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Friday, October 31 2014 @ 11:41 PM EDT

Mantarraya Golf Course - Decameron

Golfers & GolfingHere's an article and review of the new Mantarraya Golf Course at the Decameron resort. There's been a spike in interest about golf in Panama lately, so I'm going to focus a little on the different golf courses in the country. The Mantarraya Golf Course at Decameron is about to expand to 18 holes. Parts of the course are still under construction but they are almost ready to open the back 9. The front nine has been open for some time. Decameron has invested more than $5 million dollars in the construction of this golf course.

The local golf pro is Doug Clark (986-1915 office, 618-3540 cell, clrkdgls@yahoo.com or golf@decameronpty.com). He gave me a guided tour of the course and showed me around. Doug financed his amature golfing career by working as a doctor in emergency medicine for 25 years. He then retired (from medicine) to play golf full time on the Senior PGA tour for five years before taking the job as the local golf pro for Mantarraya course.


For starters, if you do a search on the web for the Mantarraya golf course, you'll find web sites and reviews for a course in Mexico. This is a different course with the same name, so heads up there. Also, they guys at the Decameron have not established a web site for the golf course yet, so I can't provide a link. When they toss up a site, I'll update the article and provide the information. The other thing that's kind of confusing is that they are using two different spellings for the name of the course, Mantaraya and Mantarraya (with two "r's".) These are the kinds of kinks that will get worked out as the course gets established.

I'm going to quote the following from promotional materials given to me by Doug about the golf course: "The Mantaraya Golf Club is located in Farallon, Rio Hato, a mere 1 1/2 hours from Panama City along the Pan-American Highway. The golf course is an integral part of the highly successful tourist development that to it's beginning with the inception of the now well-known Royal Decameron Beach Resort Golf & Casino in the year 2000.

"The area enjoys a most pleasant climate - in fact the "dry arc" is the place with the most sunshine on a yearly basis in the entire country."

"The naturally scenic sorld class Mantaraya Golf Course 18 holes, par 72 was designed by the internationally renowned designer Randall Thompson, in association with the American Golf Course Design firm. The designers masterfully drew on the surrounding landscape's topography to create a tropically exuberant layout, incorporating lush vegetation and a lot of water.


Presently, the first 9 holes of the Golf Course can be played, while the entire Golf Course is expected to be ready soon."

Here's some details on yards and distances for 18 holes (all from the white tees):
#1 388 yards, par 4
#2 173 yards, par 3
#3 344 yards, par 4
#4 503 yards, par 5
#5 312 yards, par 4
#6 338 yards, par 4
#7 518 yards, par 5
#8 164 yards, par 3
#9 344 yards, par 4
Total for Front Nine: 3084 yards, par 36

#10 517 yards, par 5
#11 170 yards, par 3
#12 361 yards, par 4
#13 428 yards, par 4
#14 214 yards, par 3
#15 439 yards, par 4
#16 444 yards, par 4
#17 388 yards, par 4
#18 567 yards, par 5
Total for back nine: 3528 yards, par 36
Total for the course, 6612 yards, par 72.

It costs $30.00 to play 18 holes on a weekday, and $20.00 for 9 holes. The cost goes up to $55.00 for 18 on the weekend, and $35.00 for 9. The general public (those not staying at the hotel) pay $5.00 more for each of those categories. The above costs do not include a cart, which is $11.00 for 9 and $22.00 for 18.

The also have packages and group rates which are a better deal. For example, if you have a group from 1-9 players, three weekdays of golf with cart included will cost $114.00 per person. For 1-9 people, five days of golf, including green fees, cart, and play on the two weekend days is $212.50 per person. For a solid week (seven days) of golf, groups of 1-9 people will pay $311.00 for 18 and a cart. These prices drop for larger groups.

One thing that's different is there are an additional six par-3 holes with artificial lighting for play at night. These holes are located behind the driving range.

I took a tour of the course with Doug and played a couple of holes. It's a very nice course with some long par 4's, and water comes into play on about 75% of the holes. There are a lot of elevation changes, undulating greens and fairways, and mature trees that come into play. The designers did a great job of keeping a lot of the existing vegetation and blending the course into the landscape. It does not "feel" like a brand new course.


There is currently a small and somewhat limited pro shop, but there are plans to open an expanded clubhouse with complete facilities for players. Right now they are working out of a converted villa, and although limited, they can easily provide the essential services.


The front 9 is getting a lot of play, especially on the weekends and especially in the morning. When I was there, the course was completely full (no tee times available) and that was at about 11:00 AM. So call ahead to make sure you can get a tee time when you want to play.


In the end, this new golf course is going to eventually be recognized as one of the best courses in Central America. This article constitutes a "sneak peek" because they're not even fully open yet and are still putting the finishing touches on the course, but you can see the time, effort, and investment reflected in the look, feel, and overall quality of the course itself. Given time, and this course will mature into a star attraction for the golfing world.

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