Whatever your reason for being in Panama, why not get in a round of golf while you’re here. Within close proximity of downtown Panama City, you have a number of options to choose from, whether you want an easy 9 hole executive course or you’re looking for a challenge on a luxury Jack Nicklaus course.
Let’s breakdown the differences between the courses available and what you need to know before scheduling your tee times. I’m only discussing courses around Panama City. If you get the chance I definitely recommend checking out the courses around Buenaventura (approx. 2 hours from the city) that also offers a Nicklaus Design course.
Tucan Country Club
Located on the west side of the Panama Canal, this course is probably my favorite because it offers a number of challenging holes, varied landscape, spectacular views of the ships transiting the canal in the background, as well as the roaming bar cart. An 18 hole, the greens are well maintained and the back nine offers some real challenging curves and obstacles. The drive from downtown is only about 20 min. There is a pool, spa, restaurant, and bar here so no rush to leave. Tucan offers a rain check policy if you tee off before 2pm in addition to club rentals at $40 if necessary. Carts are included in the green fee which varies, but expect to pay around $70-80.
18 holes, 72-par, 6,618 yards
Club rentals- yes
Difficulty - intermediate
Summit Golf Course
Lions, tigers, and bears – oh my, are not what you’ll find here, but you could run into a monkey, crocodile, or two. The presumptive rainforest golf course of Panama City, Summit is located on the east side of the Panama Canal north of the city by about 20 min. Not as well maintained as Tucan or Santa Maria, this course could present additional obstacles than only those intended. Because the course is surrounded by jungle the humidity level can be intense so I recommend only playing this course in the early morning or twilight hours. This is probably one of the oldest courses in Panama, opening in the 1930’s as a recreational course for US military serving abroad.
18 holes, 72-par, 6,626 yards
Club rentals - yes
Santa Maria Country Club
Designed by the world renowned golf firm, Nickalus Design, this private course situated on 284 hectares is bar far the finest course in Panama City. Attached to a 5 star resort, the only way to get access to this course if not a member of the club is to rent a room at the resort, which allows you the opportunity to book a tee time. Santa Maria has all the luxury amenities for the high class golfer and requires an advanced level of skill. If you have the budget then this is a must-golf course when in Panama.
18 holes, 72-par, 7,153 yards
Hacienda Country Club
Want to work on your pitch and putt, then try your hand at the Hacienda Country Club which hosts a 9 hole executive course. This 27-par course does not require anything lower than a 7 iron, but can be really fun if you want to work on short game technique. A number of water traps, reeds, and sand will keep it interesting enough. There are few amenities offered here so make sure you bring all your own gear. There are no carts, but you can borrow a club trolley to hand tow with you around the links. This is technically a private club, but the course is so mismanaged that you can just walk in, pay the green fee of $18 and just start playing. No need to call ahead for a tee time.
9 hole, 27-par, ? yards