The Mantarraya course is set within the Royal Decameron Beach Resort, between the recently modernised Scarlett Martinez International airport and the Rio Farallón, where the river empties into the Pacific Ocean. The beautiful white-sand beach of Playa Blanca lies immediately to the south of the property.
The 18-hole layout at Mantarraya was designed by Randy Thompson, an American architect with many years of experience working in Central and South America, and it first opened for play in 2000 as a 9-hole course, with the second nine following a year later.
There can be arguments over which golf course is the best in Panama but many regard this layout as the best value track in the country – and little do golfers realise, as they drive along the rather flat road into the resort for the first time, that there’s acres of rolling terrain to be explored just yards from the entrance.
Fairways weave around several lakes and between pockets of real estate and the outward half feels the tighter of the two nines, though the inward half seems a little longer as most holes are played into the prevailing wind. Huge specimen trees on the 1st and 10th fairways are particularly pleasing natural features at the start of both nines.Toughest hole on the card is the 465-yard 16th, which is also the signature hole at Mantarraya. Golfers face two carries across water, the first with the tee shot and the second for the uphill approach to a raised green – mercifully, there’s only a few sand hazards to be found on this otherwise demanding hole.