Golf in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a nation of stunning beauty for nature enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies alike, with plenty of surfing, hiking, white water rafting, and much more among its 26 national parks and nature reserves.
But there’s one other outdoor activity that may be the most overlooked when booking a trip to Costa Rica: golf.
However, it wasn’t until 1940 when the greatest game every invented came to Costa Rica, when the nation’s rich and elite joined the Costa Rica Country Club and teed off on its 9-hole course, the first ever.
There were only 700,000 people in Costa Rica back then and they hadn’t even signed their new constitution or disbanded their military yet. It wasn’t until thirty years later, when Costa Rica had 2 million people, did the nation get its second golf course, the private and prestigious Cariari Country Club.
At that point, Cariari was widely considered one of the best golf courses in all of Central America (although there still weren’t a whole lot to choose from.) Course golfers included the likes of John Wayne, Bob Hope, and Joe DiMaggio (possibly with Marilyn Monroe in tow!). Located in the mellow San Jose satellite city of Haredia, the course sits on 53 hectares located on a former coffee plantation.
Next came Los Reyes, a private golf club in Ciudad-Hacienda, Los Reyes with a 9-hole course, but golf was still not popular among anyone but the richest of the rich.
But the rise of international tourism in the 1990s brought golfers who wanted to take advantage of Costa Rica’s great weather and natural settings, and golf bags started showing on airport luggage conveyor belts more and more.
In 1997, Costa Rica saw its first 18-hole public golf course, Valle Del Sole. Two more 18-hole courses opened up after 2000, Reserva Conchal Resort and Hacienda Pinilla.
Hacienda Pinilla immediately became the crown jewel of Guanacaste Province, and must-visit for golf lovers who happened to be in nearby Tamarindo. But don’t let the gorgeous, flowering scenery and occasional four-legged bystanders fool you: Haceinda Pinilla quickly earned a reputation as the most difficult course in the country, with 7,274 yards over 18 holes and a 72 par.
But 2005 was the year that Costa Rica’s golf scene really hit the big time, when an Arnold Palmer-designed course opened up at the Four Seasons, and then, the well-designedPapagayo Country Club after that.
Today, golf is alive and well in Costa Rica, and we urge you to play a few rounds when you’re visiting. Here are some of our favorite courses in the country, with a note on each:
Tango Mar Beach, Spa & Golf Resort
You’ll catch some of the best sunsets while playing this Puntarenas course, as well as howler monkeys and tropical birds watching you play.
Parque Valle del Sol
Known as the “locals” course for Ticos and Ticas, this Santa Ana course in a suburb of San Jose does have 18 holes but a lower greens fee and is far more relaxed than the really formal and stuff luxury, private clubs. You’ll also find plenty of small tournaments and competitions at Parque Valle and a great sunset round discount.
La Iguana Golf Course, Puntarenas
Another course in the western coastal city of Puntarenas, this 18-hole, 72-par course as designed by Ted Robinson and sits smack dab in the middle of a rainforest!
Here are a few other great courses:
Reserva Conchal Golf Club
Cabo Velas, Guanacaste
Los Delfines Golf & Country Club
San Buenas Golf Resort
Punta Islita Executive Course