Today I have the pleasure of joining Sergio from BRIC Vacation Rentals and his brother Frank for an early morning tee time at The Playacar Golf Club in Playa del Carmen. The 3 of are set to tee off promptly at 7:30 AM on this Saturday morning. So, we've played this course quite a bit, being that we all live within just a minutes commute to the golf course, and thought we would give you the "players" insight on playing golf at the Playacar Golf Club!
So if you are not familiar with the plethora of golf available here in the Riviera Maya, trust me there is plenty to choose from. Just within 20 minutes of Playa del Carmen, you'll find a handful of great courses; among them Mayakoba El Cameleon (Greg Norma), Grand Coral (Nick Price), Iberostar (Pete "you've got to be kidding me" Dye), as well as Bahia Principe and the Grand Mayan. Today we are playing one of the more challenging courses, especially if you are not familiar with the course. This 18-hole course was designed by Robert Van Hagge and measures 7,136 in length. But what you really need to know is that course is "tight" and a premium is placed on being accurate off of the tee. Anything left or right of the fairway and you can be prepared to add some penalty strokes to the scorecard! And if that was not enough, the greens are the size of postage stamps and if you want any chance of scoring well, then Fairways and Greens in Regulation are KEY!
The first hole you face will be one of the easiest holes you will see all day. Less than 400 yards with just a slight fade to the right; the fairway is generous and the green is actually (relatively) large! If you're having trouble out of the gate on this hole, I would suggest heading back to the clubhouse to restock on Golf Balls! The 3 of us on this played it well, recording 2 pars and one Bogey.
Just as your feeling like Tiger Woods after completing the first hole and think just for a moment, that this may be the day that you break your best score - welcome to Hole 2! 600 yard, double dog-leg with a green surrounded by water! Good luck with this one. Us "local" are more than ecstatic to walk off of the green with the same ball we teed off with! Today we recorded one bogey and 2 triples!
So after the first 2 holes you probably have no idea what to expect; besides the fact that you have already shanked 3 of the 6 balls in your golf bag deep into the jungles of Mexico! Well, now is your chance at a nice Par 3, that will play anywhere from 150 to 190 yards in length. The bunker area is about 10 x the size of the green you are supposed to land the ball on, so take good care of your tee shot here, because if you land in any of the bunker areas...Good Luck, you will not get it up and down and prepare yourself for anything from Bogey to Triple!
Hopefully by now one of the Beverage Carts has paid you a visit, because you could probably use a special something something about right now; after all, you're probably 6 over par already and you haven't played but 3 holes! The best news you may get here, is that holes 4 - 7 are probably the easiest on the entire course and if your looking to score here at Playacar you need to do it here, because it doesn't get easier! On the next 4 holes you probably don't even need a driver off of the tee, but pay attention to your landing zone and distances. If you set yourself up right, you'll have nothing more than a wedge shot to the green and you can finally score some birdies and pars!
As you near the end of the front 9 holes in Playacar, you have a nice little Par 3, hole 8, that plays about 200 yards and is the number 18 handicap on the golf course. Just get the ball on the green! No excuse to not Par this hole and if your tee shot is accurate you'll have a chance at Birdie (enjoy it because it could be your last)!
Lets assume you've had a pretty good round so far through the first 8 holes. By now you may have had a couple of visits from the Beverage Cart and you feel your swing is coming to you! If you have not had any beverages to this point, you may want to wait for Leanore or Victor to pass by, because you'll need it! Holes 9, 10 and 11 are a brut! Us locals like to call this "Oh Sh*t Corner" and if you're playing with out-of-towners, this is where you take their money!
Hole #9 on the scorecard does not look too hard; only a 390 yard par 4, but....the wind can be brutal! You need an accurate and LONG tee shot to give yourself the best chance of hitting the green. Assuming you've found the fairway, calculate your distance and take at least 1 extra club on the shot! If you've missed the fairway or are blocked by the any of the trees, don't be a hero here, take your lumps and lay up to give yourself a chance! Bogey here is awesome!
As we make the turn to the back 9 of Playacar Golf Club we're feeling "somewhat" good with a couple of 41's on the scorecard. But, having played this golf course one too many times, we know that the real test comes on the back 9! Playing over 600 yards longer than the front 9, there are no easy holes on this side.
Hole #10 is actually not that difficult when standing on the tee box! A 428 par 4 that requires a little fade for us right-handers. It's the second shot here than can cost you strokes as the green is almost invisible! You're probably left with a mid-iron shot that you need to land within 5 paces of your distance; if your short you're in the bunker and long will result in yet another penalty stroke.
Now that you are completely demoralized after playing the last 2 holes, you'll approach the Par 5, 12th, which plays 621 from the back tees. The tee shot is actually the easiest shot on the hole; just straight away and long! I left the tee shot a little right, but with the help of the overhanging tree was left with a second shot. Sergio, Mr.-300Yard Driving-Crossfit exercising-Big Truck Driving-Focus of a Man, pipes one down the middle! Luckily, only 300 yards and leaves it 1 yard short of the end of the fairway bunker! Brother Frank, who is celebrating his 1-year wedding anniversary today is not so lucky. He's been fighting a big Hook all day; and I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that he is out playing golf and drinking early morning cocktails with his buddies while his wife is at home on their 1 year wedding anniversary taking care of their beautiful daughter. What happened to breakfast in bed Frankie? Happy Anniversary!
You have now made it through "Oh Sh*t Corner"....have another cocktail, relax and enjoy the rest of your round!
Hole 12 is a straight away par 4, measuring 442 from the tips and plays into the wind. Just when you thought you were in the clear! No worries; a good tee shot and you'll have a nice shot into the green!
Hole 13 is the Iguana Par 3. It plays 220+ from the tips, so for an average guy like me I need to pull out the fairway wood to have even the slightest chance of hitting the green. No mater what tee box you are playing from, chances are you will find yourself in the bunker, short! Don't get nervous by the 3 dozen Iguana's that are staring you down; after all they are not carnivores! You should be more worried about the Tehonis that are invading your golf cart and eating your morning peanuts while you are contemplating your next miracle shot out of the bunker!
Hole 14 is a straight away Par 4 that measures an even 400 from the back tees and is registered as the #17 handicap on the course. Not exactly sure what is so easy about this hole? You'll need a long tee shot here (as well as down the middle), to have a chance at attacking the flag! The second shot is a bear as this green is tough; long and narrow with no place to miss. Left or long and you can add another penalty stroke to the card and anything right is going to be a difficult up & down....good luck. Thankfully, Leanore just arrived with a replenished beverage cart!
The par 5 15th is going to be a good opportunity to write down a good score. The hole is long at 598 from the tips and not reachable (for us simpletons), but 3 good shots and you can find the green and have a good opportunity at Par or better!
Now comes Number 16! There are many of times that I have played here that we have discussed just passing this hole and taking a bogey on the scorecard; but that would be too generous. A Par 4 that plays 468 yards tee to green, uphill and lots of wind. There is not a chance that we can reach this hole in regulation. Actually we just want a couple of solid swings here to have even a minuscule chance of putting for a bogie! Seriously! Good Luck!
You've got the last two holes of the day coming up! Number 17 is a great par three that measures 194 from the back, down to 154 from the white tees! Don't be fooled and beware of the wind! Even if you think it's calm outside, you'll want to take an additional club on this shot. The wind always blows above the tree line and I'd rather be a little long (which is safe), as opposed to short, which puts you in a dreadful bunker. Trust me, take an extra club and swing away!
Finally...the beautiful Number 18!
My favorite hole on the Golf Course. By now, you've completed a fairly good round and a solid finish on 18 will top it off! Or in reality, you've probably played 20 shots above your handicap, but it's this type of hole that will keep you coming back tomorrow!
Although the wind is always coming at you, this Par 5 hole is reachable with 2 good shots! Then again, the water lining both sides of the fairway, coupled with the strong winds, could cause you to score yet another Bogie ++ hole! It's the 18th hole and chances are your not on the verge of scoring your best round ever, so hit the big stick of the tee box and go ahead and pull out the fairway wood on the second. A Birdie or Eagle here will make this your favorite hole!
Thank you to Sergio and Frank for the great round of golf today! Looking forward to seeing you next weekend; assuming Frank's wife lets him out of the house again :)) Happy Anniversary.