Young Designing Oceanfront Course in Nicaragua


January 01, 2007

Athens, Ga.-based golf course architect Mike Young has been hired to design the first upscale, resort-quality golf course in Nicaragua.

The OceaNica Golf Club will serve as the recreational centerpiece at Montecristo Beach, a 1,000-acre oceanfront residential resort on the Pacific Ocean roughly an hour west of Managua. Situated in Costa Azul, one of four communities within the Montecristo Beach development, OceaNica plays along a point where the Rio Soledad meets the Pacific Ocean.

Young has routed the 7,060-yard, par-71 course to take maximum advantage of a site that boasts more than 300 feet of elevation change. Initial clearing is underway. Plans call for course construction to begin later this summer, with it opening in fall 2008.

"The OceaNica site is one of the best I've ever had to work with," said Young, who has designed more than 40 courses in five different countries. "The front nine is set on a relatively flat plain, with the river to the south and the Pacific Ocean to the west. But the back nine climbs up into the mountains, providing some spectacular views in all directions - of the ocean, the river and the interior, as well. The views of the water are breathtaking, as one would expect, but the inland vistas, looking across mountain ridges and sprawling valleys, can be just as dramatic. Add in the wind, which is certain to a constant factor at OceaNica, and you have a course that will be as challenging as it is beautiful."

Twelve of the 18 holes at OceaNica will provide sweeping views of the Pacific. The links-like front nine, set between the mountains and the beach, features a core routing with no adjoining real estate development. The out-and-back routing of the back nine climbs into the mountains. Parallel fairways on seven of the nine holes mean that real estate development will be limited to the perimeter. Young characterized the layout as a strategic design that will present a variety of risk-reward opportunities to challenge golfers.

"I have always believed that the best golf courses are the ones that provide solid, strategic challenge within a natural environment," Young said. "At OceaNica, we are blessed to have an incredibly beautiful natural setting, one where the ocean, the mountains and the river all come together. I feel extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to design a golf course in such a setting.

"It's easy, and certainly safe, to say that there is nothing like OceaNica anywhere in Nicaragua," Young added. "That's because there is hardly any golf in Nicaragua right now. But this course, I believe, is going to set a pretty high standard for future golf development in the country. And believe me, there's going to be more golf being developed in Nicaragua in the near future, just as there has been in recent years in Costa Rica, just to the south."

Currently, golf is almost nonexistent in Nicaragua. In fact, the national tourism website,, lists only two courses in the entire country, both in the capital city of Managua, saying: "Nicaragua is still catching up with the popularity of golf and golfers may find their options somewhat limited." But the website also talks of plans for courses and resorts "in the pipeline." Certainly, one such course is OceaNica at Montecristo Beach.

"I think OceaNica will launch a wave of interest in golf in Nicaragua, much like we've seen recently in Costa Rica," said Young, whose Hacienda Pinilla course is ranked as one of the best in Costa Rica. "As an American architect, I am thrilled to be in position to help bring golf to a country that I am sure will benefit from the sport."

The Montecristo Beach development is the brainchild of Jorge and Lori Estrada, a husband-and-wife team who own and operate a medical clinic in Managua. Jorge Estrada's family includes three former Nicaraguan presidents and several Premier Generals of the Republic. After working in the U.S. in medical equipment and clinic administration for a number of years, he returned to Nicaragua in 1997 with, Lori, an orthopedist, and their three children. One of the Estrada's first projects in Nicaragua was to establish a premier orthopedic clinic in Managua. The couple also developed a number of community outreach programs that have earned them the 2003 Diploma of Honor and the Medal of Amistad from national fire and police organizations in 2004 and '06.

Young began his design career in 1986 with Fields Golf Club in LaGrange, Ga. His Cateechee Golf Club in Hartwell, Ga., was named one of Golf Digest's "Best New Courses" in America when it opened in 1999. Later, the course was recognized as the first Audubon International Signature Sanctuary course in Georgia.

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"For architect Mike Young, a veteran of the Georgia golf scene and also busy in Central America, this could be his much-deserved breakthrough course. Long Shadow combines two styles, with a front nine through wooded riverfront land and a back nine that is discernibly more open and heathlands in style, with a bolder, more scattered approach to bunkering. Unity in the composition comes by virtue of the rough-hewn fescues and native grasses that frame the holes. "