Third World Golf

So you’ve played the best courses, Augusta, Shoal Creek, Pebble Beach, St. Andrews, and Robert Trent Jones clones bore you silly. It’s time to try exotic roughs you never dreamed of.

October 1 1990 by Philip Morrice


The countries of the Third World may be “less developed,” but that hasn’t stopped them from building some of the most exotic and challenging golf courses known. Despite the financial write-off of LDC debt, the spread of Robert Trent Jones-caliber courses continues unabated worldwide.

A course in point can be found at the Hotel Yacht y Golf Club just outside of Paraguay‘s capital, Asuncion. A part of one of the finest sport/resort developments in Latin America, the newly created course has already hosted the premier South American golfing event, the Andes Championship Cup.

The club’s hotel and four-star restaurant front on the River Paraguay, which solves the problem of building a yacht club in a landlocked nation, for those who are wondering. The hack nine of the hilly course also runs along the river, and with Argentina beyond, the contrasting green fairways make for spectacular views.

Creative Business and Real Estate Investment (Miami) CEO E.M. Schroeder calls the club “paradise for a golfer” because its location on the majestic river is “as close to perfection as possible.” Schroeder is also impressed with the hotel’s creature comforts, as is Kanawha Insurance executive Nancy G. Sanders, who tried the tennis courts, which are up to Davis Cup standards. Squash and horseback riding are also highly recommended.

While Europe is too civilized to be called Third World, parts of the island of Sardinia, as is the case elsewhere in Italy and Spain, are a notable exception. The rugged and primitive north coast was chosen by the Aga Khan as the site for his Costa Smeralda resort development, which has become a must for European business chiefs seeking challenging golf, a world class beach resort, and strict anonymity.

Robert Trent Jones readily admits that designing the Costa Smeralda’s Pevero Club course was one of his most challenging assignments ever. The mountainous shoreside terrain challenged his creativity, but resulted in an imaginative and testing course. Verdant fairways roll like green carpets planted between impressive towering rocks. But the rough at Pevero is difficult and unforgiving. Lost balls are declared almost at once.

Playing at Pevero inevitably means staying at one of the resorts’s four fine hotels. All have extensive sports facilities and access to the 650-berth marina and yacht club. Choose the Romazzino for its flawless service, but don’t miss dinner at Pevero’s own superb restaurant overlooking the course. Just as Golf Magazine ranked Pevero number two in Europe in 1989, second only to the more celebrated Gleneagles, the resort itself has been rated among the top 20 anywhere in the world.

Cross the Mediterranean to Morocco and you can play golf with a king at the Royal Golf Club in the ancient imperial city of Marrakesh. This is one of the world’s greatest golfing destinations, and management is tight-lipped about those who putt the greens. But many CEOs of American corporate units in the Middle East have played the course, which is known to executives at Lockheed and Bechtel Group, the San Francisco-based contractor and largest American employer in the Arab world.

The spectacular course offers views of the snow-capped Atlas mountains through the trees that border its fairways. By far the best place to stay is La Mamounia, the only hotel ever allowed within the walls of sultan’s grounds. Winston Churchill, and more recently Henry Kissinger, stayed here. Formal gardens, horseback riding, and heated swimming pools are available, and the very best in skiing-from December to March-is only an hour and a half away. But Marrakesh and its souks (marketplaces), once the terminus for Arab caravans returning with gold, ivory, and spices from Timbuktu, is the major experience.

Abidjan, current capital of the Ivory Coast, is the headquarters of the African Development Bank. Global CEOs in the process of working on sponsored projects can take advantage of that location by trying two superb African courses. The first is the Ivoire Golf Club, managed by Inter-Continental Hotels, which maintains a beach resort and hotel nearby. The dense tropical vegetation of the Ivoire Club course allows golfers to drive and putt amid vast numbers of flowering trees, the natural habitat of colorful song birds whose music provides natural accompaniment. Here the intriguing and difficult water hazards of the back nine are reminiscent of the most challenging Florida courses.

While currently carving out a new capital at Yamoussoukro in the West African bush, the Ivory Coast government has already finished the superb President’s Club there, within sight of the nation’s giant new Christian basilica and a five-star hotel. The club, which meets international standards, is the home of the Ivoire Open. The course itself contains several of the most challenging water hazards ever. But although the roughs can be heartbreaking, Third World golf is a rewarding and challenging game.