Before retiring to Boquete, Panama in February of 2011, I served as Marketing Director for a major Orange County, California, golf course for 14 years . I was part of a team building the business strategies and worked alongside of some of the best golf minds in one of the most competitive golf industries in the country. I was a regular contributor to and active participant in the hospitality industry and could recite tee sheet yield management programs and fee structures by memory.
By stating all of this, I want you to know I “played with the big dogs” for 14 years.
Therefore, when I play at a golf course that is charging USA prices for an experience that is regularly “sub-par”, I want you to know I know from whence I speak.
And that experience today was at Cielo Paraiso, outside of Boquete.
Don’t get me wrong: when this course and it’s surrounding development matures and when its amenities are in place, it will be an outstanding destination. At 3000 ft on a hillside high above Chiriqui, breathtaking views of the surrounding area accompany golfers on its hilly terrain.
But here’s the scenario: This is the rainy season, and this course is extremely hilly. So, here you’ve got a track that is mostly in standing water until January. Because of that, it’s cart path only, which makes hiking and
multiple club carrying a big part of this day. You’re only in your first year of business with a full 18-hole active layout so the course is still trying to grow in, and it’s very immature. You don’t have full amenities on the course: no bathrooms (oh, wait….there’s a Port-A-Potty on Hole 11), no available water in high heat unless it’s from the gal at check-in who hops in a cart with a styrofoam cooler strapped in with water bottles for $1.00 each. The course plays regularly at six hours long. Not because it’s crowded (we saw no one else on this course the whole day — the Marshall rode the whole course with us), but because it’s hilly, cart path only AND extremely long and difficult. We teed off at 8 am and finished, exhausted, at 2 pm.
And for this privilege, Cielo Paraiso charged my husband I and EACH $69 and some change. We were told these are the “off season” rates. Regular rates during dry season are over $100. These are American prices if ever I saw them. To add insult to injury, this facility
doesn’t yet accept credit cards: it’s cash only. Luckily we went to the bank yesterday.
We asked, but no Resident Rates are available. However there IS a frequency card one might buy. $640 gets you 10 rounds plus five free rounds. This works out to roughly $43 per round which is getting the price into a sensible and acceptable region. That is, until you find out the card expires in December. Therefore, all rounds must be played during the rainy season, making it for a very wet 6 months of golf.
If I’ve gotten any of my Cielo Paraiso facts wrong, please correct me. I cannot find any posted rate fees online. And I do not want this blog to become a bitch session for me; I think you readers can tell I’m a pretty happy, cheerful person. But I’m sitting here at 6:30 pm, exhausted, irritable and discontent. I’ve taken two Alleve and am anxious for more. John is stretched out, sound asleep. All of this, even though I won over $8 in the putting contest the four of us golfers held.
We’re whipped AND broke. And pissed off. It will be a long time before Cielo Paraiso gets any more of our money. Unless they do the right thing and lower the rainy season rates to under $50.
So there! (And yes, I DO feel better…..thanks for letting me rant.)