David McLay Kidd has a knack for designing very good golf courses for very wealthy people in tropical climes. Like Nanea on the Big Island of Hawaii, for business bigwigs Chuck Schwab and George Roberts. And Laucala Island in Fiji, where Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz built a South Pacific paradise.
Kidd’s latest creation, called Guacalito de la Isla, winds along the Pacific coast of Nicaragua and is the centerpiece of a stunning retreat developed by Don Carlos Pellas, likely the wealthiest man in this land.
To be sure, Nicaragua is not exactly top-of-mind for most traveling golfers, largely because of images of Sandinista revolutionaries dancing in their heads. But that was years ago, and while the country still may be quite poor, it is also a very hospitable and safe place to visit.
The hope is that the seaside track at Guacalito, which is only the second 18-hole layout in Nicaragua, can only help to change those unpleasant perceptions. Ditto the super luxurious boutique hotel consisting of 38 villas that Don Carlos has built by the beach at Guacalito, where he used to camp on as a boy with his family.
The villas are sumptuously appointed, with pools and outdoor showers and bathrooms as big as squash courts. And the rates are reasonable, especially when compared to other high-end getaways in Central America. The spa offers a variety of soothing treatments, and Kidd’s golf course is a gas. Fun and scenic. Strategic and eminently playable, even when the trade winds are blowing. Monkeys often huddle in mango trees by greens and occasionally bark at golfers. Surf breaking behind the green of the par-3 18th shoots water from the Pacific Ocean high into the air. And hotel staff members greet those coming off the course with cool towels and bottles of cold water.
It’s a pretty special place.