This post is also available in: Spanish
There are more than 61 million golfers around the world and every year more and more are embracing this sport. The origins of golf are unclear and much debated. However, it is generally accepted that modern golf developed in Scotland during the Middle Ages. The game did not find international popularity until the late 19th century, when it spread into the rest of the United Kingdom and then to the British Empire and the United States.
Here in Panama, it has become very popular, with hotels, resorts and gated communities building their own golf courses to satisfy the demand for the sport. Currently there are twelve golf courses in the country with a few more under construction in Las Perlas Archipelago.
Golf was introduced to Panama by a group of 16 U.S. citizens, employees of the Canal Zone who got together in 1922 with an equal number of Panamanians to find a way to build the first golf course. The families Bermudez-Aleman gave them the free use of the plot of land located next to the Belisario Porras highway (today known as Vía Porras).
The conditions were terrible, but with the help of some workers the undergrowth was cut and nine holes were created, with improvised greens that were surround by barbed wire to avoid cattle invasion. In those days the goats were the lawnmowers. Finally the founder members managed to buy a plot of land adjacent to the donated plot. An 18 hole course with a modern clubhouse was inaugurated on January 1, 1932. That land is now Parque Omar. The first president of the club was Jose Joaquin Vallarino.
The 1950’s was the golden age for the Panama Golf Club. In 1952, big stars participated in the first Golf Open organized by Dick Dehlinger, who continued doing so until the club was moved to Cerro Viento. A young Arnold Palmer came to play there, before he reached the pinnacle of his fame.
The current golf club was inaugurated on April 23, 1977. The modern complex has 124 hectares between a sports field and a residential area in Cerro Viento. The construction cost $5 million and the course was designed by Jay Riviere and Charles Schaeffer under the supervision of Carlos Arosemena Lacayo. The Club House was designed by Ernesto de la Guardia III and George Moreno.
The Panama Golf Club is for members only and for that reason other courses have appeared over the years. Many of the golf courses near Panama City used to be in the former Canal Zone, such as the Summit Golf Course in Gamboa and the Tucan Golf and Country Club, located in Cocoli, after the Bridge of the Americas.