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Sunday December 17 2017
Teeing off in the South Pacific

Charles Kinder

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The mix and match towns of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo are on the northern edge of the Sunshine Triangle. The former is refined, fabricated and planned down to the last coconut palm and colorful bougainvillea while the latter is traditional, primal, unpolished and exotically charming. As far as twin cities go, they are as fraternal as it gets yet as different as night and day. Taken together, these two cities on Mexico’s southwestern coast combine to form one of the country’s most underrated and underutilized destinations.

There are two beautiful and affordable golf courses, where golfers can enjoy a relaxed pace of play as well as the traditional expert-and-caring caddie system that is so highly valued in Mexico. The courses are meticulously maintained, and the greens are groomed daily. An elaborate underground irrigation system draws purified water from one of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo’s three advanced-technology treatment plants.

Palma Real Golf Course
First on the scene was the Campo De Golf Ixtapa (previously named “Palma Real”), designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. in 1977. This 18-hole championship course harmonizes with its environment: a former coconut plantation, natural lakes, lagoons, and lush tropical vegetation alongside the scenic Pacific coastline. Players enjoy not only some of the world’s best golfing, but also feeling of closeness with nature. Surrounding the course are coconut and other species of palms, and abundant trees bearing mangoes, guavas, avocados, limes, oranges, almonds and coffee beans. Brilliantly-colored flowers accent the verdant vegetation.

Mexican and international ecologists consider the grounds wildlife preserve. Golfers see and hear a variety of exotic birds such as flamingos, cranes, parrots, macaws, cardinals, and a rare and peculiar species of eagle called “pescador” (fisherman) because it feeds exclusively on fish from the lakes. Seen but not heard are the rabbits and “giant” iguanas. Do not attempt to retrieve balls from the water hazards because crocodiles live in some of them. Even though they usually repose submerged and out of sight, they do stroll around at dawn and dusk. The signature 16th hole is spectacular from tee to green, running completely along a lake. The green is bordered by water on one side and sand on the other and optimum precision is required.

Marina Ixtapa Golf Club
Close by is the Robert von Hagge designed Club de Golf Marina Ixtapa, site of the 2008 Lorena Ochoa and Ana Sorenson skins match. The golf course -as most von Hagge designs- is known for the imagination required to play it, as it has canals meandering throughout. The canals provide both a challenge for golfers and transportation routes between Marina Ixtapa’s private villas, the clubhouse and other facilities.

The course has been ranked by Golf Digest Magazine as one of Mexico’s best. Its “dunes-style” topography requires accurate tee shots and approach shots in order to navigate the rolling terrain, expansive sand traps, and water hazards that come into play on 14 of the 18 holes. Because the greens are large and undulating, getting to them is only half the challenge. With four sets of tees, the course can be enjoyed by players of all levels.

Its signature 18th hole is a 609-yard par 5 locally known as “El Hoyo del Diablo” (the Devil’s hole), and is one of the toughest par 5s you will ever play. There is water from tee to green on the left and a series of bunkers all the way down the right side leading to a very narrow green surrounded by more water on the left and sand on the right. A par here is really something to brag about

The Spanish-Mediterranean style clubhouse features airy restaurants and lounge areas with picture windows and balconies overlooking the yacht marina and golf course. Facilities include a full-service pro-shop, men’s and women’s locker and shower rooms, tennis courts, swimming pool, boutique, bar, meeting rooms and, of course, the “19th hole for that extra round.”

A golf outing in either of the two courses will be a wonderful and memorable experience for individual, couples, foursomes, golf groups and corporate events. In addition, more than ever, Mexico’s pesos offer a great value against US and Canadian currencies, making it a perfect time to visit or invest in the region.


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