Is Cuba ready to tee off?
More than 50 years after Fidel Castro got rid of golf courses in Cuba (a pasttime that he considered too bourgeois), the Cuban government apparently has swung in the opposite direction, giving preliminary approval to four golf resort projects.
The move, which was reported Wednesday in the New York Times, would apparently help bolster Cuba's cash-strapped economy and give free-spending tourists (from places like Canada, Europe and Asia) another option to "sun and salsa beach offerings."
Cuba’s only 18-hole course at present is a government-owned spread in the Varadero resort area.
The four initial projects total more than $1.5 billion, and the government’s cut of the profits would be half, according to the Times report.
In 1962, Castro lost a game of golf to his comrade in arms Che Guevara, who had been a caddy in his Argentine hometown before trading golf clubs for guerilla armor.
Grainy black-and-white photographs from that nine-hole round show the two dressed in fatigues hitting the links.
Castro’s defeat had disastrous consequences for the sport. He turned one course into a military school, another into an art school and got rid of the rest.
However, the worldwide popularity of the sport, and the allure of it for big-spending travelers, apparently has softened the government’s view.
The Times story says:
"If the projects are built as envisioned, tourists will enjoy not just new, state-of-the-art courses and the opportunity for a second home in Cuba, but shopping malls, spas and other luxury perks. [Golf-resort developer] Standing Feather, which calls its complex Estancias de Golf Loma Linda, promises 1,200 villas, bungalows, duplexes and apartments set on 520 acres framed by mountains and beach."
Rooms at the hotel would go for about $200 a night.