Written by William Baker, WBA Principal.
There is only one 18 hole golf course in Cuba. It is located in the tourist zone of Varadero, about a two-hour drive from Havana. It is a great layout. The course opened in 1933, as part of the private estate of French American millionaire Irenee Dupont de Nemours. He was the chairman of the Dupont Company. He retired in 1927, when he was 49 years old. Looking for a place to spend his leisure years, he purchased 450 acres of land o the Hicacos Peninsula and started building a retirement paradise.
The home he built there remains part of the golf course property, serving now as a small hotel with an elegant bar and restaurant. It’s a fascinating place, with four floors, 11 bedrooms, three large terrance, seven balconies, and a private dock. Rooms are available for stays at a very reasonable price.
The golf holes along the beach and surf are reminiscent of other great courses in the Caribbean Islands. But the course feels more like a well-kept secret, probably due to the inability for most US golfers to play there for the past several decades. Current playing conditions would be on par with relatively good municipal golf courses in the States. One can only imagine the difficulty of keeping conditions even at this level with no industry support, or even any Cuban golfers. About 90 percent of the players are Canadians that venture to Cuba during the cold winter months at home. Others are mostly European tourists.
Several large hotels are on the peninsula, with most of them requiring the purchase of an inclusive package. Smaller hotels and rooms can be found in the little town of Varadero, a couple of miles away. The beaches are very accessible, with white sand and water a soothing color of blue. Lots of small shops and bazaars with numerous booths are along the main street.
The people are fascinated with Americans, since they have seen so few of them. People are friendly and helpful wherever you go. Canadians are common to see in the winter months. They often mistake Americans for fellow Canadians. Crime seems low in Cuba, and this is especially true in Varadero. One can walk in the evening in the downtown area to local clubs and restaurants, without having any anxiety in doing so.