San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Gran Pacifica: Adventure golf with a splash

VILLA EL CARMEN – If you undershoot the green on the fourth hole at Pacifica Golf Club, your ball ends up in the estuary. If you overshoot the green, your ball ends up on the beach or in the Pacific Ocean. And even if you stick the shot perfectly, dropping a 132-yard drive within inches of the pin, you could still risk losing your ball to an errant wave that breaks over the seawall and washes your ball off the green and into the estuary.

Golfer 3

Overshooting the green means playing out of Mother Nature’s sandtrap

photo by Mattew Prezzano

“Two or three times a year, the high tide will bring waves right up over the green,” says course designer Tommy Haugen, as he takes a puff from his cigar. “The greens are also undulated, there are some serious bumps and humps and all kinds of fun. You’ll have plenty of adventures on the greens, I’m sure.”

The greens aren’t the only adventures golfers will have on Gran Pacifica’s roomy, ocean-side golf course. The shifting ocean breezes, the caiman on hole 5, and a panther spotted roaming the grounds around hole 9 make the course adventure golf, Nicaraguan style.

“This is rolling, ocean-side, big-time resort golf,” says Haugen, who has designed 15 other courses, in Wisconsin and in other parts of the U.S. Pacific Northwest. “These holes are long and challenging.”

The course, Haugen says, is “an easy par or boogie, but a tough birdie. And to me that makes a good golf course.”

The course also has a bit of variety, with a mix of big greenscapes and long holes with hazards that play away from the fairway, and shorter holes that play towards, across and alongside the water.

Though the course, which opened last year, is 9 holes, Haugen says it plays like 18.

That’s because there are 14 different tee boxes, with different yardages and angles approaching the same greens. For example, holes 7 and 16 play to the same green, but from different angles, requiring a different approaching shot to offer the semblance of a different hole.

“It seems like 18 different holes, because they play so differently,” Haugen said. “This is a thinking man’s golf course.”

It’s also a solitary man’s – and woman’s – golf course. Signs of Gran Pacifica’s development can only be spotted on three holes, while most of the course is tucked into the rolling and deforested wilds of former cattle pasture and cane fields.

Tommy Haugen

Course designer Tommy Haugen surveys his course.

Tim Rogers | Nica Times

And with very few golfers on the course, there’s plenty of time for mulligans, conversation and relaxing, unrushed golf – which is the way it should be, especially for recreational players.

Pacifica Golf Course, Nicaragua’s second Pacific coast golf club (three others are in the works), is offering special package deals to the public including a round of golf (9 or 18 holes), plus a cart and lunch for $49. Gran Pacifica also offers packages of $99 for golf, cart, lunch, dinner and a condo unit for the night.

The fully stocked pro shop has club rentals for $15.

For more information, call 8739-2225.

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