TPC Cartagena at Karibana – South American Golf Course Masterpiece

TPC Cartagena

From any perspective, the marriage of golf and the Caribbean doesn’t get any better than the lengthy 525-yard par-four 16th at the TPC Cartagena.

Picture Caribbean beaches of soft, white sand, tropical jungle, impeccably groomed playing surfaces, and the most modern accoutrements in a South American setting just a short ride from one of the America’s most storied cities and you have the TPC Cartagena at Karibana – the only TPC in South America. Surely anyone can design a difficult golf course and building an easy one is not much of a challenge either, but creating one that is challenges everyone takes some creativity. This Nicklaus Design layout hits all the above marks.

TPC Cartagena Practice Tee1

Yes, there is every reason for your heart beat to quicken as you approach your round at the beautiful TPC Cartagena at Karibana.

tpc cartagena clubhouse

Dusk highlights the beautiful facilities that golfers can expect to enjoy at the TPC Cartagena at Karibana. (Photo courtesy of the TPC Cartagena)

Cartagena only has one golf course, but this Tournament Players Club along with the engaging historical and cultural aspects of Cartagena almost demands a golf pilgrimage for any discriminating golfer. The Karibana Course opened in 2012 as one of the key parts of the development by the same name owned by the Mildenberg family of Bogotá, Colombia. Since then it has hosted both the Tour as well as the Colombian Open so its championship pedigree is already established.


TPC Cartagena 13A

The approach to the par-five 13th and the aerial view of the drivable par-four 15th are but just a few of the final nine holes that will “Wow!” you. (Below photo courtesy of the TPC Cartagena.)

TPC Cartagena 15A

Though the beginning nine is mostly unseen from the clubhouse or drive into the Club, it winds through the jungle and features wide-open corridors with most of the fairway bunkering to the side(s) of fairways. Several holes feature raised plateau putting surfaces, but many are more merely an extension of the mostly flat fairways. It is about as benign as any Nicklaus course I’ve played – with neither extended carries nor imposing bunkering or mounding. If you play the proper tee consistent with your ability, you should score well. Power hitters will be reaching for their drivers on most all the par-fours and fives here, with only the most severe mis-hits penalized. Without the often-present Caribbean breeze, the outdoing nine is fairly docile and as plainly dressed as you will encounter a Nicklaus design. From the 3,667-yard tips, it is obviously a more challenging test, but eminently playable start for all abilities.


A view looking back from behind the par-five 8th green is characteristic of the attractive, yet expansive, flat landscape that begins your round at the TPC Cartagena at Karibana.

If you are staying in the adjacent Conrad Cartagena or one of the condos, your views to the west will have no surprise regarding the exhilarating TPC Cartagena second nine as it is all laid out between your lodging and the Caribbean. Here Nicklaus Design utilized the fill from the former swamp to build the abundant mounding/bunkers with man-made ponds and the expansive Caribbean either adjacent or not far in the background. Thankfully for most golfers, there are always an abundance of fairway landing areas for safe plays even if the wind picks up so it’s not quite so difficult as you might imagine . As for those that take chances, this nine can quickly step up and bite you badly with careless, aggressive decision-making. In contrast to the other nine, the back nine is a bit shorter, but Nicklaus has positioned all sorts of fairway bunkers in potential landing areas to make you think twice before selecting your line of play. The green sites are much more protected with bunkering though again no onerous forced carries exist. The putting surfaces on each nine are quite spacious with gentle sweeping slopes. Keeping the resort players in mind, there are thankfully not “busy contours” to the greens nor shallow landing zones. All equates to design flexibility and excellent playability. This incoming nine includes a 284-yard drivable par-four 15th, a beastly 525-yard par-four 16th entirely on the Caribbean, three attractive one-shooters, and one of the longest stretches of seaside golf.

TPC Cartagena 1G

Sunrise greets golfers with a somewhat benign opening hole that is in keeping with the outgoing nine holes. The shaping is mostly understated and the bunkering 

Aside from a few courses in the Dominican Republic, I can’t remember such an extended stretch of golf in either Florida or the Caribbean that is so close to either the Atlantic or Caribbean as the 16th, 17th, and 18th tee box. It is exhilarating especially as it concludes your round in a three-hole stretch. And with all the pleasant visual distractions, conservatively smart play will likely have you somewhere near your average score.

Conrad Beach Club 1The “Beach Club” for the adjoining Conrad Cartagena where guests have access to the TPC Cartagena.

As a TPC Course, it is private, but guests at the Conrad Cartagena also have exclusive access due to “stay and play packages.” (Condo owners or renters are not entitled to play without purchasing a membership.) The club will also entertain group outings and guests referred by PGA of America members. Prices with carts for nonmembers currently range in the $145-$165 range per round, but it is always good to check for current rates – a good value. About the only negative golf-wise has nothing to do with the facility, but only that Cartagena currently has no other golf courses within at least a 90-minute drive so this is your only choice. That said, it’s a no-brainer and a lot of fun.

Cartagena Skyline 1

Cartagena is a “must-visit” city, perhaps the most storied coastal city in the Western Hemisphere. The best thing is that it is just a short ride from golf at the TPC Cartagena.

Cartagena with its year round warm weather and particularly its “Walled City” being less than thirty minutes away are reason enough to visit. Fantastic lodging is adjacent with the Conrad Cartagena. All make this Nicklaus Design TPC Cartagena at Karibana a worthy addition to your list of excellent modern courses to play.

Below the view of the Caribbean is just as mesmerizing as the home hole at the TPC Cartagena at Karibana.

TPC Cartagena 18T


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