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 createunforgettable holes - were factors in the routing the golf course. The Palmer team took fulladvantage 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 designteam. The round proved to be interesting and educational for me, because Xavier could show me thenuances of the design as no one else could. At one point we played through a foursome who said itwas the most beautiful golf course they had ever played. They hadn't a clue who Javier was - butapparently 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 thetraditional 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, elevationchanges 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 roughthat 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 inmany of these course rating lists. The vistas are spectacular and are equal to any that you willexperience at Kauri Cliffs or Pebble Beach. The elevation changes and changing wind conditions makeeach round a new experience. It is similar to Pacific Dunes in that when the wind is quiet thecourse 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 themost expensive round in Costa Rica. But an overnight at the hotel with an afternoon round uponcheck-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 takepictures, 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.
Referred to by its hosts as a "hidden gem," the greens alone at Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo, Calif. make this a stone worth turning over. Located an hour northwest of L.A., it's a pleasing, quiet and generally engaging round that will appease players of all levels.
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