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Gold Coast Golf Courses

by Landy Blank

During the past decade, Costa Rica has experienced a tremendous period of growth in both the tourism and retirement-related industries. This growth, coupled with resurgence in the popularity of golf, has created a natural demand for communities and resorts with golf as their centerpieces. Developers in Costa Rica have reacted quickly to this demand, and many golf-related projects began throughout the country.

During this same period, the Costa Rican government initiated incentive programs for approved tourism-related projects in the Guanacaste Province. Because of the great expense involved in the construction of golf courses, these incentives assured the country's largest concentration of new golf courses would be centered along Costa Rica's northern Pacific coast. Often referred to as The Gold Coast, the geographical characteristics of this region lend themselves to interesting courses and often spectacular golf holes.

In late 1997, two of these Guanacaste projects were completed and are the first of many courses that will bring visitors to this region: the Ron Garl-designed course at Rancho Las Colinas Golf & Country Club and the Robert Trent Jones II course at Meliá Playa Conchal Beach & Golf Resort. Las Colinas' course is primarily a golf course community, with private homes and condos situated around the course. The Meliá Playa Conchal property is a five-star resort that has only recently started to offer home lots throughout the property. The Conchal property is large enough for a second course, which is planned to support the private community.

Home sites are still being offered at Las Colinas Golf & Country Club, as well as condos overlooking the back nine with great views. The clubhouse location is planned on the top of a mini-tabletop mountain in the center of the property, which will be spectacular when completed. The golf course at Las Colinas takes full advantage of the steep, rocky terrain on the back nine, while the river that borders the front nine attracts a large variety of tropical water birds and a troop or two of Howler monkeys. On a few of the elevated holes and tee boxes you look over Playa Grande, one of Costa Rica's top surfing beaches. Around here, on any Saturday morning, you may have to scramble with local golfers from Tamarindo and Flamingo beaches.

The course measures 6,741 yards from the back tees and has three tee boxes on each hole. You'll have a great time and pick up a lot of local knowledge, as well as hearing all the local gossip!

When Robert Trent Jones II designed the golf course for Meliá Playa Conchal, he used every penny of a generous budget, and then spent another chunk just for good measure. Garra de Leon, or Lion's Paw, named after the shells that resemble the paw print of a lion, is a world-class golf course capable of hosting any professional golf event.

In fact, at the end of next September it will host the Tour Las Americas golf tournament with the top pros from Central and South America competing for $200,000 in prize money. The event will be televised on the Golf Channel and ESPN.

Garra de Leon surrounds the five-star Meliá Playa Conchal Beach & Golf Resort and contains all the elements of a great golf course. Wide sweeping fairways, beautiful vistas, large undulating greens, just enough water to make you pay attention.... Simply put, a big golf course. Garra de Leon is manicured right to the edge of the tropical dry forest that surrounds the property, with a wall-to-wall irrigation system that keeps the course green year round. From the Professional Tee Boxes, the course measures 7,080 yards, but the four tee boxes on each hole offer an option for players of all levels of ability. The seasonal breezes will be a factor when choosing the tee box that best fits your game.

Jones went to great length and expense to preserve the native dry forest and created several lagoons and lakes to enhance the golfing experience, as well as to serve as a filtrating system for the golf course runoff.

At present there are several other Guanacaste golf projects in various stages of development. The most advanced is located between Hermosa and Coco beaches at Cacique del Mar. Situated on a high peninsula overlooking the Pacific, this planned resort community has the potential to be a great golf destination. Cacique del Mar's infrastructure is in place and the project has signed the Greg Norman Group to construct the course. The design work and the first rough cut of the course have been completed. The course is expected to be finished by November, 2000.

The lure of playing golf in Costa Rica is quite simple: Costa Rica is a beautiful country that naturally provides great settings for golf courses. The best aspect of designing a course here is that you only have to make good use of the existing land to bring about incredible results.

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