Get ready for a series of posts about Colombia, because I’ve been there for the last week and there’s a lot to tell. I didn’t have much time to actually write while in Bogota because I was too busy enjoying the fine landscape, golf, people and food. Colombian women? I’m a fan.
La Cima Club de Golf – Golf Bucket List
I can’t wait to express how special the golf experience I had at La Cima Club de Golf. This is one I’d definitely add to the golf bucket list. La Cima is located in the Andes Mountains, about 45-60 minutes east of Bogota, Colombia. The golf course is set amongst Colombian potato farms and cattle ranches. The track flows with the natural landscape. It is part of the landscape. Normally I mention the course designer in my reviews, but in this case I have no idea who it is. There wasn’t much earth moving involved in building this course, just flattening out a few teeing areas and shaping some greens. The rest was done by mother nature. I love tracks that flow with the landscape and are not artificially created.
La Cima sits at around 10,000 feet above sea level. The locals call golfing at La Cima “golfing above the clouds.” In the case of my round there I did just that. I golfed IN the clouds as well. The tee shot (pictured right) on the first hole was shot a little after 6:00am. To get the best golf above the clouds experience, get an early tee time. My tee shot disappeared into the clouds below the first tee, which is extremely elevated. I’m guessing the altitude of hole #1 tee to be around 9800 feet above sea level. The elevation change from the tee to the fairway his huge. The drop from the fairway to the green is even more severe. My best guess is that this hole drops some 300-400 feet in elevation from tee to green. Nothing like hitting a 5-iron 240 yards to pin high.
Hole #2 starts just above the level of #1 green and turns right back around up the steep hill hole #1 came down. After climbing to fairway level one may unfortunately realize the air at this altitude is quite thin. Luckily for me I live at a fairly high altitude and didn’t have a problem. I’ve read many accounts of altitude sickness in the area so make sure you’re ready for some steep hills and thin air. There are NO golf carts. I did find myself needing to take a few deep breaths, party because of the altitude and partly because the place is so severely hilly.
The tee shots at La Cima are quite dramatic. Many very large elevation changes make judging distance tough while the tightness of the tree lined fairways makes accuracy extremely important. On this course distance off the tee is not the most important and at this altitude, the ball flies very far so driver isn’t always the club to pull on par-4′s and par-5′s. In fact, quite often the hole design requires a much more conservative iron-off-the-tee approach for the best placement.
The fairways at La Cima can be tight. If one manages to place a ball on the fairway there can be many challenging lies due to the hilly Andes mountain terrain. I’m right at home on this kind of track having learned golf on mountain courses. There is not a straight hole on the course. Most of the par-4′s and 5′s have some sort of dogleg and many of them feature double doglegs.
Just like the tee shots, in many cases conservative shot selections are best. Some cases, like the par-5 17th hole, only one play will really work, safe.
Approaching the greens is perhaps the most challenging part of golf above the clouds. The steep Colombian terrain all but guarantees that one side of the green will have a hill above and the other a large drop off. Missing the green to the side of the drop off is death. I know. I did it a few times. In fact, hitting a green in the wrong place can be just as penalizing as missing the green flat out. On two occasions I hit the green but the spin of the ball took it off the edge where it ran away some 20 yards down a slope. 20 yards combined with 30 feet of elevation makes for a tough ask. I managed to channel my inner Phil Mickelson on one great up-and-down by hitting a mega-flop shot. Unfortunately I failed on that same shot a few holes later, three times. Having missed the green and run down a huge slope, one must get the ball on the green. If not, the ball will roll right back to your feet like it did for me, three times. I’d channeled my inner me on that one.
The surfaces themselves were surprisingly good. I was led to expect that they would be bumpy and slow. Led to believe they’d be poorly taken care of. In fact the putting surfaces were quite nice, rolled true and held shots like the best country clubs I’ve played. I backed a gap wedge up about 20 feet on the 16th hole.
I can’t begin to express how special and fantastic playing at La Cima really is. I kept telling my playing partner Daniel, a local, how great it was. Hard to put into words, especially with my limited vocabulary, what the experience golfing in the Andes Mountains is like.
La Cima isn’t a country club. Not a resort. There are no golf carts. No hotel. No pool. No condos. No gourmet restaurant. If that’s your fancy then fine, have fun with it. For me it is about the golf and the experience. I’ve played golf on some of the world’s most famous courses from all over the USA to St. Andrews. This was an experience like no other. I’ll always remember golf above the clouds and will do my best to get back to La Cima Club de Golf as soon as possible.