo (696-0000, www.fourseasons.com/costarica) opened its golf course in February. Only open to guests of the resort, the Arnold Palmer par-72 course features ocean views from 14 of its 18 holes, with elevation changes throughout.
In contrast to the other courses in the region, the Four Seasons course, has paspalum grass. Paspalum, unlike the traditionally used Bermuda, can stand up better to varying weather and can be watered with saltwater. Some golfers also feel that green speeds are improved with this turf. Also, because it is a closed course it tends to be less crowded than others in the area.
While the course is not Audubon-certified, Director of Golf Rob Oosterhuis says that is one of the resort’s goals in coming months. Also, as the course is new, the construction of the clubhouse is not yet complete, but is expected to be finished by the end of the year.
A round of 18 holes on the 6,788-yard course is $180, with a twilight rate of $110 for play after 2 p.m. Carts are included in the rental. Club and shoe rental are also available.
DEPENDING on your time or budget, a round of nine holes is another option. Farther south, near Playa Tambor on the NicoyaPeninsula are two nine-hole courses.
The longer established of the two is located at Tango Mar Resort (683-0001, www.tangomar.com). For $25, golfers can play all day. Cart is not included in the green fee, however, cart and club rental is available. Barceló Los Delfines (683-0303, www.barcelo.com) resort charges $25 for nine holes, giving players the option to play the course twice for a total 18 holes for $30. Cart is not included in green fee, but cart and club rental is available.
There has been talk about extending the par-35 course to 18 holes, but according to the pro shop such expansion would be in the very distant future.
With the ability to play a selection or all of these courses in one trip and reasonable green fees, golfing after Costa Rica may never be the same.