by Peter Hellman
Recently, I received an invitation from the government of Colombia (that's the country made infamous by reality, novels and grade B movies) to check out their golf courses, hotels, cuisine and other amenities the country available to tourists.
When I mentioned to my wife that I wanted to accept the invitation, I did not, to say the least, get a positive response. "You want to do what?" "Are you crazy?" "Is you life insurance paid up?" These were some of the nicer things she said.
As we all know, Colombia has had a long history of civil unrest, violence and drug lords who became more powerful than the government itself. Not too long ago, people who knew the country used to say, "if it weren't for the violence and drugs, Colombia would be paradise." A paradise for golfers and tourist? I wasn't too sure about that, but I wanted to find out for myself if the eight years of aggressively pursuing the Drug Cartel and FARC, the leftist faction that has been trying to over throw the government since the 1950's, was really as successful as I had heard.
Perhaps a little background is necessary. In 2002, the country elected a conservative president by the name of Alvaro Uribe. With help from the U.S., it supplied lots of dollars and "expertise", Uribe took on the Cartel and FARC with such intensity that by the end of his term in 2010, the drug lords were dead, their organizations in shambles and the FARC neutralized. The people of Colombia had gotten their country back. The tough philosophy of Uribe's government continues, by the way, by his successor Juan Manuel Santos.
My visit included a few days Bogata and Medellin, the home of Pablo Escobar top dog of the Cartel who was killed by government forces in 2007. Let's not forget, that the purpose of my visit was to rate Colombia as a golf destination so, let me share with you what I found.
Colombia has over 50 excellent courses essentially all private (there is a Nicklaus course under construction in Cartagena, which is a resort town on the Caribbean side of the country). Among golf experts, Colombia outranks all but Argentina and Brazil for golf.