By Tim Cotroneo | Jan. 10, 2018
The Ocean Course Peninsula Papagayo in Costa Rica adheres to the commandment that the world’s best golf courses grab your attention before the first tee box. At the Ocean Course’s gated entrance your first case of admiration whiplash is generated by a commissioned sculpture made from imported Italian marble.
Anticipation builds as you drive a four-mile-long pathway featuring towering palm trees, glimpses of the Pacific Ocean, and Louvre-worthy shrubbery sparking memories of Edward Scissorhands. About the time your car slows to zero you encounter an architectural marvel. You stare gape-mouthed at the Ronald Zurcher designed clubhouse showcasing a rooftop resembling the armadillos that are native to Costa Rica.
As the attendant grabs your clubs, you’re lured like a magnet into the clubhouse. You detour the pro shop and march straight to the image beckoning from the Caracol Restaurant. In Spanish, “caracol” means snail, and the curved humpbacked ceiling is a first impression “wow.” This visual blitz is exceeded only by the view jutting from the massive 180-degree deck overlooking the 18th hole and beyond to the Pacific.
The Only Game in Town
On the Ocean Course’s first tee box, you’re blown away by the emerald green fairway. You learn that the Ocean Course is part of the 2,300-acre Four Seasons Resort that is the only business within a 15-mile radius. This means that the golf course is the solitary customer tapping into the Peninsula Papagayo aquifer. In the Costa Rican region of Guanacaste, it pays to be the only game in town.
Upon nearing the second hole putting green you hear a racket clamoring from the trees. Edge closer and discover this tree is a haven for howler monkeys. The Ocean Course is home to a Certified Audubon Sanctuary that includes howlers, white-faced monkeys, puma, fox, deer, and enough birdlife to cast an Alfred Hitchcock movie remake.
The Ocean Course was Arnold Palmer’s first foray into Central American golf course design. Imagine The King’s delight when he realized his artistic canvas included the Pacific Ocean on one side, Culebra Bay on the other and extreme “roller coaster” elevations.
The Costa Rican Name Game
The Ocean Course is a modest 6800 yards, but there are enough wicked turns and imposing ocean shots to make even the most methodical course manager pause before gripping and ripping.
The scorecard reveals such playful golf hole names as Shark, Monkey, and Treacherous when translated from Spanish to English. These monikers add another touch of spice to a course that Director of Golf Randoll Viquez refers to as a “journey into the jungle.”
Golfers quickly recognize that 13 of Ocean Course’s 18 holes offer views of the Pacific Ocean. Some vacationers became so enamored with their Peninsula Papagayo surroundings they now call it home. On the back nine you’ll find million dollar Four Seasons residences discreetly built into the woods, on top of cliffs, and positioned to maximize the eco-views that are unique to Costa Rica.
Recalling Your Journey in the Jungle
After the round, it’s time to recapture the day on the clubhouse deck. With a Costa Rican Imperial beer in one hand and a cigar in the other, you sit back and take in the panoramic view. Like Arnold Palmer before you, it hits home that there is nothing like this Ocean Course journey into the jungle.