BAJA CALIFORNIA SUR, Mexico – Perched on a ragged cliff overlooking the Sea of Cortez, the par-three, 17th hole at TPC Danzante Bay here in Baja is all anyone should want in a golf hole. It has the view – 250 feet above the Sea of Cortez; it has the challenge (178 yards from the back tee, over a canyon to a kidney-shaped green protected by sand); and did I mention the view?
“Everybody who comes to the hole gets psyched out because of all the water and the carry over the canyon,’’ said TPC Head Professional Danny Garcia. “The green (6,200 square feet) looks like a little sliver. People try to avoid the canyon and miss the green. What they should do is take in all the beauty and focus on the line they want to hit the ball on. Then just swing whatever club makes you comfortable.’’
And to think it’s a hole that almost never was. The story goes that the 17th hole, as it’s currently designed, wasn’t in the original plans of course designer Rees Jones or Owen Perry, the owner of TPC Danzante Bay and the Villa del Palmar Loreto Beach Resort & Spa.
“Owen Perry and Rees and some others were looking at a layout, and somebody – nobody knows who – said we ought to be a green on that cliff,’’ Garcia said. “The next thing you know, they started building it. Rees told Owen, ‘You have one the holes.’ As it went along, he said, ‘You have one of the best holes in Mexico.’ And finally he said, ‘You have one of the best holes in the world.’’’
No argument here, but the 17th is just the icing on the cake at TPC Danzante Bay. The course, whose full 18 holes have been open less than two years, is a tremendous overall layout as it winds through the rugged desert of eastern Baja. There’s not a weak hole on the course, which seems to always play downhill, although the second, third and sixth holes are subtle uphill climbs. The course’s five sets of tees – ranging from 4,916 yards to 7,237 yards – offer plenty of options for golfers of all skill levels.
TPC Danzante Bay crescendos with the 15th and 16th holes – each short, not-so subtle, uphill climbs, before the stunning 17th. From there, it’s all downhill – literally. The 18th hole, a 520-yard, par four, is an outstanding finishing hole – dead downhill in the style of the 663-yard, par-five, 18th hole at the Plantation Course at Kapalua on Maui.
Don’t let the yardage fool you. Aim for the right side of the fairway (and hit a slight draw if possible) and watch the ball hop and skip downhill. A good drive can put you within 140 yards of the pin.
TPC Danzante Bay is the centerpiece of Villa del Palmar Loreto Beach Resort & Spa – one of Mexico’s top resorts that sits on a sprawling stretch of white-sand beach along Danzante Bay, where the natural habitat includes 900 species of fish.
Want more than golf? The resort, less than a two-hour flight from Los Angeles and 300 miles north of Los Cabos, has six swimming pools, the Sabila Spa, and an abundance of water activities such as sport fishing, snorkeling, paddle boarding and kayaking. For a real treat, hop a boat to explore the Sea of Cortez where humpback whales and white belly dolphins call home.
Guests also can take a 45-minute shuttle to the town of Loreto, which was founded by Jesuits in 1697. There are plenty of taquerias and shops along the way to the historic Mission of Our Lady of Loreto, not far from the town’s oceanfront.
It’s a great day trip from the resort and an opportunity to explore part of the Baja that is just now being discovered.