Located halfway between Playa del Carmen and the beautiful city of Tulum, cosmopolitan and bohemian at the same time (which is opposite the second largest barrier reef in the world - Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve), is the magnificent Bahia Principe Riviera Maya resort, where the circuit winners, and their companions, will be accommodated. With four superb five-star hotels, two of them luxury, a golf course (Riviera Maya Golf Club) and an impressive residential area extending over hundreds of hectares, it is one of the Mexican Caribbean’s benchmark tourist centres.
About 12 years ago, between 2006 and 2007, Jaime Sitjar, senior executive of Grupo Piñero, owners of the resort, contacted Robert Trent Jones Jr.’s team to visit the plot and study the possibility of building a golf course. The plan presented to him, an 18-hole course and a nine-hole layout, reflected exactly what Jaime had imagined: two magnificent courses fully integrated into the jungle of mangroves and sinkholes.
“At this course,” says Vanessa Vignali, corporate director of Bahia Principe Golf, "the first thing that leaves you with your mouth open is its natural environment. Even if you are playing golf, in the end this means little. You are so surrounded by incredible birds of all colours, iguanas that cross in front of you, coatis and serequés, etc., that you almost forget you are playing a round. At least it happens to me, which in a way is a bit of a concentration problem. Then… those sinkholes in the middle of a hole that are so impressive.
"The design is spectacular: here you have to place the ball constantly because you have a sinkhole or islet in the middle of a hole, or mangroves bordering the fairways. And the rough is not all that high. The greens are also tough. I would say it is the most demanding course in this area. In addition, it is quite long with some holes that are especially difficult.
"Among the holes I would highlight is the fourth, which I particularly like, with the Kang Ha river that meanders around it. It's a par-five where you can try, taking a risk, to reach the green in two, but it's complicated. Then there’s the sixth, with a sinkhole in the middle of the fairway that you almost don’t see until you reach it. The drive has a very narrow target area, with a wall to the right. You have to place the ball to be able to have a shot to the green. I also really like the 14th, a spectacular par-five, and of course the 15th, one of the prettiest par-threes I know of, with its almost “impossible hole” nature being compensated by the beauty of the design. Leaving here with a double bogey almost matters less than the pleasure of playing this hole.
"I'm sure that the winners, and companions, of the Andalucía Golf Challenge Circuit “Destination Riviera Maya Golf Club Bahia Principe” will not have enough time in Riviera Maya - there are so many options that sometimes it’s not easy to decide on one or the other. What is certain is that our course will not leave you indifferent."
AN ENVIRONMENTALLY-FRIENDLY COURSE
One of the defining characteristics of Riviera Maya Golf Club is its absolute respect for the environment. "We undertake,” says greenskeeper Victor Hernandez Tenorio, “a maintenance management process that is totally sustainable and, I believe, helps us stand out from any other golf course and makes us pioneers and forerunners in this respect.
“Normally at golf courses there is integrated treatment of pests, but five years ago we established the concept of sustainable management of pests, using 100 per cent live products that help us to protect the soil profile on the fairways and greens."
So you fight plagues with other "bugs" and organisms?
“To simplify, yes, that's right: good against bad. We inoculate the strains of bacteria and diseases that most damage a course with other beneficial fungi that devour them. We aim to bring zero chemicals to the grass. We only use live products, strains of bacteria or fungi that eliminate those that cause diseases. We also use this system with insects, etc. The results over these five years have been spectacular.”
To refine and adapt these sustainable treatments, Riviera Maya Golf Club has entered into a collaboration agreement with the Universidad Autónoma de Chipingo (Texcoco), which researches and teaches agricultural and environmental sciences, mainly focused on rural development.
Fernando Padrón: Director of Riviera Maya Golf Club
After having served for four years as director of operations at Royal Valderrama Club, and previously also managing Spanish golf courses Villamayor and Los Angeles de San Rafael, Fernando Padrón has just joined the Riviera Maya Golf Club as director.
He begins this new professional era “with great enthusiasm and ideas that I think can contribute to further enhance the great image and warm welcome that this golf course offers”.
This is how he synthesises what a golfer will find when playing at Riviera Maya Golf Club… "A fantastic design by Robert Trent Jones Jr. built around sinkholes, very spectacular and at the same time commercially appealing, with wide fairways, extremely flat, hugely beautiful, with many different options, varied holes, great fun for any level of handicap."
Regarding the resort where the course is located, Padrón says, “It is impressive - you are truly amazed. It is spectacular because of its size, its location and the quality of its four hotels and all the facilities, offering exceptional service". He adds that the resort clearly shows why Bahia Principe is one of the world's leading experts in hotel management.
He also highlights the complex’s “unrivalled” location - 20 minutes from Tulum and half an hour from Playa del Carmen - as well as the beauty of Acumal beach, where the resort is situated, also famous as a turtle spawning refuge. Another attraction in the area is the nearby island of Cozumel.
The main markets for the golf course - and the resort in general - are American and Canadian, "although obviously we are also going to work on new markets to continue making it better known and enhancing its image“.
Regarding Riviera Maya’s main attractions for the Spanish market, Padrón says there are many: “the culture that is so closely linked to Spanish culture, the language, the climate, the beaches, the landscapes, the kindness of the Mexicans, who make you feel at home, the archaeological heritage, and a resort like ours with an extraordinary golf course”.