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.
Kingston Heath: The Hype is Real
We touched ground late in the afternoon at Melbourne Airport and checked in very, very late at hotel Grand Hyatt. Don’t ask about our driving and navigating skills. It shouldn’t have taken us as long as we did. Even with GPS we failed miserably, but our dear friend had been so kind to arrange a room with a magnificent view on the 32nd floor for us.
The skyline in Melbourne was amazing, and what a vibrant, multicultural city Melbourne turned out to be when we later visited the streets to catch a late dinner. The next morning, we headed out to one of the finest golf courses that you can find Down Under: Kingston Heath. We had heard so many great things about this course, and to be honest we were a bit worried it almost was too hyped up. Luckily, there were no disappointments.
Here’s the thing about Kingston Heath. You’re driving in the middle of a suburb in Melbourne and then suddenly you see the sign, “Kingston Heath.” Very shortly after the turn, you’re at the club. This is very different than the other golf courses we’ve visited on this trip Down Under, where we’ve had to drive for several miles to get from the front gates to the club house.
Nevertheless, this course and its wonderful turf danced in front of us from the very first minute of our arrival. With a perfect sunrise and a very picture friendly magic morning mist, we walked out on the course and captured a few photos. Well, hundreds to be honest. The shapes and details are so pure and well defined.
Kingston Heath was designed by Dan Soutar back in 1925 with help and guidance from the legendary golf architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who added to its excellent bunkering system. Dr. MacKenzie’s only design suggestion was to change Soutar’s 15th hole from a 222-yard par-4 (with a blind tee shot) to a par-3. Today, this hole is considered to be one the best par-3 holes Down Under, and I can understand why.
I am normally not a big fan of flat courses, but I will make a rare exception for Kingston Heath. It’s a course that’s both fun and puts your strategic skills to a serious test. Our experience is that you need to plan your shots carefully, and never forget to stay out of its deep bunkers. They’re not easy.
Kingston Heath is not super long in distance, but it will still give you a tough test. You definitely need to be straight to earn a good score. If you are in Melbourne, this is the golf course I would recommend above all others.
Next up: Metropolitan. Stay tuned!
NBA Great Byron Scott explains why Charles Barkley’s golf game deteriorated
It’s the season for basketball and golf, and NBA great Byron Scott had some interesting takes on each when he joined our latest episode of “The 19th Hole with Michael Williams” podcast.
When asked who would win a matchup between his Showtime Lakers — consisting of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy — and the current Golden State Warriors, Scott left no doubt on the outcome.
“I give [the Warriors] a lot of credit for the way they playy the game,” Scott said. “They play a very unselfish brand of basketball and it’s all about winning for them. None of the players have agendas and I admire that. But if we go a a seven game series, we in our heyday and those guys playing the way they play now, we would look at them and say ‘we win this series in five or six games.'”
Scott did recognize the fact that the way the game is refereed would have a bearing on the outcome, however.
“Are we going to play 80’s rules or are we going to play 2018 rules where you can barely touch anybody?” Scot said. “If we play the 80’s rules where you can have the physicality in the game, where we can really get after you, then the series is going to be a pretty short one.”
Scott also talked about playing golf with Charles Barkley and his attempt to cure his now-famous swing issues.
“I played with Charles when he was about a 8-handicap; that was the first time I played with him…he had a really good swing,” Scott said. “Two years later I played with him [at the American Century Celebrity Pro-Am] in Lake Tahoe. That’s when he had the swing that he has today. I was shocked! I was like, ‘Man, what happened?’ He told me the story about hitting somebody (in the gallery) and that he just couldn’t pull the trigger anymore. And I said to him, ‘Are you that mentally weak that you hit someone in the gallery and now you can’t pull the trigger? C’mon, Charles; you’re supposed to be tougher than that.'”
Scott’s motivational speech was well-intentioned, but not especially well-received by Sir Charles.
“He proceeded to curse me out because he didn’t appreciate the way I said that,” laughed Scott. “It was funny, though because the first time he had that really good swing, but ever since then he’s been awful. And he continues to be awful and I don’t think there’s a cure right now for Charles besides just putting it down for a year or two and trying to pick it back up.”
We’d need a time machine to see that Lakers-Warriors matchup, but a Scott vs. Barkley match play on the links sounds like it would be most entertaining.
Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!
Fantasy Preview: 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play
The second World Golf Championship of the year begins this week for what will be the final stop before The Masters for the majority of players in the field. As always with WGC events, the field is stacked — only Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose are missing from the world’s top-10. With an earlier start than usual, 16 groups of four will battle it out in a round-robin format starting Wednesday. The winner of each group will advance to the last 16, which will complete in a straight knockout format from there on in.
Austin Country Club has held the event since 2016, and it’s been a course that has offered up lots of excitement so far. Expect more of the same this week, with four reachable Par 5s on offer as well as a drivable Par-4. The Par-71 course is a modest 7,043 yards with plenty of elevation changes and a mix of tight, tree-lined fairways on the opening nine. The fairways on the back 9 are more generous. Some of the key stats that I’m focusing on this week include Par-5 Scoring, Proximity to the Hole Inside 125 yards and Birdie or Better Percentage, which is always important in match play. Last year, a red-hot Dustin Johnson beat Jon Rahm in the final 1 up, which was his third-consecutive victory at the time.
Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)
- Rory McIlroy 7/1
- Dustin Johnson 8/1
- Justin Thomas 10/1
- Jon Rahm 12/1
- Jason Day 14/1
- Jordan Spieth 20/1
- Phil Mickelson 20/1
For me, this is the most difficult event on the calendar to predict. Over 18 holes, any player in the field is capable of beating anyone else. We saw just that last year when Hideto Tanihara defeated Jordan Spieth 4&2 and Soren Kjeldsen took down Rory Mcilroy 2&1. For that reason, it’s certainly an event that I’d advise to play conservatively, especially before we reach the knockout phase. Despite the unpredictability of some of the results, however, recently it’s been an event that has been won by the world’s elite. Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day (twice) have claimed the title in the past four years.
From the top of the board, it’s multiple champion Jason Day (14/1, DK Price $9,200) who gets my vote. The Australian has played a limited schedule so far this year, and he seems to be flying under the radar for the year’s first major. I find the lack of attention surprising. He has a win and a second-place finish to his name already in only three starts this year. Last week at Bay Hill he finished T22, where he appeared a little rusty on the opening couple of days before shaking it off and shooting an impressive 67 on Saturday.
Austin Country Club is a course that undoubtedly suits Day. He dominated the event in 2016 when he was playing his absolute best golf, and he was very unfortunate that he was unable to defend last year on account of his mother’s health. It was an issue that appeared to effect his entire season, but there is no doubt that the signs are very good for Day in regards to 2018. Mainly, because he has the magic touch back with the putter. In 2016, he had one of the greatest putting years of recent times, and albeit early on in the season, he is currently on course to match it. Day leads the field in putting for the season by a decent margin, and on the slick bermuda greens of Austin Country Clubs, where he has memories of holing just about everything two years ago, it could play a huge factor yet again this week.
Along with the Queenslander’s fabulous form on the greens, Day is dominating the Par 5’s, where he sits second in the field over his last 12 rounds. Day loves to play aggressive golf, and it’s one of the reasons the match play format suits him so much. The odd blow-up hole is not the disaster that it would be in stroke play, and he has the ability to rack up birdies fast. So far this season, Day is third in this field for birdie or better percentage.
Day will be the favorite to advance from Group 8, which contains James Hahn, Louis Oosthuizen and Jason Dufner, but the unpredictability of the match play format means it will be far from easy. Should he do so, however, he may be an extremely difficult man to stop, and 14/1 is not a bad price on him repeating his heroics of 2016.
Patrick Reed’s (30/1, DK Price $7,700) return to form has been long overdue. With back-to-back weeks finishing in the top-10, he should be feeling confident in a format that in the past he has blown hot and cold in. Despite his colossus performances in the Ryder Cup, the WGC-Matchplay has been a frustrating event for the Texan. He has yet to make it past the Round of 16, but he seems to be rejuvenated by the return of his idol, Tiger Woods, to the PGA Tour. We’ve seen a far more aggressive Patrick Reed as of late.
With the top seed in his group being Jordan Spieth, there’s speculation that their matchup could be a fiery one. Last week, Patrick Reed was recorded saying that he guessed he needed to be Jordan Spieth to get a free drop after he was left fuming by a ruling. Personally, I don’t think there will be any hostility from either player, but perhaps the attention it has received over the last day will fire up Reed, who seems to produce his best when in the spotlight.
All facets of Reed’s game are firing at the moment. He is fourth in this field for Strokes Gained Tee to Green, Strokes Gained Around the Green and Strokes Gained Total over his last eight rounds. Not withstanding the volatility of 18-hole matchups, there is a sense that Spieth may be a little vulnerable right now. Reed will be relishing the opportunity to take him on in what could possibly be an important Game 3. At 30/1, there is a confidence about Reed at the moment that I like, and it could see him finally deliver in a format that he has adapted to so well in The Ryder Cup.
The star name in Group 7 is the current Masters Champion Sergio Garcia, but I’m willing to take him on this week with Xander Schauffele (66/1, DK Price $7,400). The 2017 Rookie of the Year has been playing well as of late with three-consecutive top-20 finishes. From that period, he scores well in the key statistics, which should bode well for him this week. The Californian is 10th for Strokes Gained on Par 5s for his last 12 rounds, and on a course where wedge play is vitally important, his short irons seem to be in excellent shape. Over the same period, Schauffele is 15th in the field for Proximity to the Hole from 100-125 yards and 16th from 75-100 yards.
He will have to overcome Garcia, as well as Shubhankar Sharma and Dylan Frittelli to advance to the next phase. Garcia has never looked comfortable at Austin Country Club, however, and I think Schauffele may be the best option to pounce on any weakness he shows. Schauffele does not rank outside 30th in this field for his last 12 rounds in any major statistic, and he is eighth overall for Strokes Gained Total.
Last but not least is Webb Simpson (100/1, DK Price $7,800), who is in Group 15 alongside Pat Perez, Gary Woodland and Si-Woo Kim. I think it’s fair to say that this looks to be one of the most unpredictable of the lot. Yet at 100/1, it was an easy enough decision to add Simpson to my stable this week, who just like Xander is performing well in the key statistics.
The former U.S. Open Champion is 17th in this field over his past 12 rounds on Par 5s, but it’s been his wedge play that really got my attention. Over the same period, Simpson ranks seventh for proximity to the hole from 100-125 yards and 15th from 75-100 yards. Some other good signs for Simplson include his putting, as he currently sits 11th for the season in Strokes Gained Putting. His scoring average for the season is also an impressive 69.5, which is seventh on the PGA Tour. At 100/1, it seems worth a small investment in what I’m expecting to be another roller coaster of an event with plenty of surprises.
- Jason Day 14/1, DK Price $9,200
- Patrick Reed 30/1, DK Price $7,700
- Xander Schauffele 66/1, DK Price $7,400
- Webb Simpson 100/1, DK Price $7,800
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