The path to TPC Cartagena at Karibana is marked by burros carting colorful goods, and rain-pummeled potholes that make for creative driving. TPC Sawgrass this isn’t.
But don’t let the hardscrabble first impression fool you. The TPC’s latest acquisition is un paraíso — a delightfully surreal juxtaposition of Old World and New nestled next to the Caribbean and boasting a back-nine vista of colonial Cartagena’s walled old city. The course is a 2013 Nicklaus Design creation, the second licensed TPC property in Latin America and the first on the South American continent.
Six man-made lakes lace Karibana’s front nine, which is ringed by dense national forest, and a back nine boasts handsome panoramas of the Caribbean. The course eases players into the round with an expansive fairway on the first hole, then dials up the difficulty at hole Nos. 3 and 5, a pair of bunker-laden par 3s. The wind-in-your-face 13th is the most challenging hole, with water lurking on both sides of the fairway and beyond the green, and greenside bunkers that menace approach shots.
Currently a semi-private membership club, TPC Cartagena will gain greater exposure when it hosts this month’s PGA Tour Web.com event, the Karibana Championship. And in 2016, a five-star, 270-room Conrad hotel by Hilton is scheduled to open; guests will have playing privileges. It’s all part of the plan to grow Karibana into a true must-play destination.
Coffee is Colombia’s chief export; stir in the TPC Cartagena at Karibana and the result is a bold brew. He wasn’t a golfer, but the late literary lion Gabriel García Márquez — the master of magical realism — would have surely appreciated a place that’s both magical and wonderfully real.