The Rivièra Maya, located on the eastern part of the Mexican peninsula Yucatán, is known for its beautiful coastline, cenotes (sinkholes) and the rich Mayan history. It’s an extremely populair destination for tourists from all over the world – especially North-Americans. Together with this increasing tourism, a lot of new resorts have been built over the last decade. It’s discussable wether these resorts will give you the real Mexican experience or not – either way, they tend to have some great golf courses. Leadingcourses.com had the opportunity to visit a few of them.
When heading to the Rivièra Maya, you’re probably going to end up in either Cancún, Playa del Carmen or Tulum. Around these cities there are around 12 golf courses. Most of them are located on a resort. It’s not a problem if you are not staying on the resort – most courses are open for everyone. However, expect to pay the full price – which is usually quite a lot around here.
Playa Mujeres Golf Club
The first golf course we played was Playa Mujeres Golf Club. The 18-hole golf course is located in the northern part of Cancun, close to where the ferries leave for Isla Mujeres. Playa Mujeres is designed by famous Australian golf course architect Greg Norman and is partly located at the coastline, leading to three holes with spectaculair views. The course is not that difficult – it has wide fairways and large, friendly greens, as you can expect from a resort course. However, lots of water (watch out for the crocodiles!) and the jungle on both sides of the fairway (if you are struggling with a big slice or hook, be careful – there is no way in or out there) keeps this course interesting.
The course reaches its climax at the par-4 16th hole. This hole is straight into the wind as you are playing directly to the ocean. The second shot into the green is one you will probably remember for quite some time. With the Caribbean in the background (and also Isla Mujeres if the weather is good), this is the perfect time for some pictures. The 18th hole is also worth mentioning. It plays back to the beautiful clubhouse, which is painted in very bright colors.
The course was in extremely good condition when we played, even with the considerable amount of rain the night before. The overall facilities are very good. A driving range with grass tees, almost new rental clubs, free bottled water in ice, GPS equipped buggies, and a very helpful staff.
IBEROSTAR Playa Paraíso Golf Club
When driving south from Cancun to Playa Del Carmen, numerous resorts can be found along the way. One of them is IBEROSTAR Playa Paraiso. This resort is home to Iberostar Playa Paraíso Golf Club, an 18 hole golf course designed by P.B. Dye, son of famous golf course architect Pete Dye. Even though this is a resort course, it is challenging to say the least.
Dye courses are known for their large amount of well-placed and tough bunkers. Well, that is something you are going to see on this course on almost every hole. Together with a lot of sloping around the course, you really need to think about every shot you are going to hit. It is no surprise that the lowest professional round on this golf course was ’just’ a 63. And with the Latin PGA Tour visiting Playa Paraiso each year, that says a lot.
Besides the difficulty, there is absolute beauty. Beauty in the maintenance, with perfect greens which were rolling extremely fast. Next to that, the course is also visually very appealing. Even though the course is not on the coast (it is just a couple of hundred meters inland), it gives you some very nice vantage points due to the sloping. Add up the top-notch facilities (almost brand new rentals, perfect driving range with grass tees, a nice club house and a huge resort) and you have perfect place for your Caribbean holiday.
El Camaleón Mayaboka Golf Course
The last coursed we visited was El Camaleón Mayaboka Golf Course. For some this name may sound familiar, and not without reason. El Camaleón, a 7,024 yards par 72 18-hole course, has been a venue on the American PGA TOUR for quite a few years now. Back then, it was the first PGA TOUR event to be contested outside the US and Canada and the course is one of the few courses on the PGA TOUR that is actually open to the public.
The course can be found on the huge resort of Mayakoba. Resort doesn’t really cover it, though. There are no one high hotels, just villas and some small appartment blocks scattered over the tremendous plot of land.
The course, designed by Greg Norman (just as Playa Mujeres Golf Club), plays alongside various freshwater canals that connects the golf course to the resort. The course is, if you play from the right set of tees, just as Norman’s Playa Mujeres very playable and enjoyable. Already after your first drive you get a smile on your face from the very unique bunker in the middle of the fairway at hole 1. The bunker is actually a ‘cenote’, a special kind of cave filled with very clear water. When Norman was first confronted with the cave, he was looking for ways to bypass the cenote. Later he decided to keep the cenote as a fairway hazard!
Hole 4 and 15 are also worth mentioning. Both of them are short par-3’s with a perfect view of the ocean. When looking at the ocean you can see the island of Cozumel. This island is famous for the great diving at the Mesoamerican reef. This reef is the world’s second-largest after the Great Barrier Reef and can be seen from the greens of both holes at Mayakoba!
What makes this golf course so good is the extreme high quality of basically everything on the golf course. The maintenance, the staff, the bunkers, the greens and the architecture, everything is perfect. Also the environment has been thought of. Camaleón is certified by Audubon International as a Cooperative Sanctuary for its commitment to the environment and eco-friendly practices, thus meeting the required standards for protecting and sustaining the land, water quality, conserving natural resources, and providing wildlife habitats. Much like the rest of the Mayakoba Resort, the course is full with birds, iguanas, coatis, spider monkeys and other wildlife that golfers can enjoy during their round.
What else is there to do?
How good these resorts and golf courses may be, it would be a shame to not see more of the Rivièra Maya. It has so much more to offer. Go snorkeling in one of the countless cenotes, swim with turtles in the town of Akumal, visit the old Mayan town and one of the seven World Wonders Chichén Itzá, or stroll around in the hip and vibrant city of Tulum.
Some last words
Yes, playing golf at the Rivièra Maya is an unforgettable experience, but it comes at a very high price (up to 350 USD). The question that you need to ask yourself is how much money are you willing to spend for a good round of golf. If that amount falls in the range of the prices of the golf courses above, than definitely hit the links here.