Pars and Cigars: Golf in Cuba

Cuba’s government is set to build 13 golf courses by 2020 as well as theme parks and hotels to attract more tourism to the communist island.

Deputy Tourism Minister Alexis Trujillo announced the plans at a news conference in Havana this week.

Trujillo said the island would need an additional 25,000 hotel rooms to meet the expected demand from international tourists.

Around 2.7 million people visit Cuba each year for sun, sand, rum, cigars, Havana’s run down retro charm and the sight of classic 1950’s American cars.

Trujillo told financial news website Bloomberg about the status of developments:

“They’re all in different stages of negotiation,” Trujillo said.

“It’s a program that includes the participation of mixed capital that’s now been in the country several years.”

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s and the end of economic subsidies, Cubahas virtually been in constant recession and tourism has been the main way foreign currency has entered its economy.

Pars and Cigars
While the Cuban cigar may be popular with some of the world’s most famous golfers, including Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez and Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, golf is certainly not a popular sport in Cuba.

After the 1959 revolution Fidel Castro flattened the island’s golf courses into the ground because golf was a symbol of Capitalism and didn’t fit with his socialist vision for the country.

Cuba has three courses and only one has 18-holes.

The Havana Golf Club is a nine-hole par 35 course in the centre of the island’s capital, five minutes from the Jos Mart International Airport and ten minutes from downtown Havana.

The Varadero Golf Club is located in one of the most beautiful parts of Cuba’s Hicacos Peninsula. Formerly the luxury residence of the Dupont family, it is surrounded by beach and sweeping coastal landscape.

Cuba's only 18-hole golf course
Cuba's only 18-hole golf course at Varadero Golf Club

The golf club opened in 1998.

Its front nine is said to be far easier than the back nine but with facilities similar to a European or American golf resort, including driving range, putting green, practice bunkers and a mansion style clubhouse, it would be your number one choice for golf in Cuba.

The third course is quite literally “out of bounds.”

The U.S Military has a small golf course at its Guantanamo Bay detention facility, which tourists are unsurprisingly not allowed to play.

It is not yet known whether caddies wear orange rather than white jump suits at this exclusive golf facility.

U.S golfers barred from travel

The United States is one of the world’s largest golf markets and its golfers travel, especially to Scotland and Ireland and to its own Southern States, West Coast and neighboring Mexico for golf breaks.

With 13 golf courses set to be built by 2020, it would require a transformation of political and cultural relations between Cuba and its powerful neighbor before U.S golfers would be legally able to travel to play these new courses.

A long standing trade embargo between the U.S and Cuba means American businesses are forbidden from doing business with the communist island and U.S citizens are forbidden from purchasing goods in the country or spending money related to leisure travel.

Visitor numbers rose 7.3 percent last year after U.S. President Barack Obama eased travel restrictions and allowed U.S citizens on religious and cultural exchanges to visit the island.

Almost 285,000 Cuban-Americans and 21,000 U.S.citizens have travelled to Cuba since then, Trujillo said.

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