It’s an OPEN BAR!

By: Claudio DeMarchi

“¡Hola Senor! It has been a long time, where have you been?”  Well, it had been a long time since I had been back to Mexico, but I had obviously made an impression on someone from my last visit to Moon Palace.  I asked him how he remembered me, “I was working on the beverage cart last time.” he said.   “You have moustache grandes, you had many cervezas, good tipper and most of all I remember you hitting a ball off of the water bottle – right down the middle.”  OK this guy has a good memory.  He added, “I have never seen anyone hit a ball off the bottle like John Daly.”

Moon Palace Resort

Mexico at the end of November! I am not sure that there is a better place to be if you are a Canadian and a golfer!  Happening at Moon Palace, just south of Cancun, was the 1st IAGTO Mexico Golf Tourism Convention which brought together Golf Tour Operators from around the world to meet the premier golf properties and destinations from within Mexico.  Of course, with any good golf convention, there will always be some golf!

With all the meetings over with, our last day at Moon Palace had us (80 players) sharing the magnificent 27-hole Jack Nicklaus design with over 100 golfers from Quebec.  First thoughts were that we were in for a long, long day.  Kudos to the staff at Moon Palace who executed the two outings in such and efficient manner that all rounds were completed in under five hours.

As an all-inclusive resort it does not get much better than Moon Palace. It’s just 15 minutes south of the Cancun Airport with 27 holes of meticulously maintained Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf.  Jack weaved the 27 holes out of the jungle (one of the nines is named just that – Jungle Nine) and the fairway landing areas are generous but there is plenty of water in particular on the nine appropriately named – The Lakes.  There is also plenty of the Nicklaus styled beach bunkers where the sand traps bleed into the water’s edge.  Beware the gators!

The horrible view from my room

Moon Palace is a vast resort with about 2,500 rooms in many styles.  My room, about 80 feet from the ocean, really sucked!  As in it really sucked when you had to leave!  Pools and beach bars are certainly a main attraction.

There are plenty of food options, from everything you can think of – buffet style to about a half dozen specialty restaurants including Asian, Italian, Mexican (of course), and a Brazilian style steakhouse.  The beach bars, the lobby bar, and the Skybar were a couple of favorite stops for pre-dinner drinks.  After all it’s all inclusive!

A course not to be missed, and about 10 minutes from Moon Palace, is the El Tinto Golf Course at Cancun Country Club.  A Nick Price design incorporating natural water features and over 80 bunkers that has raised the bar on private club experiences for all guests.  We split our group of tour operators into smaller groups hosted at different properties along the Mayan Riviera.  My group included operators from Estonia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, France and our local host Gaby from Riviera Maya Golf Club whose affiliation is with the Bahai Principe Akumal.

It just so happened that our first round happened to at Gaby’s Riviera Maya Golf Club.  This is one very challenging Robert Trent Jones Jr. design.  Bring your “A” game and keep your tee ball on the fairway.  If you miss a fairway you are pretty much dropping another ball.  Great design carved out of the Mayan jungle, a cenotes along the way and great use of the limestone along the fairways.  Some of the water holes are as picturesque as your will find and none more so than the breathtaking par 3 – 15th.

Playa Pariso Golf Club

Next up was one of my favorite courses in Mayan Riviera, Playa Paraiso Golf Club at the Iberostar Resort.  It is definitely a one of a kind resort in an area with relatively no elevation change yet P.B. Dye managed to incorporate or build some?  First off, the par 3’s are some of the most fun to play, visually stimulating and one in particular is most intimidating.  Fairways are on the narrow side but shaped in a friendly fashion in that balls that stray a bit will stay in play.  The fairways themselves are by no means normal for the area as Dye went to great lengths to build bumps, buckles and mounds into the natural undulations.  Perhaps the most memorable hole is the 9th, an uphill par 4, with rock riverbed along the right-hand side of the fairway that points you in the direction of the Iberostar Resort pyramid.  High handicap or low you will enjoy Playa Paraiso.

Cenote on 1st hole

Saving the best for last, undoubtedly the best golf experience in this Traveling Golfers mind in the Mayan Riviera, is El Cameleon at Mayakoba – home to the PGA Tours OHL Classic.  This Greg Norman design is a must, and I mean MUST, play if you are true golfer and in the area.  You will know that you are in a special place on the first tee once you have made you way past the massive cenote staring you down.  From there you will wind your way through the dense mangroves, tropical jungles and oceanfront stretches of sand bisected by massive limestone canals.  Meticulously maintained, as it seems most in the area are, you would expect nothing less than the large slick greens that await you.

Visiting the Mayan Riviera you will want to spend some time in the beautiful beach town of Playa del Carmen.  With a beach town comes a great collection of beach bars.  Need I say more?!  Where there are bars there are restaurants and a great collection of fine dining with authentic cuisine.  For a guy who does not care all that much for shopping, even I was intrigued with Playa del Carmen’s 5th Avenue; A pedestrian walkway that stretches for about 5K (3 miles) through town and is only one block from the beach.  Shoppers get thirsty and every street leading to the beach, I think, has a bar at the end of it!  Shopping includes everything from Harley Davidson, The Body Shop and Victoria’s Secret to the appeal of local artisans and chatch-ka’s of the flea markets.

Beautiful beach at Playa del Carmen

For all of your golfing needs in in Cancun and the Mayan Riviera we highly recommend that you connect with local inbound tour operator Prime Experiences or

Additional information on is available from the Mexican Caribbean Golf Course Association