Rob Sequin | Havana Journal

Golf in Cuba has been talked about for many years but building golf courses in Cuba requires a delicate mix of Capitalism and Communism.

The Capitalists aren’t going to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in development and the Communists don’t want to give up government owned land and allow for “inequalities” in the Communist system. Currently there is a government owned golf course in Havana for foreigners and the Varadero Golf Club.

Until recently, foreign owned golf course development in Cuba was all talk and no action but that could be changing. Maybe…

The Cuban government has recently announced the easing real estate ownership laws for foreign investors by allowing 99 year leases of land, villas and other property. This allows buyers to get bank financing so now developers have the incentive to build the golf courses so they can sell the villas, condos, timeshares etc that will compliment them. However, the Cuban property laws have not yet been published so developers are preparing for golf course development but until the laws are published, no one knows the details of ownership. Also, no development group has received final approval from the Cuban government. ALL are in some phase of “negotiation”. So, is this time any different? Here is the summary golf course development projects currently “in development” in Cuba, from oldest to newest.

Leisure Canada

From Business Week company description: “Leisure Canada Inc. engages in the development of hotel and resort properties in Cuba. It also develops golf courses. The company was founded in 1986 and is based in Vancouver, Canada”.

From this 1999 Leisure Canada press release: “The Le Meridien Village Jibacoa will form the cornerstone of Leisure’s 5.5 sq. km property in Jibacoa, Cuba, with an anticipated start of construction in September 1999. To add to this, the Company plans additional 1600 vacation ownership golf villas and condominiums, strategically located around two golf courses and marinas.”

In the 25 year history of Leisure Canada, the company has NEVER broke ground on ANY project in Cuba and its entire business model is real estate and golf course development in Cuba. Now the company is trying to raise “working capital”. Note that their stock has been flat or down since the Cuban government started announcing favorable news to golf course developers. One would think that this publicly traded, Cuba focused development company’s stock would jump on such news but savvy investors with an eye towards Cuba know that what is said and what is done in Cuba are two VERY different things. However, one would expect this stock to pop when the Cuban government actually announces that a golf course development project has actually broken ground in Cuba.

Carbonera Club

From a June 2008 article: “A British company in which Sir Terence Conran is involved has set up a strategic partnership with the ministry to develop the first of several golf resorts on the Caribbean island. The Carbonera Country Club Resort, which is due to open in 2011, will be developed by Esencia Hotels & Resorts. Carbonera is one of five golf projects in Cuba given the go-ahead by the authorities, three of them by Spanish developers and one by a Canadian company.

The Carbonera Club press release from the same time “Construction of the Carbonera Golf & Country Club will commence in 2009.”

Nope. Never happened. So, are things different now with Standing Feather’s Loma Linda Golf Estates (see below) announcement? The Cuban government has made positive statements about golf course development and real estate for sale in Cuba but until the Cuban government itself makes an announcement that ANY golf course project has begun, don’t believe the hype.

La Altura

A British-Spanish group hired Foster + Partners to design a gigantic golf course community near Bahia Honda west of Havana featuring three golf courses and a 200-slip marina. Estimated cost to be $1 billion with plans to spread out over more than 1000 hectares featuring more than 2000 apartments and timeshare units. According to CubaNews.com, the units will be in clusters of 964 units near the golf courses, 450 near the marina, another 308 adjacent to a lake and another 300 next to a planned golf academy. In addition, 293 single-family homes are planned on parcels of 1,500 to 2,000 square meters each.

Also planned are two five-star hotels—a 300-room oceanfront tower and a 120-room property near the golf courses. In addition, the resort will have its own airstrip, which currently measures 800 meters. That runway will be extended to between 1,800 and 2,000 meters, large enough to accommodate Boeing 737 or Airbus 320 jets capable of carrying 150-200 passengers each.

Bello Monte

The Bellomonte project on Guanabo beach, just east of Havana, calls for about 800 units ringing one golf course, plus a small marina.

Guanahacabibes

According to CubaStandard.com, La Playa Golf & Resorts S.L. is planning to build a resort centered around seven golf courses. This is proposed to be a giant 4,000-hectare project including apartments, villas, townhouses, three boutique hotels, a golf academy, marina, sport fishing club, and a horseback riding center.

Loma Linda Golf Estates

The most recent announcement by Standing Feather from Ontario Canada states that this company is ready to break ground after almost a decade of negotiations. The 99 year lease plan was important to Standing Feather since the company not only wants to build a golf course but wants to sell villas and and condos. All golf course developers will want to sell villas and condos, that’s where the money is… not from fees for rounds of golf.

While the New York Times reported that Standing Feather had received “preliminary approval” with the Cuban government, the Globe and Mail reports that the company is “hoping to finalize a deal this August to create a joint venture”.

The Times article goes on to say that the company “signed a memorandum of agreement with the Cuban government in late April and will be the first to break ground, in September”.

From the Standing Feather website, the company is in the “final stage of negotiation with our Cuban partners, and the imminent formation of the Cuba-Kanata Golf SA joint venture”.

Summary

Until the Cuban government itself makes an announcement that construction of ANY golf course has begun, we’ll all have to be patient because everything else is either posturing or simply hype. Why? Because first, this is Cuba we are talking about so nothing can be independently verified because there is no free press in Cuba and second, we have seen this type of announcement before… many times.