Mexico’s Baja Peninsula is one of the most beautiful natural areas in the world and host to some truly special golf destinations. The newest addition is Danzante Bay Golf Club at the Villa Del Palmar Resort in Loreto, Mexico.
The course recently held a “Grand Opening” celebration despite the fact that it only has the first 11 holes open for play. The construction of the final eight holes was delayed by a combination of factors and won’t be available for play until October 2017, but the owners of the resort and the local government thought enough of what they had to let the celebration go forward.
I admit to being skeptical; it was kind of like being invited to a graduation party for a kid that had just finished his sophomore year. But after playing the course and experiencing the many charms of the resort, the verdict is there are at least 10 good reasons to visit a resort with an 11-hole golf course.
Reason #1: Rees Jones
Hall of Famer Jones has a slew of memorable tracks in his portfolio and he has brought all of his skills to bear at Danzante Bay. Jones is known as the Open Doctor for the work that he did to prepare seven U.S. Open venues, six PGA Championship courses, and the layouts for four Ryder Cups, two Walker Cups and a Presidents Cup. While he took some flack from tour pros like Phil Mickelson for turning these courses into tests that the average golfer couldn’t hope to pass, the opportunity to play a course that has been crafted from scratch by one of the legends of golf design should not be missed. Danzante Bay combine a rare landscape of sea and surf.
Reason #2: Natural Beauty
Many courses claim they are “seaside,” but only offer a few holes with a full view of the waves. Not so at Danzante Bay, where every one of the current 11 holes has a view of the sparkling blue Sea of Cortez. Jones noted that the landscape available for the course was “the most diverse I’ve ever had to work with.” Featuring, desert, fluffy dunes, rocky slopes and majestic vistas, you will likely take as many photos as you do swings as you make our way around the hills and valleys.
Reason #3: It’s a Resort Course that Plays like One
In recent years golfers have been subjected to so-called resort courses that, while scenic enough, have a level difficulty that make you want to get away from your golf getaway. At par-72 7,400 yards, Danzante Bay has plenty of challenge for the accomplished player. The 12th (which plays beside the hotel to a green that is just a few yards from the beach) and 18th (a worthy finishing hole that plays down a steep canyon towards the Giganta Mountains in the distance) are burly par fives that reward the bold and punish the foolish.
There are multiple tee boxes, and the forward tees offer just as rich of a golfing experience as the tips. The paspalum turf is meticulously maintained and the greens roll fast and smooth, but are not the tilted glass surfaces that produce four-putts on a regular basis. This is a course that can host the scratch golfer or the occasional player and leave them both smiling.
Reason #4: No. 17
On a course that is just over half finished, No. 17 is already drawing praise from around the golf world. Playing 178 yards from the tips, the player is perched on the shoulder of a cliff overlooking the Sea of Cortez. The green sits on a narrow peninsula about 30 feet below with a canyon in front and the ocean behind ready to swallow shots that land short or long. A ridge bisects the green and guarantees that hitting the wrong side of the green will leave a very challenging two-putt. But no matter your score, you will be taken in by a hole that rivals classics like No. 7 at Pebble Beach for sheer beauty. Don’t be surprised if there is a gallery of hotel guests on the tee who have hiked up to the hole just to see the view.
Jones himself acknowledges the exceptional nature of the hole. “I have no doubt that No. 17 will be [considered] one of the best in the world,” Jones said. “Neither does anyone else who has seen it.”
Reason #5: Jacques Cousteau
Cousteau, arguably the most famous naturalist and environmentalist of the 20h century, spent a lot of time studying the Loreto Islands that lay just of the coast of Danzante Bay. The pristine waters are home to 80 percent of the world’s ocean species, from spiny crabs to majestic Blue Whales, moving Cousteau to give the pristine waters the nickname, “The World’s Aquarium.”
Take a charter boat trip out to the islands and watch the dolphins frolic in the water beside you as you skim along the water. When you get to one of the outer islands, you can take a walk on the beach or snorkel amongst the most spectacular array of marine life this side on the Galapagos Islands.
If you want to float your own boat, grab a kayak or paddle board from the hotel beach and get out on the bay, which is usually as smooth as the greens on the course. The resort is located in the middle of a United Nations World Heritage site, which means it is officially one of the most special places on Earth and bound to stay that way. One look at the sun setting over the mountains followed by about a zillion stars overhead confirms the vote. And for landlubbers, there is hiking, biking and nature-tours that fill up a day and several memory sticks.
Reason #6: Tequila Tastings Every Friday
Need I say more?
Reason #7: Owen Perry and the Villa Del Palmar Resort
The Villa Del Palmar is one of nine properties in the portfolio of master hotelier Perry. A visionary developer with more than 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Perry makes the goal of every property in The Villas to provide an exceptional experience to every guest from the moment of arrival to the moment of departure.
To help ensure that outcome, Perry established his own hospitality school on site that teaches staff the “Villas Way,” which covers everything from drawing your name in coffee beans on the bed as a welcome to drawing you a bubble bath in the extra large Jacuzzi tubs.
Every room has an ocean view and a balcony. Perry’s signature is sweating the details and leaving nothing to chance; even the on-site water supply is managed by the resort’s state of the art desalination facility located under the hotel, ensuring that every glass of agua from the bathroom tap is good to the last drop. If the staff haven’t anticipated one of your needs, your heart’s desire is a phone call away to the personal concierge who is assigned to you when you check in.
“This resort is all about the blending of the amazing natural setting with the comforts and amenities that the resort traveller expects,” Perry said. “Sure, it is a challenge to be in an environmentally protected area, but it also ensures that we will always strive to maintain that balance.”
So far, so good.
Reason #8: Showtime
At night, the Villa Del Palmar offers a range of entertainment options for its guests, including beach barbecues, dance parties and an authentic Mexican cabaret. It’s the kind of thing that is completely kitschy, but so genuinely fun that you forget to mind.
Take a good look at your waiter or housemaid because they will likely be a part of the show. On consecutive nights we saw a maintenance guy emceeing the beach party show and the amazing flamenco dance couple were the kayak rental guy and one of the housemaids. They do the double duty for the best of all possible reasons… they love it.
Reason #9: Sp-ahhh
An increasing number of golf travelers are demanding a top-quality spa experience, and the Villas does not disappoint. The resort boasts a 39,000 square foot facility that features sauna, steam, Jacuzzi and varied temperature tubs for men and women. The massage staff are skilled in a range of massage techniques; book your appointment and advance to ensure that your favorite will be performed by their resident specialist.
After your treatment, head to the exotic juice bar for a glass of the delicious blends that are invigorating, calming and cleansing. Then lie back in a recliner and relax in a cool-down room that is as beautiful and tranquil as the landscape that surrounds it.
Reason #10: You Can Live There
There is a 99 percent chance that at some point during a visit to Villa Del Palmar Loreto you will think to yourself, “It would be so great to live here.” In fact, you can live there. The development has plans for a range of real estate options, with more than 120 lots available starting at $281,000. The homes are designed by award-winning architect Kevin B. Howard and with amenities like a private Owner’s Beach Club, Beachfront views and custom features including pools/spas, outdoor showers, fireplaces and more.
Travel to Villa Del Palmar Resorts is a bit challenging, with short but limited flights to the Loreto airport from LAX. Once you arrive, shuttles and taxis are waiting for the 30-minute ride to the resort, or you can opt for a rental car if you plan to explore historic Loreto village on your own. A variety of vacation plans are available, but the all-inclusive option takes out all of the guesswork and guarantees access to almost everything the resort offers on land or water.