After being asked on multiple occasions for golf picks on the Riviera Maya of Mexico it was high time to actually pay a visit. Following in semi-famous footsteps, I chose the Fairmont Mayakoba, home to a PGA Tour event later this month.
For orientation, Mayakoba is the premier gated development on the Riviera Maya, a beachfront section of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula that sits just south of Cancun in the state of Quintana Roo. Mayakoba is scheduled to host four resorts, two of which, Fairmont and Rosewood, are already open, with Banyan Tree and Viceroy on the way. For tourists, the region has long been known for its side trips to the spectacular Mayan ruins at Tulum and Chichen Itza, but for golfers, this tropical retreat overlooking the Caribbean Sea had been a virtual desert. That’s all changed.
As Fairmont’s Director of Golf Douglas Goubault explained, “In 1992, there were 1,950 hotel rooms on the Riviera Maya. Today there are more than 33,000. Where there was no golf—now we’ve got 10 courses, with five more on the drawing board. And even in this economy, there’s not much slowdown here.”
The highest-ranked layout on the Riviera Maya is Fairmont Mayakoba’s El Camaleon, an absolutely unique Greg Norman design, whose name “the Chameleon,” is an apt depiction of this ever-changing track. Unlike many modern courses, El Camaleon is hardly a bombers paradise. Many of its flattish fairways are bracketed by impenetrable mangroves, others are dotted with bunkers and trees and still others are slashed with lagoons and piercingly clear canals carved through limestone walls. That might explain why the Mayakoba Golf Classic’s first two champions, Fred Funk and Brian Gay, are two of the most accurate drivers in golf.