Golf in Panama has come a long way since the first course was built in the 1930s for Panama Canal Zone workers.
Panama has hosted championship golf tournaments such as the annual Panama Claro Championship (a component of the PGA Nationwide Tour) and the world’s largest amateur golf tournament, the BMW Golf Cup International. And though that first course—Summit Golf Course—remains an option, numerous other golf courses are being built all over the country.
Here are some of Panama’s golf courses:
Best Places to Play Golf Near the Beach in Panama
Bijao development: Located on Santa Clara beach (Pacific Coast), Bijao is a 250-acre development with a private nine-hole, par-36 golf course under construction. The course should be completed by 2012. Bijao will also feature a tennis club.
Royal Decameron Golf Club: Located on Farallon Beach (Pacific Coast), the Royal Decameron all-inclusive resort and development features the Mantaraya (Manta Ray) course, an 18-hole Randall Thompson-designed course. The par-72 golf course has hosted PGA officials and the U.S. Senior Amateur Golf Championship. You’ll also find an elegant clubhouse and pro shop here, as well as driving range with on-site pros. Green fees range from $30 to $50…ask about resident retiree discounts, “ladies days,” and twilight rates.
Vista Mar: Located in Lago Mar/San Carlos (Pacific Coast), this resort and development features a Michael Poellot-designed course. Once completed, this will be an 18-hole, par-72 course; currently, nine holes are open for play. This golf course overlooks the Pacific.
Hotel Coronado Golf & Beach Resort: Located in Coronado (Pacific Coast), this resort and development is about an hour from Panama City. Here you will find a Fazio-designed, 18-hole, 72-par course. The golf course is probably one of the most expensive in Panama at about $120 to play.
Play Golf in Panama City
Club de Golf: Located in Panama City, this course is private and membership is extended to associates…but you can be invited to play golf here or become a member by an existing associate. Also ask about corporate plans. The 18-hole, par-70 course has hosted many of Panama’s championship tourneys and features a driving range, pro shop, spa facilities, tennis and racquetball courts and a swimming pool.
Summit Golf & Resort: Located in Panama City, about 30 minutes by car from the downtown area, Summit is an 18-hole, par-72 golf course built in the 1930s. It was recently redesigned to “World Class standards” by Jeffrey Meyers and offers memberships and play-as-you-go rates. The course overlooks the Panama Canal and Camino de Cruces National Park. Green fees start at about $50 and include the cart. Here you’ll find beverage and snack service, a golf academy, driving range, pro shop, restaurant, gym, event hall, day care, and pool.
Best Place to Play Golf in Boquete
Valle Escondido: Located in Boquete, Chiriqui, this resort and development is home to a nine-hole executive course that runs through a coffee plantation. With at least two boxes on each hole, the course offers 18-hole plays a short walk from the Boquete town square. Green fees start at around $40.
Cielo Paraiso development: Located in Jaramillo, Chiriqui (near Boquete), the Cielo Paraiso golf course was designed by Michael Poellot. The first nine holes of this 18-hole championship course opened for play in 2009 and the remaining nine holes should be open by the second half of 2010. All golfers are welcome and the “member for a day” program varies in price from $50 to $80 for 18 holes, including cart.
Cheapest Golf Courses in Panama
Chitre Club de Golf: Located in Chitre, Herrera (on the Azuero peninsula), this is perhaps the cheapest course in Panama. Green fees at the nine-hole course start at about $5, including club rental. This is golfing at its most basic, so don’t expect golf carts or extra amenities.
Other golf courses to look forward to in the near future include championship courses at Panama Pacifico, in the Howard area of Panama City, and at Buenaventura beach development, on Farallon beach (on the Pacific Coast about two hours from Panama City). If you’re in Panama with a pensionado or pensioner’s visa, you may be entitled to discounts.