Best of the Best 2013: Golf Courses: Guacalito Golf Course

Photo by Allen Kennedy

David McLay Kidd grew weary of the question he heard constantly while building the Guacalito Golf Course (+505.2563.7100, www.mukulresort.com) in Nicaragua: “Why would you want to go there?” Anyone who has the good fortune to play his latest course, part of the new Guacalito de la Isla resort development, will understand not only why the designer would go there but why he decided to build a vacation home at this 1,670-acre retreat on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast. Set along a four-mile stretch of sandy beaches and jungle-covered promontories, Guacalito de la Isla is home to the new Mukul Luxury Resort and Spa, a 37-room hotel that promises to be among the finest in Central America. Its golf course, which debuted along with the hotel in February, is already one of the region’s best. Kidd, known for such links-style designs as Oregon’s Bandon Dunes, brought his low-touch approach to the tropics, creating a course that is never contrived and is always playable. Each of the 18 holes is named for a different species of tree—ceiba, mango, tamarind—that serves as its defining feature. Views of the Pacific Ocean also command attention at Guacalito, though the course is more jungle than beach, weaving through monkey-and-parrot-filled forest before finally emerging spectacularly on the coast at the par-3 18th hole. Immediately following the hole, while enjoying a cocktail at the oceanfront clubhouse, visiting golfers might wonder why anyone would leave Nicaragua.