PAPAGAYO, Costa Rica - It was just a matter of time before a golf course was designed to take advantage of the stunning elevated ocean views along the Northwest Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. When you visit Costa Rica - as more and more Americans are these days - include a stay at the new Four Seasons Resort and a round on the incredibly beautiful Arnold Palmer golf course.
The resort is situated on the point of the Papagayo Peninsula, a promontory so narrow that thehotel has sandy beaches on both sides. In one direction are hillsides as high as 1,000 feet, withspectacular views of the Pacific. These views - and natural elevation changes that create unforgettable holes - were factors in the routing the golf course. The Palmer team took full advantage of the bounty presented - and I question whether they ever had a better piece of land towork with.
My playing partner on Papagayo was Xavier Urbina, the on-site manager for the Palmer design team. The round proved to be interesting and educational for me, because Xavier could show me the nuances of the design as no one else could. At one point we played through a foursome who said it was the most beautiful golf course they had ever played. They hadn't a clue who Javier was - but apparently he's getting used to hearing such praise for the new layout.
The front side of the golf course is set up with three par 3s, 4s, and 5s. The back is the traditional setup of five par 4s, two par 3s and two par 5s.
The first hole is a very fair par 5 that lets you get over the first hole nerves without puttingup a big number. From there you simply play the course: a combination of great views, elevation changes with interesting holes, wind that is always present but not a major factor (the day Iplayed), greens that roll true and will be running about a 10 on the Stimpmeter meter, and rough that is forgiving but will get tougher as time goes by.
During the past year I have played six courses that are ranked in the top 50 worldwide. It won'tbe long before the new Palmer course at the Four Seasons Resort in Costa Rica will be included in many of these course rating lists. The vistas are spectacular and are equal to any that you will experience at Kauri Cliffs or Pebble Beach. The elevation changes and changing wind conditions make each round a new experience. It is similar to Pacific Dunes in that when the wind is quiet the course is manageable, but when the wind picks up even the best players will have their handsfull.
Only guests at the Fours Seasons Papagayo are allowed to play the course, which makes it the most expensive round in Costa Rica. But an overnight at the hotel with an afternoon round upon check-in, followed by a round in the morning is a good option.
Because there is no outside play, you can count on a leisurely round with plenty of time to take pictures, redo putts and simply enjoy the beauty that surrounds you.
November 22, 2004
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
The Lakes Course at the Ruttger's Bay Lake Lodge in Minnesota provides pure up-north forested golf, and the slight drive from nearby Brainerd is well worth the visit, as players will undoubtedly acquire a love for the handsome wooded surroundings.
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