By Cristiane Roget, correspondent AdAvenueGroup.com, Los Angeles, Paris & Florida
A recent contingent of a the western hemisphere’s most respected Golf Journalists, Authors and Canadian tour operators weighed in on ecological measures undertaken by Panama’s restaurant proprietors and Hotel,Golf/Resort Managers. While playing Panama’s Top Tier “Golf Greens’ in so many days, there was no clear consensus if Panama is ‘on or off’ the ‘Eco Train’.
Evidence of sustainable measures were at every turn. In the smallest details as in LED lights, biodegradable water bottles or automatic sensors on AC units to recycled irrigation waters drawn from artificial lakes teaming with fresh fish were as ubiquitous as the hand woven sun shaded Panama hats.
Of one matter there was resounding agreement, “Panama is a hidden gem for intrepid golfers who want luxury and 292 bird species hanging around the 19th Hole. A golf ball toss from departure cities Ft Lauderdale, Toronto, Montreal, Seattle and will soon boast a non stop direct flights from Dubai. For those who want to throw off the restraints of regimented tourism, where spontaneity is in ever more short supply, Go Ahead, You are in Panama! according to Gabriel Guandique, of Focus Publishing Group.
Although golf greens have always been dependent on the environment the game takes a lot of heat for its negative impact on the surroundings. Common indictments include ground water pollution caused by fertilizers and pesticides to loss of natural habitats and wetlands.
There is a paradigm shift among forward thinking golf architects and greens planners. Of special note is Panamas burgeoning Golf Industry, as an international hub the best of sustainable measures have been conveyed, shared and implemented of late.
Members of the Panama Golf Association and their supporters have dialed down the criticisms by adopting innovative and sustainable measures to counter these prevailing indictments. According to Dayana Vasquez and Mellow Ricardo, “Members of the Panama Golf Association (PGA) have embraced environmentally conscious procedures that have favorably impacted the game and the nation as a whole.
Panama’s golf resorts & residential developments put a premium on creating and preserving wild life sanctuaries. Conservation of natural areas in urban settings, nurturing native plants, wildlife and water resources, rehabilitating degraded landscapes & promoting environmentally-positive management hat was in evidence throughout the resorts we visited.
With tree house accommodations fashioned from recycled organic tiles, wood and bespoke amenities, the marriage between eco tourism and golf has no rival with the Lucero Country Club in Boquete. Santa Maria Golf and Country Club is where million dollar condos and mansions have subsumed an unsightly land fill of excavated rubble. Vista Mar Golf Beach and Marina could pose as a poster child for how to create a sustainable environment boasting fairways fed by recycled water and field to table cuisine.
For historical context the first greens in Panama were the Club de Golf de Panama . founded in 1923 for the amusement of homesick military personnel, engineers assigned to the building of the Panama Canal and their Panamanian nationals. Many open championships including the Nationwide Tour for the Claro Panama Championship have captivated the world’s attention. Statistically called one of the nation’s most challenging and one of the ‘100 top Golf Courses in the World’ this property is the perfect place to channel golf greats and former players Roberto de Vicenzo, Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer.
Moving onto to the Tucan Country Club & Resort a 180-acre private, gated golf community a mere 15 minute drive and a world away from the capital city , the rolling greens are wedged between a verdant rain forest and the Panama Canal Zone.
Helmed by Elizabeth Whittington, is apt to say, “Tucan is a vibrant community that combines a refined lifestyle with on-premise dining with what is called the “best Hamburger in Panama” served along traditional local fare such as the stamina building ‘tres carne’ gumbo.
One of the landscapers mentioned he had excavated a gold tinged statuette with the likeness of a warrior with a arm extended holding a spear. Or, could it possibly have been a golf club? When asked if he could give us a peek at the treasure he replied. “I tossed it on a recycling heap”; to be lost for maybe another millennium. With 424 multi-tiered Mediterranean inspired villas, boutique hotel , an undulating 18 hole golf course, a wellness & fitness Spa and fully stocked Pro Shop, Elizabeth confirms, “no matter their age our residents longevity is a testament that golf is a game for life and a lifelong game”.
Radisson’s Summit Hotel and Golf Panama designed by noted American golf-architect Jeffrey Myers is exemplary of how wildlife and habitat management have melded to create a top drawer hotel and golf course. Different natural habitat and a Noah’s Ark of wildlife species thrive in a tropical to temperate climate. The elusive black-headed spider monkey considered to be critically endangered by the International Union of Conservation of Nature and the Cohiba Howler Monkey can be heard along the a pre dawn ramble on the properties rain forest trail perched above a velvety tea green valley floor.
During our stay an uncanny three month dry spell was visited by a shower of cooling mist. This four star property with a current advertised rate of $68 US a night, is poised between the Metropolitan National Park and Soberania National Park of first growth Cuipa trees. The unspoiled terrain is home to a butterfly garden redolent and with flashes of other worldly colors flitting about.
Lucero Country Club in the heart of the Boquete region resplendent with shade-grown coffee plantations are less disruptive to the environment than coffee grown in open fields. Coffee cultivated beneath trees, prevents erosion, produces natural mulch, and preserves the chemical balance of the soil. The trees also provide habitat for insects, mammals,and hundreds of bird species in full view of the eco-lodges at Lucero Country Club. “Reducing energy use, using recycled products, and volunteering within the local community,” says Founder, Nitin Chardahary’s mission in life.
For intrepid travelers and golf junkies alike, Panama’s golf courses, robust free trade zones, the allure pristine environs and copious opportunities to get in on the ground floor of a boom town build out permeates the entire web and warp of the country. Traveling for Business and Pleasure takes on a whole new meaning when visiting Panama.