Situated within a tropical forest and wildlife refuge in the Nicoya Peninsula, the lush fairways of the Hacienda Pinilla course are set inside an enormous residential development where golf is just one of many sporting activities on offer.
Atlanta developer and owner Pat Pattillo built the course in the late 1990s, recruiting architect Mike Young to design the layout, and he routed the holes through the Matapalo trees in two distinct circuits of nine holes.
Steep faced bunkers are real features on the course and golfers should expect to drop a shot if they end up in one of them as the heavy sand used in their construction is difficult to recover from.
“Hilltop,” the par four 9th is a fine strategic hole as it offers the chance to lay up short of the fairway bunkers then play a long iron to a raised green that’s guarded by sand and a severe slope that throws misplaced shots towards out of bounds. On the other hand, those who take on the bunkers from the tee will be rewarded with a shorter approach shot to the hole.
The most memorable hole on the back nine is undoubtedly the short par three, named “Seamist”. It’s at this point that the course emerges from thick vegetation to a clearing where the Pacific Ocean forms a spectacular backdrop to the waterside green.
Hacienda Panilla is over-rated. Always dry and burnt fairways, this course is just average. Not a ton of creativity in the layout, as it's mostly just 'up-and-back' par 4's and 5's. There's only 4 unique holes in my mind--all on the back 9: the short dog-leg left #10 down to a green in a lower valley with severe drop off (do not hit driver!), the narrow par-3 #11, and then the two ocean view holes (par 5 #14 and par 3 #15--which honestly are only 'of note' due to the green fronting the ocean... otherwise they're pretty standard, straight away holes).
I gave the course a second chance in rainy season, and was still disappointed. Really not sure why it ranks higher than other Costa Rican courses--other than perhaps due to it's affiliation with the JW Marriott. But i much prefer playing Papaguyo, Conchal, La Iguana, Valle del Sol, and Cariari over Hacienda Pinilla.