While on a family trip to Nicaragua
recently, I made sure to detour
for a night from the sustainable
farm we were staying at long
enough to play David Maclay Kidd?s newly
designed Guacalito Golf Course at Mukul
Resort along the country?s Emerald Coast . . .
twice. On the Pacific, the resort has been open
less than a year.
The picturesque 18th green that has rounded
the golf magazine circuit tops off an amazing
round of jungle golf that blends into its
environment so well that I got the feeling the
howler monkeys probably never left during
construction. Maybe they were as impressed as
I was that not one of their trees was chopped
down to create the tract. Fifteen hundred trees
were relocated safely on the property to make
the course easier for me, and the wooden beams
used in the resort?s construction phase were
expensively collected from the wakes of hurricanes
to help me sleep better at night.
Starting with number one, Genizaro (a rain
or monkeypod tree), every golf hole is named
for a native tree found on it, and the artwork
above my bed at night was weaved with reeds,
made from the leaves of Nicaraguan coffee
bean trees. The golf course and resort overflowed
with domestic pride at every turn. The
only thing that could have made each of thesegolf rounds more enjoyable would have been my
two black labs running down the fairways chasing
iguanas, while I played.
The first two holes are each par fours, and
250-yard shots down the middle of the fairway
leave you fair approach shots, the second
one being more uphill and over riskier terrain.
Architect Kidd is building a stunning home
overlooking the par three 3rd hole that, if he follows
owner Don Carlos Pellas?s tradition, will
be rentable while he is not in residence. Holes 4
and 16 are similar par five target golf holes, both
fairways crossed twice with shot-stealing scrub
ditches. The par five number 7 hole has some
kind of weird dense-air-looking visual spatial
effect that guarantees you will use too much club
on your approach shot. You will be angry about
this but will probably do it again the next day,
too. The 8th green is accessed by a cool, locally
fashioned suspension bridge that you will really
like, if your ball is on the green already.
Hole #11 is a challenging downhill tee shot
that leaves you, in my opinion, the hardest
approach shot on the course. We agreed it was
the hardest hole on the course, but it was rated as
the 14th. I almost made par the second round and
was elated. The par three 12th hole tee box was
spectacular, and that was before we were treated
to a flash visit from a troupe of howler monkeys.
The Scotland-inspired, Redan-styled par three
15th hole was punctuated with a swale-divided
Biarritz green (ha, ha, ha, ha . . . Golf Digest,
here I come). The 17th hole was my favorite,
and the 18th is a one of a kind treat, leaving you
on the surf.
Adam Scott purportedly loves this place
because he can be fairly anonymous and surf up
from the Pacific Ocean to his golf cart and play.
I scored well both rounds here. So, I would have
to say it was probably the toughest course I have
ever played. Joking aside, Kidd has made this
a beautifully playable experience I could enjoy
every morning of a vacation, however long.
The cliff-side bohio we were delivered to bygolf cart after our round was a top-five favorite for me. High ceilings, wood, balcony, whirlpool, marble, little pillows, and flat-out style showcased the unrealized tree fort of my adult dream life. The kind of place you ashamedly find yourself texting pictures of to relatives before you start unpacking your luggage.
A chauffeured golf cart ensured that we were on time for our evening trip to the five-star resort?s award-winning spa. Each of the six spa buildings that make up the relaxing compound boast ultra-unique motifs, personal post-treatment pools, outstanding smells, and extremely knowledgeable masseuses. I am nowhere near spa-educated enough to tell you just how good this one was, but I had the best foot rub I have ever had there, and it turned my wife into a noodle.
Dinner in the formal dining room was elegant. The mural-sized black-and-white photos of owner Don Carlos Pellas?s parents wedding gave us the feeling we were celebrating with the owner in delivering a legacy resort that Nicaraguans can be proud of. Ninety-five percent of the workforce hails from within two miles of the resort, and the Mukul team spent years training them to five-star standards — another testament to the owner?s interests in the future of Nicaragua.
A breakfast decided upon the evening before magically appeared on our balcony table around seven, and we struggled with how to allocate our only hour left in a much too hurried visit. My wife chose a walk on the beach, and I finished a primo cigar from the evening before and scoured the ocean horizon hoping to see a whale. A shiny black sedan from Mukul?s fleet delivered us to the airport in Managua, and another Mukul team member stayed with us until we arrived at our gate.
A short flight later and an arrival home to roughly the same time zone we left from made the experience feel like a daydream. The only reminder of the recent past was the faint smell of cigar in my clothes, and the good taste it left in my mouth.
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