Located between the Caldera River to the east and the Baru Volcano to the west, the small town of Boquete lies at an altitude of around 3,600 feet above sea level in the mountains of Panama.
Close to the town, in the suburb of La Estrella, the 700-acre Lucero residential estate was developed by a Canadian couple who initially purchased a small coffee plantation site with a view to establishing a retreat far away from the pressures of running a family printing business in Ontario.
A decade later, Colleen and Raideep Lal’s little corner of Panamanian Paradise is now shared by an expanding number of homeowners who want to live a sporting lifestyle that revolves around the Lucero Golf & Country Club.
Designed by Mike Poellot and built by the Wadsworth Construction Company, the fairways of the Lucero course (formerly known as Ceilo Paraiso) are laid out on very hilly terrain, offering golfers spectacular views of the Jaramillo and Talamanca Mountain ranges.The architect isn’t keen to assign a ‘signature hole’ to the layout: “This exquisite property is so vast in extent and is blessed with such natural beauty… that the sequence of all eighteen holes which encompass woodlands, meadowlands, ridgelines and riparian valleys, coupled with dramatic elevation changes, makes for a 'signature' experience.”
Playing atop a mountain is like playing on top of the world and Lucero, Panama’s highest golf course delivers. Sitting almost 3500 feet above sea level in the highlands near Boquete, this course owned by Canadian Sandeep Lal, is simply the most visually stunning in all of Panama. Architect Michael Poellet has taken every advantage of the natural landscape, and I was hard-pressed to pick a favourite, but if I had to
choose, it would be either the 5th and not because I got an eagle the second day, or the 14th featuring an infinity green. Standing at the tee off blocks on the 5th, I had a 360° view that included Volcán Barú and the Pacific Ocean, more than 140 kilometers away and thought this has to be Lucero’s signature hole but after making my putt on the 14th, I was no longer sure. Even though that hole got the better of me, I couldn’t help but stop for a few minutes to savour the fact that I was playing at the edge of the world.
While the Lucero is not yet in pristine condition, the course holds more than a promise. Substantial improvements have been made to the bunkers, and the grounds keeping team is in the process of changing all the rye grass fairways to Zoysia. The bent grass greens are already in great shape, and when the renovations are completed in January 2017, including an improved drainage system, I have no doubt that Lucero will be recognized as the best golf course in Panama.
Dave Finn is our Canadian Correspondent. To Follow his travels visit www.golftravelandleisure.com