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Varadero Golf Course

Varadero Golf Course

Course description (6,856 yards Par 72)
(All yardage from the back gold tees)

Re-designed by architect Les Furber, President of the Canadian company Golf Design Services LTD (GDS). The Varadero course covers a narrow 3.5 Km strip located between Breezes SuperClubs and Meliá Las América.

Take advantage of the first three holes for this is easy street. With a wind typically at your back the 1st (par 5: 533 yards) is reachable in two, the second (par 4: 410 yards) requires you to solely hold your nerve and keep it straight (don’t be intimidated by the huge bunker on the right to pulling it left out of bounds), while the short third (par 3: 190 yards) is the easiest hole on the course and requires the merest flick. The forth (par 5: 587 yards) is a monster but as long as you stay away from trouble on the right you should be fine bumping it down to the far Western edge of the course.

At this stage you should have saved a couple of shots from you handicap, which you will need now for the turn into the wind. The 5th (par 4: 387 yards) should be fairly straightforward but be warned that the merest slice will sail away onto the road alongside. This is a pretty green protected down the right hand side with deep bunkers. The 6th (par 3: 182 yards) is a devil. Into the wind it takes a well struck 3 iron to make the distance and although the green is open in its centre well placed bunkers stand ready to ambush any wayward shots.

The 7th (Par 5: 487 yards) is an interesting hole which you need to play a few times to get an idea of how it plays. It is reachable in two but you need to take care with the placement of your drive (don’t get blocked out on the left). This leaves you with a beautiful approach shot to a raised green which you need to stick. The 8th (Par 3: 179 yards) is the most beautiful hole on the course. It is played along the cliff top overlooking the gorgeous turquoise Caribbean waters. Enjoy the view since the wind typically makes this play three clubs more than you think. Miss left and you run the risk of falling over the cliff, miss right and you are carried away towards the bunkers of the 17th. Play a fade if you have one left of centre. The 9th (Par 4: 346 yards), brings you back to the club house and is a pretty hole off a raised tee from which you can fairly blast a drive 300 yards towards the green without too much pre-occupation.

The back nine starts without a great deal of mercy on a hole without end. 553 yards long the 10th hole is generally played into the wind as you make your way onto the Eastern loop. The hole starts with a long carry over the salt water lagoon and then are locked into an endless channel where you need to keep plugging away avoiding the bunkers on the right and out of bounds left. Good luck.

The 11th (Par 4: 405 yards) is an opportunity to meet the ducks and is a lovely dog-leg left up the hill. Make sure you keep your drive straight to make the long-ish carry from the tee. The 12th (Par 3: 203 yards) is another long par 3 with no trouble as long as you keep it down the middle! The 13th (Par 4: 384 yards) gets interesting and with a following breeze becomes a boom and chip. The 14th (Par 4: 374 yards) is a place where the steady hand dictates a 5-iron from the tee to the marker post on this short blind dog leg right. If you must gamble take out your biggest driver aim inside the bunker to the right of the marker, fade the ball out there and hope. This is drivable but remember better lucky than good.

The 15th (Par 4: 455 yards) is back over the road and is part of the homeward bound last four holes which sorts out the woman from the girls so to speak. Take an easy drive off the tee since you don’t want to drive into the lagoon which greets you around 270 yards from the tee. Don’t take it too easy though since you will leave yourself with a fearsome carry over the same lagoon if you take your foot off the gas too much. This approach shot is a favourite into a welcoming green which is enormous and largely unprotected.

The 16th (Par 5: 557 yards) is the course’s signature hole. Water, water everywhere. Beginners can just shoot themselves in the head on the tee box or perhaps more productively get on the snorkel mast because there are three carrys’ necessary across the various lagoons to this devilish hole. Careful off the tee not to go too far since you will run out of fairway around 250 yards (there is more space on the left side). Next up is a mid iron (5-7) bumping over the lagoon but keeping shy of the final water before a lofted approach shot into a very well protected green. And what of on in two? Good luck I say but best to forget about it. Off the tee you need to carry 300 yards precisely to the shortest line or to make a second shot perhaps 280 yards to a green where you have to have an elevated approach. Don’t get greedy.

The 17th is a gorgeous par 3 (215 yards) with a vicious cross wind, countless bunkers and an uphill grind making it easier just to hit a driver and be done with it. At least the flowers and birds make this a scenic spot to ponder your options. The closing hole (Par 4: 408 yards) is exceptional. Wandering onto the tee box you have a stunning view out to sea with the DuPont Mansion in the background and a kitschy Easter Island imitation statue to the fore which gives you somewhere to aim over (with a fade!). Your approach shot to the green will now be steeply up hill and largely blind into the wind. Take 2 clubs more than you need and blast it high into the air and you will be fine although watch the speed of your put on this exposed green coming back.
With that you have earned a mojito or two…
History of Varadero Golf Course & Xanadú Mansion The ‘Xanadú Mansion’ Golf Course Club House, located on the San Bernardino crags, was designed by architects Covarrocas and Govantes in July 1927. The owner of this exclusive estate was French American millionaire Irenee Dupont de Nemours, born on 21 December 1876, who eventually had 8 children, 35 grandchildren and 5 great-grand children. Irenee was the Dupont of that generation who took the greatest interest in developing the company founded by his great grandfather Eleuthere Dupont in Delaware in 1802. During Irenee’s lifetime, the company became the largest diversified chemical products empire in the world, employing in 1957 90,000 workers in 74 plants worldwide. Before taking over the company chairmanship, Irenee had several jobs in construction, finances and development.

In 1927, at the age of 49, he retired from the chemical empire chairmanship and started to look around for a quiet place to spend his retirement. Like many Americans, he found it in Cuba. That very same year he purchased 180 hectares of land on the Hicacos Peninsula for 90,000 pesos. The property included 8 km of virgin breaches, but he chose the rocky hills of the San Bernardino crags to build his dream house. The four storey mansion, with 11 bedrooms and adjoining baths, three large terraces, seven balconies and a private dock, was named ‘Xanadu’, after the exotic Palace built by the legendary Chinese warrior and conqueror Kublas Khan, as described by the English poet Samuel Taylor. According to the legend, ‘Xanadu’ was the ancient kingdom of the Tartars, extending from Central Asia to Western China and parts of Russia.

In 1932 Dupont installed the largest privately owned organ in all of Latin America, worth 11,000 dollars. The machinery was installed in the basement and the organ worked automatically and manually. Two shafts carried the music to the mirador and the lobby, without inconveniencing the guests in their rooms. The furniture, including the organ, paintings and piano, were supplied by Theodore Baily & Co. and Meras & Rico.

Precious woods were brought especially from Santiago de Cuba for the ceilings, stair rails and columns, while the floors and bathrooms were done in Cuban, Italian and Spanish marble. The actual construction was entrusted to the Frederick Sneard Corporation at a cost of 1 300 000 dollars and finished on 30 December 1930.

Dupont would stay at Xanadu for a few months each year from early January, sometimes inviting important company executives. The Dupont estate grew to some 1,328 acres, covering parts of what today is the municipality of Cardenas. The land had been bought at the ridiculous price of four cents per square meter, but the estate’s value increased years later when the road, power plant and aqueduct were built.

The gardens were planted with coconut trees. On the Eastern slopes they planted flowers and a vegetable garden, together with banana, avocado and papaya trees. Parrots and cockatoos were imported to make the place more tropically enchanting.

Although architect Herbert Strong designed the first golf course with 18 holes, it was later built with only 9 following a design by Sim Cuthrie. The first four holes were built on natural soil, while the others required refilling. The golf course was started in December 1931, and shortly after completion, in September 1933, was hit by a hurricane that swept away with greens and fairways from holes 5 to 9. From April to December 1934, over US$ 10 000 worth of soil had to be dumped on the land and the golf course was fully operational again in 1936.

The golf course was always owned by Peñas de Hicacos S.A. and its total cost, excluding soil refills and maintenance, was over US$ 41 000. Originally, there was the idea of forming a golf club with exclusive membership, but this was never done. Playing the 9 holes cost $1.00, of which $0.50 was for the caddy, and the rest was for a public school.

In March 1957 Dupont visited Xanadu for the last time. On 12 December 1963, Xanadu opened as “Las Americas” Restaurant, with Russian astronaut Valentina Tereshkova as guest of honor.
That same day, at the age of 85, Irenee Dupont passed away in the US. April 2013

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