Guatemala Golf Course Guide
Of the estimated 55 million golfers in the world, it would be a safe bet to say that a very small percentage of them would consider Guatemala a golf destination. And yet, there are some world-class golf courses here if you just know where to look.
written by Katherine McIntyre
La Reunion Golf Resort – Fuego Maya Golf Course
Come, Play, Stay
It wasn’t golf I expected to find in Guatemala! It was antiquities, shopping and adventure. But a nearly new, world-class golf course surrounded by four volcanoes just 17 kilometers from the UNESCO heritage city of La Antigua beckoned.
The drive from Antigua passes verdant coffee plantations as well as small towns and auto repair shops. Then it was through a heavy iron gate and up, up a twisting hill to the perfectly groomed Fuego Maya Golf Course. Opened in 2008 and designed by the world-famous golf architect Pete Dye and his son Perry, this former coffee plantation is now a stunning course meandering down the slope of Fuego, a smoldering volcano. Considered one of the best new golf courses in the world, it is a “challenge” with a mystical Mayan theme and features bentgrass greens and fairways.
An iron incense burner wafts aromatic fumes at the entrance to the lavish clubhouse. Your golf clubs are spirited away. They reappear on golf carts with mandatory caddies to drive your carts, guide you through the course and find your errant golf balls.
Taking the 19 months from the Mayan calendar for a theme, each hole represents one month. The 19th is Wayeb for the Mayans five days of rest and contemplation—or the 19th hole for tired and thirsty golfers. And those hungry golfers can refuel at a clubhouse that spells luxury.
My round was on one of those rare gray days in this land of eternal spring. Unfortunately, the four surrounding volcanoes were shrouded in mist. But, I was assured, they usually stand out against Guatemala’s brilliant blue sky, and that playing golf when Fuego volcano is spitting fire is an atypical golf experience. Impeccably groomed to the last tuft of grass, its 72-par, 7,289-yard course curves down the mountainside. Blind tee shots, water hazards, deep ravines, wild flowers, and on good days views of the Pacific Ocean, provide excitement and distraction. And as golf writer Mike Bailley writes, “It is no pushover, with blind spots and elevation changes.”
Guests can stay in one of 26 impeccably decorated casitas, each with its own infinity pool that appears to tip into the golf course. Clubhouse dining spots have an unusual array of enticing plates not generally found on golf club menus.
The 150 employees who work on the golf course have not been forgotten. The owners have provided a school for the their children and health services. Local women are making candles to be used at the hotel.
Eco projects include collecting rainwater in decorative lagoons for watering the course, using local trees in reforestation areas, preserving seeds of endangered species. A recycling project of trash and waste has started.
But nothing beats playing golf on this mystical course surrounded by four volcanoes, one emitting smoke and fire.
Contact: La Reunion, Antigua Golf Resort, Ruta Nacional CA 14, Km. 91.5, Alotenango, Sacatepéquez, Guatemala Tel: +(502) 7873-1400
Website: La Reunion
Pete Dye course; built in 2008; Guest policy Open; Driving range; Rental carts; Rental clubs; Caddies;
Teaching Pro available. Other facilities: clubhouse, spa, pro shop, restaurant, bar, hotel.
Mayan Golf Club
Recognized as the oldest golfing society in Central America, the Pamplona Golf Association (as it was then known) was established in 1918. First situated in the La Paz district of Guatemala City, it was moved to La Chacara and finally, in 1962, relocated to its present location between San Miguel Petapa and Villa Nueva.
Contact: Mayan Golf Club, Finca El Zarzal, Villa Nueva, Guatemala
Tel: +(502) 6631-0045 Website: mayangolfclub.com
18 holes; Guest policy Open; Driving range; Rental carts; Rental clubs; Caddies; Teaching Pro available.
Other facilities: swimming pool, bowling alley, tennis courts, sauna, restaurant, bar.
Altavista Golf & Tennis Club
Considered one of the more challenging courses in Guatemala, it is just down the road from Hacienda Nueva Country Club. This 18-hole course was designed by the Black Knight Design Company. There are 74 sand traps, two water traps and a route defined by 1,800 trees of varying species, adding a nice alpine touch to the mountain views. The clubhouse includes an elegant restaurant and an indoor swimming pool. …continued on page 40
Contact: Altavista Golf & Tennis Club, Km 27.5 Ruta Nacional 18, San José Pinula, Guatemala
Tel: +(502) 6641-5057 Website: altavistagolf.com.gt
18 holes; built 1991; Guest policy Open; Driving range; Rental carts; Rental clubs; Caddies. Other facilities: swimming pool, racquet ball/squash courts, tennis courts, gym, lockers, sauna, restaurant, bar.
Hacienda Nueva Country Club
This 7,100-yard course is just outside Guatemala City near the Carretera a El Salvador and set on the beautiful grounds of a 16th-century Jesuit monastery. There is still a small chapel with original artwork. Facilities include nine tennis courts, two squash courts, tennis and pro shops, and a swimming pool that has won international design awards. The clubhouse has three dining areas, including a poolside snack bar.
The course is player friendly, with some challenging elements for the more advanced golfers. Bunkering may be sparse, but the difficulty lies within their strategic placement around the greens. The greens are known for being consistently immaculate.
Contact: Hacienda Nueva Country Club, Km 25 Ruta Nacional 18, San José Pinula, Guatemala
Tel: +(502) 6628-1000 Website: haciendanueva.com
18 holes; built 1996; Guest policy Admittance only with previous authorization (or with member);
Driving range; Rental carts; Rental clubs; Caddies; Pro available. Other facilities: swimming pool, squash courts, tennis courts, banquet rooms, sauna, restaurant, bar.
Guatemala Country Club
This “old-school” course has been around so long that Guatemala City has grown up around it. It is hiding in plain sight just a couple of blocks off of Roosevelt near the Trebol. Open only to members and their guests, there are not many elevation changes on this course but it sports some long par threes and greens with hard-to-read breaks. Fortunately, the caddies know their job so you just have to hit where they tell you.
The clubhouse restaurant is an homage to the 1950s executive men’s lounge featuring mostly wood and leather. The plate-glass windows overlooking the 9th and 18th greens allow you to enjoy your meal while watching your fellow golfers pursue their perfect game.
Contact: Guatemala Country Club, 30 avenida final, zona 11, Guatemala
Tel: +(502) 2434-6193 Website: GCC
18 holes; built 1928; Guest policy Only members and their guests; Driving range; Caddies.
Other facilities: swimming pool, squash courts, tennis courts, restaurant, bar.
San Isidro Country Club
As private as it is spectacular, this is a newer addition to the courses in Guatemala. If you know someone who is a member and they invite you to play with them, don’t hesitate. There are well-designed signature holes with some views overlooking downtown Guatemala City and some with volcano views. Fun to play but watch out for the fast greens.
Contact: San Isidro Country Club, Finca San Isidro, Santa Sofía, zona 16, Guatemala
Tel: +(502) 2364-2424 Website: San Isidro Country Club
18 holes; Guest policy Private; Driving range; Caddies. Other facilities: squash courts, tennis courts, gym, restaurants, banquet rooms.