Mexico's new Gary Player-designed CostaBaja Golf Club offers beauty and fun

Player friendly: New CostaBaja Golf Club on Mexico's Baja Peninsula offers beauty, fun

LA PAZ, Baja California Sur, Mexico -- The new CostaBaja Resort and Marina presents all the elements of fun golf: elevated tees, wide fairways, mild-mannered greens and great views -- just how Gary Player likes his golf courses.

The par-72, 7,229-yard Gary Player Design layout offers spectacular vistas of the Sea of Cortez, the resort and the marinas from 14 holes. On a clear day, and that's often on the Baja California Sur, the deep, blue sea continues as far as the eye can see.

Moored at the marinas are million-dollar yachts; and built on the hillside sit even more lush villas and condos.

"I've built more than 300 golf courses around the world," Player said, "and I've never seen a course with better views. It's ocean all the time, and suddenly there are massive mountains."

Yes, the mountains provide elevation, and desert scape-sets off acres of deep green turf. Also, you'll find plenty of native plants and flora, including giant cardon cacti, similar to saguaros in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona.

"I can't think of a more beautiful setting than here," said Larry Cole, senior vice president of business development for Troon Golf, which manages CostaBaja Golf Club. "We have golf courses all over the world, and we're looking forward to bringing people here to CostaBaja in La Paz."

CostaBaja Golf Club's views are breathtaking

From the tee of the par-5 14th, players aim to a fairway some 200 feet below. It's, no doubt, the most daunting tee shot on the golf course, but players enjoy hitting driver here as the ball stays in the air forever. The 14th features the most dramatically elevated tee on the golf course, but it's not the only one. Another half-dozen holes start with elevated tees.

"Downhill holes are great for the average golfer," said Player. "The ball goes a hell of a long way."

Mammoth tee shots are the theme for several holes, including a couple of risk-reward par 4s reachable with the perfect drive for long hitters. Even better, some of the downhill par 4s reward players who are confident with the driver. Ample landing areas set up birdie opportunities, while still allowing others to play a more conservative option.

The most mysterious hole on the golf course is the par-4 seventh, a severely downhill, dogleg-left par 4 that entices players to thread a driver through a sliver of fairway to a green below. The hole is more than 400 yards, but because of the elevation drop, it could play closer to 300 with a pinpoint-accurate drive. The trouble is, there's hardly a flat lie on the hole, meaning even if you try to keep it on the top level, you're probably looking at a tough downhill lie on the approach.

The golf course also offers a nice collection of par 3s, including the eighth, which plays over a lake back toward the resort. And the par 5s provide a nice mix as well, including the 18th, which entices better players to aim for the green in two shots.

CostaBaja Golf is eco-friendly

From tee to green, CostaBaja Golf Club was grassed in paspalum, an environmentally friendly turfgrass that thrives on effluent water. The only drawback to paspalum, a fairly thick-bladed grass, is that the greens tend to run a little on the slow side.

For Player, it was a prudent choice.

"No more well water, no more fresh water for golf courses," Player said. "Water is one of the more massive problems we have in the world."

In construction of the golf course, removed material was preserved to transplant elsewhere. That included every cactus and most of the plentiful rocks.

"This wasn't an easy golf course to build," Player said.

The builders also did a nice job of hiding the cart paths, which aren't evident from the tees as they tend to blend in with the golf course.

Practice facilities

CostaBaja G.C. features a full practice range, short game area and putting greens. The club also provides brand new Callaway golf clubs available for rent. And the clubhouse includes a fully stocked golf shop as well as a bar and grill overlooking the resort and the marina below.

Stay and Play at CostaBaja

The CostaBaja Resort and Spa offers accommodations for golfers and non-golfers alike. The recently renovated hotel -- La Paz's only five-star resort -- has 115 rooms overlooking an infinity pool, the marina complex, the ocean and the golf course. It offers a beach club, workout facilities, several excellent restaurants and a spa.

Many options exist for travelers to reach the resort. Flights are available directly into La Paz, and it's a 2 1/2-hour drive north from Los Cabos on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula.

CostaBaja Golf Club and Marina: The verdict

CostaBaja Golf Club is a blast to play. The tee shots will boost almost any golfer's ego, and there are five sets of tees, starting at just more than 5,000 yards.

The main draw of CostaBaja, of course, is the scenery. The sea comes into view from 14 holes, a number that few golf courses in the world match.

The only drawback is that the golf course perhaps opened a little prematurely. Three years in the making, pressure surely existed to open this project on time. And considering the economic climate, it's a remarkable feat that the developers got it ready for the Nov. 7 debut, when Player and Mexico's own Lorena Ochoa conducted a clinic and played an abbreviated exhibition round.

There are a few bare spots on some of the fairways and greens, but with plenty of sunshine and a bit of water, plush, consistent conditions will arrive in short order.

La Paz includes just one other golf course, Paraiso del Mar Golf and Country Club. So while you might not visit the up-and-coming city just for its golf, with plenty of other activities such as boating, fishing, snorkeling and just plain relaxing, the golf course provides an amenity that places the CostaBaja Resort on elevated level.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

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Until a few months ago, there was no golf in La Paz, Mexico. But thanks in part to desalinization, a less water-hungry paspalum turf for warm weather courses and some developers' persistence, there is golf in La Paz now, at the Paraiso Del Mar resort, and more on the way, Brandon Tucker writes in his latest "Planet Putter" column.
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Player friendly: New CostaBaja Golf Club on Mexico's Baja Peninsula offers beauty, fun