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66 • WINTER 2012



A Stroke of

genius World Class Gold Comes to La Paz


~story and photos by Paul Papanek~

The total time I’ve spent on a golf course – with the exception of photographing every course in Cabo for this magazine can be summed up easily: Played twice – once in high school, and once just out of college with three friends who were not nearly as experienced as me. Which is why, as I write this, I can barely lift my arms and hands to type – having not been able to resist an invitation from Luis Rangel, the golf pro at the Gary Player - designed course at CostaBaja Resort in La Paz - to hit a couple of dozen balls on the driving range that overlooks the Sea of Cortez. Who knew that the aftermath of such an innocent-sounding outing could be so painful? And I can’t say that it was anything less than frustrating to wield an incredibly powerful Calloway Razr driver just to see the ball dribble off the tee to roll a shocking three feet away. World-class golf finally comes to La Paz. And in a big way. Having a home in La Paz, we have watched the CostaBaja Resort grow from a corner of rough, rocky, arid land into

an incredible destination resort that boasts a beautiful hotel, restaurants, a gorgeous and seductive beach club, incredible condos and homes, and a 250 slip double-basin marina that hosts multi-million dollar yachts. The icing on the cake is the recently opened Gary Player Signature golf course – Gary Player’s first course in Mexico. The course, and it’s setting, are inarguably the most beautiful and dramatic in Baja. While many courses look out over the water,

Continued on page 68


(BELOW AND FAR RIGHT) | Gary Player worked with CostaBaja in carving a course out of the rough La Paz terrain to make a course with jaw-dropping views that was fun and challenging for a broad range of golfers.

68 • WINTER 2012

the Troon Golf-managed 7,229 par-72 CostaBaja course has incredible views of the Sea of Cortez from 14 of its 18 holes. The rest are rimmed by stunning mountains and desert. None of them disappoint. “I’ve built more than 300 golf courses all over the world,” Gary Player said, “and I’ve never seen a course with better views. It’s ocean all the time, and suddenly, there are mountains.” The terrain presented challenges for the designer. “This wasn’t an easy course to build,” Player said. Carving and shaping the course out of that rocky, inhospitable land took a herculean effort. Every cactus was moved and replanted. Large rocks

were preserved and worked into the design. And true to Gary Player’s ecological and environmental philosophy, a grey water processing facility was built, along with a desalination plant, to supply all of the water needed to maintain the course’s Seadwarf Paspalum grass tee boxes, fairways and greens. “No more well water, no more fresh water for golf courses,” he said. Like every golf course, this one has its signature holes. The 6th – a 404 yard par 4, tees with the marina in the distance from the highest elevation on the course. With 10 bunkers lining the narrowing fairway, it presents quite an enjoyable challenge getting

to the small green. Distraction by the beauty of the Sea of Cortez could cost you a stroke or two. The par 5 14th, however, is spectacular. At 612 yards from the black tee, it’s the longest hole at CostaBaja, and according to Troon Golf, one of the longest holes in Mexico at sea level. The dramatically elevated tee drops more than 150’ to the fairway which, makes for very demanding drive. Carly Rygg, the general manager of the course, kept having to warn me away from the edge of the tee box. The fairway takes a blind dogleg to the left, so accuracy is king on this hole – especially because the fairway is so narrow. And once again, the deep blue of the Sea of

Cortez, and the CostaBaja Marina, are both there to draw your attention away from the matter at hand: landing your shot in the center of the fairway. Good luck with that. In designing the course, Gary Player wanted to insure that everyone could enjoy the game, no matter what level of player they are. His feeling was that too many golf architects are making greens way too undulating, and that’s the surest way to upset guests – greens that are too difficult. Since the game is so challenging to begin with, he wanted to give everyone a fighting chance. The course is very playable, but still Continued on page 70

“I’ve built more than 300 golf courses all over the world, and I’ve never seen a course with better views. It’s ocean all the time, and suddenly, there are mountains.” CABO LIVING • 69

(ABOVE AND FAR RIGHT) | Caption goes here.

70 • WINTER 2012

challenging enough for the lowest handicap golfers. And no matter how many times golfers play the course, it’s designed so that they always find something different. The fairways are generally hemmed in by the rocky desert with its verdant and abundant natural flora. And the deep, white-sand bunkers give the course a wonderful contrast. Speaking of bunkers, there are a total of 120 them, while most courses have 80. Longer holes generally play uphill, and the shorter ones downhill – holes 6 and 14 being notable exceptions. The rating and slope is 140 (150

is the most difficult). And in the one year that it’s been open, The Mexican Federation of Golf has rated it #8 in Mexico. “The landscape of the CostaBaja site excited me from the beginning,” said Player. There is so much contrast in what we were able to create there. It’s a very strong layout set against such stunning visuals. I just love the different experiences golfers will have throughout their rounds.” Troon Golf added CostsBaja to their portfolio of over 200 courses around the world, and it’s their mission to make sure

that each and every guest has the best experience possible. They have taken the luxury hotel model and applied it to their courses, so everyone feels – and is – taken care of at the highest level. Sitting outside the restaurant and bar perched at the very top of the course – with sweeping views of the Sea of Cortez - Carl Rygg tells me that personal service is rule #1. And Rygg would know, having been with Troon for 6 years, managing clubs from one end of the globe to the other. He especially loves CostaBaja, and feels that its real potential rests with it being in La Paz. The city is growing rapidly

as a tourist destination, being well known for its world-class fishing and diving. The course and the resort, he feels, adds one more important element that will help draw even more people to city. To that end, they’ve mounted an international ad campaign that not only promotes the resort, but the city as well. Luis Rangel, the resident pro, has put in his time with Troon all over the world as well. It’s almost impossible to have a short Continued on page 72


“The landscape of the CostaBaja site excited me from the beginning. There is so much contrast in what we were able to create there ... I just love the different experiences golfers will have throughout their rounds.” 72 • WINTER 2012

conversation with him about the attributes of CostaBaja. He knows each hole like the back of his hand, and can tell you exactly how the ball will roll on any landing on the course. If he’s not teaching, it’s not uncommon to see the always smiling Rangel riding around the course, clubs in the cart, to meet and talk to the guests. He might even give you some pointers. One of the features that really sets the course apart is its direct relationship to the CostaBaja Marina. Yachts and pleasure boats of all sizes have come to call it home, and realizing that most people arriving by boat might not have packed their golf gear, CostaBaja has a full compliment of brand

new Callaway clubs as well as shoes for rent for those who need them. They also have a full service pro shop and locker facility adjacent to the restaurant in the stunning, modern clubhouse. So – given the pain I’m currently enduring – will I go back to hit another pyramid of balls? Absolutely. The course, ambience, views, and the peacefulness are more than enough to get me to take up golf – and to keep me coming back. For more information on Costa Baja: • The club: • The resort: • Troon Golf: El Fin!

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