Whether travellers are seeking a little winter sun, or simply in search of a golfing holiday that’s a world apart from the windswept links of the United Kingdom, Mexico ticks all the right boxes when it comes to a golf escape in the tropics
For years Mexico has been famous for just about anything but golf. Its Gulf beach resorts are known for their trinity of sun, sea and sand, while the wild oceans off the Baja Peninsula offer some of the finest marine adventures in the Americas. Inland, there are the pulsating streets of Mexico City and Guadalajara to enjoy, before venturing back in time to discover the country’s rich Aztec and Mayan history.
But, as American travellers are fast discovering, Mexico offers a memorable destination for golf travel. Aside from great weather making it a year-round option, the country boasts more than 150 golf courses, from no-frills country tracks to the manicured greens of
elite private clubs. Happily there’s no shortage of excellent choices in between, with more than enough
to keep the committed player and mid-handicap holidaymaker happy.
Mexico’s golf tourism is focused in three main tourist nodes, and players willing to travel can tee up on courses ranging from 18-hole tracks steeped in jungle-clad hills to dramatic courses perched on the edge of coastal cliffs. For drama on the fairways, Mexico is
hard to beat.
The Baja Peninsula used to be most famous for its world-class whale watching and deep-sea fishing adventures, but over the past two decades a lucrative golf tourism industry has sprouted at the southern tip of this dramatic Pacific peninsula.
The deep-sea boats still ply these waters, but today it’s the region’s dozen or so championship courses that draw well-heeled visitors to the area. Playing at one of the tracks dotted in and around the twin cities of San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas may be more expensive than other parts of Mexico, but the exclusivity and conditioning of the courses more than make up for the extra spend.
Although exceptions are occasionally made, it’s a lucky visitor who bags a tee time at either of the two courses at Diamante Golf Club. This private club is notoriously exclusive, but it’s worth asking for a tee time on either of the renowned 18-hole tracks. If you’re out of luck, the pair of courses on offer at nearby Cabo del Sol are world-class in their own right. The star here is the Jack Nicklaus-designed Cabo del Sol Ocean course, which makes full use of its memorable location strung out along the Sea of Cortez. Regular players agree that the final three holes offer the finest finish in all of Mexico, with the unforgettable par-three 17th requiring a heart-in-the-throat shot over rocky outcrops to reach a postage stamp green. Make it in par and you’ll remember it forever.
While lacking the seaside drama of Ocean, the adjoining Cabo del Sol Desert offers a unique taste of golf amid the plunging canyons, desert scrub and towering cacti. Distant views of the Sea of Cortez add an extra dimension
to the course.
The original desert course to put Los Cabos on the golfing map was Palmilla, which marked its 25th anniversary in 2017. Another superb design by Jack Nicklaus tees up 27-holes of desert-inspired golf, and players should take a moment to appreciate the wonderful seventh. Stretching more than 500 yards from tee to green, it demands a high tee shot over a cactus forest, all the while ignoring the glorious views of the distant Sea of Cortez.
Other courses worth exploring include Cabo Real, which neatly blends desert and ocean, and Puerto Los Cabos. An easy drive from nearby San Jose del Cabo, when the development is complete it will offer two 18-hole tracks by Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus.
The Mexican state of Jalisco may be famous as the home of tequila, but it’s also built a solid reputation as the golfing capital of the Pacific coastline. And little wonder, with white-sand beaches, lush jungles and the sparkling ocean all conspiring to produce paradise for golfers.
If there’s one course worth teeing up at on this coastline, it’s the remarkable Pacifico course at Four Seasons Punta Mita. Boasting dramatic views of both white-sand beaches and the towering Sierra Madre Mountains, this Jack Nicklaus-designed track impresses on every hole. And yet none are as impressive as the par-three 3rd. Dubbed ‘Tail of the Whale’ thanks to its unforgettable island green, it is the world’s only natural island green and at high tide an amphibious vehicle is needed to transport players to their putt.
Away from the beach, the best option is at Vista Vallarta, where two 18-hole tracks offer a challenging day out for players. The Nicklaus course — another from the Golden Bear — rambles across natural creeks and arroyos amid the foothills of the Sierra Madre, while the sister-course by Tom Weiskopf plays along fairways framed by challenging rough; a trade-off for the wonderful views over Banderas Bay.
While it’s hard to run out of great courses to play in Jalisco, the neighbouring state of Nayarit is also worth exploring for
Cancun and Riviera Maya
It’s with good reason that the neighbouring towns of Cancun and Playa del Carmen have been a hit with sun-seeking tourists. Here on the edge of the Yucatán Peninsula palm-fringed beaches and cerulean seas deliver postcard-perfect tropical paradise. While the
all-inclusive hotels are a draw card for long-haul travellers, so too are those savvy resorts offering
a world-class golf experience on site.
Far and away the finest golfing destination on this stretch of coast is the Riviera Cancun. Another Jack Nicklaus design, the focus of this immaculate track is on the golf experience: from the superb clubhouse, on-the-mark service and
top-notch practice facilities to the manicured fairways and greens you’ll be hard-pressed to find fault. The course delivers on every hole, too, blending sea views with lush jungle views on an inspired layout. Expensive, but worthwhile.
Another of the finest choices in the area is El Camaleon Mayakoba Golf Resort, situated an easy drive from Cancun International Airport. Set between three leading hotels, this top-notch Greg Norman layout plays from jungle to ocean, with limestone canals and a pair of seaside par-threes delivering a classic Caribbean golfing experience.
Situated close to the shopper’s paradise of Quinta Avenida, the par-72 layout at Hard Rock Golf Club Riviera Maya has been entertaining golfers for more than 20 years, and continues to tee up one of the most enjoyable rounds in the region. Be warned though: many players reckon it’s the toughest 18 on this stretch of coast.
Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort also draws a loyal following thanks to its Jack Nicklaus golf course. Playing through jungle vegetation, over wetlands and past Nicklaus’ infamous bunkers, the goal “was to design a golf course that would be fun and memorable to players of all levels”, said Nicklaus. Look out for the signature 17th, a 151-yard par-three , that plays downwind to an island green.