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Part 2: More Tequila and Golf? Your Mexican Dream Vacation in Cancun and Cozumel

By Diana Rowe Martinez, Contributor

Also see: Part 1: Tequila and More Golf?

For those determined to get the most out of their golf vacation, there's more golf to love just outside of Cancun's Hotel Zone.

A short 45-minute drive south through thick jungle and grasslands, past ranches big and small, leads to the once sleepy fishing village of Playa del Carmen, one of the fastest growing communities in Mexico. Once again, miles of sandy, palm-lined beaches border the crystal-clear Caribbean.

Dozens of restaurants and hotels are available for any budget or taste. A shopper's haven, Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue) runs through the center of the town, open to foot traffic only. Restaurants, cafes, artisans' shops, dive shops and boutiques line this busy street, a short block from the beach. Or perhaps you'd rather lie on the beach or boogie the night away at the local discos.

Better yet, how about another round of golf? Yep, just south of Playa del Carmen, you will find Playacar Club de Golf, a course that opened in 1994. Surrounded by resort hotels, you have the choice of hopping hotels and spending a few days here, or staying in Cancun and making the drive. Whatever your decision, the Playacar is a must-play course. Reservations can be made in advance via telephone/fax: (987) 3-06-24 / 3-06-74.

At 7,202 championship yards, this 72 par is an exceptionally long and challenging course, although three tee boxes offer a game for all skills. At many holes, the jungle crawls to the edge of the fairway, trying to escape and run free across the course. Golf rules cite the jungle as a lateral hazard.

Balls lost are to be played from within two club lengths of entering the thicket, and the player is penalized one-stroke. A caution to the stubborn golfer, searching for your errant ball might net snakes, crocs or other predators.

Playacar's fairways undulate like the waves rolling in from the Caribbean. The golf gods will knock you down a notch or two when your perfect drive kicks the direction of the rolling hills. Hole 1 starts the golfer with a dogleg at about the 160 marker, for a 389 yard, par 4, an attainable par 4 for the smart shooter.

And this is, excuse the pun, par for the course. Risk takers will be rewarded, and at the same time, unsuccessful risk takers will struggle on this course. Bunkers here are deep, long and wide. Hole 13 even has bunkers sculpted into a gully to the left of the green--not a place even the best sand wedger wants to be!

Oftentimes, a tall and wide tree sits in the middle of the fairway or in front of the green, an obstacle difficult to miss. Hole 15 offers up a groove of trees to the left of the fairway, but still a threat to the golfer. Two of the four par 5's are very long and difficult - 607 and 622 yards respectively.

Although the ocean doesn't play in this course, Playacar has made good use of the jungle, water hazards (lakes) and bunkers. Playacar's vistas might not be open like the other courses in Cancun, but it is still awe-inspiring.

The finishing hole curves left around the lake, with the jungle crowding on the right side. With the typical long and deep bunker at the dogleg, the golfer either plays it smart or ends up in the sand or swimming in the lake--quite the predicament for a finishing hole.

The 19th hole is a few steps from the finishing hole and overlooks the front of the course. When you take a look at where you've been and what you've accomplished at Playacar Club de Golf, you'll know you are well deserving of that finishing cerveza or refreshing agua.

The added benefit of venturing this far outside of Cancun is you can hop the ferry that heads over to the Isla Cozumel for less than the cost of an American lunch. Cozumel, the largest island in the Mexican Caribbean, is best known for its international reputation of diving and snorkeling in the world's second-largest coral reef network featuring limestone caves, tunnels and rare block coral.

The west side of the island hosts those same sugar-white sand beaches with the intensely turquoise water. Venture seaside to the east of the island, and you'll find beaches, but with stronger currents and shorter, more desert like vegetation.

Take some time to discover Cozumel and its hidden beauties. And in the spring of 2001, you'll find another beauty--Cozumel Country Club, Cozumel's first golf course! The Nicklaus-designed, 18-hole, 6,847 yard, par 72 golf course is being managed by Clubs Corporation of America and is still under construction at press time by Diamond Golf International.

A special preview was given to TravelGolf.com. This course is guaranteed to be a beauty. The greens will consist of hybrid Bermuda turf. Fairways will be built around Cozumel's trees, mangroves and wetlands to preserve ecologically sensitive areas.

Mangroves (and marshes) are one of the most important ecosystems in the state. Mangroves are rich in flora and fauna and their immense value to coastal ecology is only just being understood. Many birds make their home in area mangroves, including 15 members of the heron and egret family, ibis and roseate spoonbill, to mention a few.

Although initially being temporarily removed, the mangroves are being replanted throughout the course to maintain ecological stability, and as another golfer obstacle. This course's challenges may begin with a drive over a water supply thick with mangroves or end with a shot over the top or around mangroves onto long sloping greens. Enough to make you praise or curse the golf gods.

Diamond Golf Corporation should be commended for their extraordinary efforts to carve this amazing course literally out of the jungle, yet attempting to maintain the façade of the tangled jungle, vegetation and wildlife.

According to Cozumel Country Club's representative Martin Delgadillo, "When our workers cut through the jungle and uncover palm trees, we have one worker in charge of retrieving these palms and replanting them elsewhere on the course. So far we've been very successful."

The cart paths are designed such that a manmade path does not alter the golfer's view of the magnificence of Cozumel. The jungle will border the fairways in much the same way as Playacar, and again, a ball off the fairway is not worth retrieving in the jungle because of the crocs and snakes.

All greens will be elevated above sea level to prevent flooding. Three tees, including championship, offer all levels of golfers a challenge, yet the beginners will still enjoy the game.

President of the Isla Cozumel Hotel Association and private sector representative for the tourism foundation, Gastonia Chanterelle Diaz said it best, "We are thrilled to welcome the addition of this world-class golf course and country club. In playing the course, our visitors will be in touch with nature, the environment and the ecologically preserved areas that are so special to the island of Cozumel."

Posted public green fees will be approximately $110 per person for 18 holes and a discounted twilight rate. Keep checking Cozumel's web site at www.islacozumel.com.mx for Cozumel Country Club's opening schedule.

Why not stay and play in Cozumel? The island offers accommodations for every budget, from posh five-star hotels to all-inclusive resorts. There are more than 3,600 rooms on the island.

The 254 room, all-inclusive resort El Cozumeleno is situated directly across from the new Cozumel Country Club, with a view of the course from its open hotel corridors. The rooms' décor is bright, colorful, and airy, with a Caribbean flair, offering balconies with an ocean view.

The service and food is excellent (especially since it's included in the price!), with the staff always offering a friendly smile. Again, the pool is enticing opening out to the Santa Pilar Beach on the lee side of the Isla Cozumel. Many activities and lessons are included in the package, including a specially designed Kid's Program, as well as elective water sports.

If that isn't enough, El Cozumeleno's location is enticing--just five minutes from the airport and San Miguel, and minutes away from the new Cozumel Country Club's entrance. (Contact info: email: hotelcoz@cozumel.czm.com.mx or call 800-742-4276.)

With approximately 185 daily domestic and international flights into Cancun, and numerous flights including island-hoppers into Cozumel, this tropical paradise is reachable and affordable. There are no excuses to take the time to play and golf in Cancun and Cozumel.

Cancun and Cozumel on the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula present a most intriguing and cultural history, excellent Mayan and Mexican food and drink, and diving and snorkeling adventures. Blend this with several dashes of golf rounds and you'll have a vacation to remember.

Hilton Cancun Golf Club

Retorno Lacandones KM.17
Zona Hotelera
Cancun, Q. Roo, 77500. Mexico
Tel: (529) 881-8000
or 1-800-HILTONS

Pok-ta-Pok Club De Golf Cancun

Blvd. Kukulcan, Km 7.5, Zona Hotelera
Tel: (98) 83-12-30, 83-12-77, 83-08-71
From US dial (011-52-98+number)

Playacar Club de Golf

Paseo Xaman-Ha s/n Mza. No. 26, Fracc. Playacar
Playa del Carmen, Q. Roo, Mexico, CP 77710
Tel: (987) 306 24
From the USA: 011-52 (987) 306-24

Cozumel Country Club

(New Course--for more information contact Pok-ta-Pok) or visit Cozumel on web site www.islacozumel.com.mx

Images courtesy of the author and the Cancun Convention & Visitor's Bureau.

Diana Rowe MartinezDiana Rowe Martinez, Contributor

A Denver-based freelance writer, Diana Rowe Martinez is a member of Colorado Travel Writers and writes for other publications, both print and online, in the industries of travel, nonfiction, and business. She writes a monthly column for a Denver based newspaper, Singles Entertainment.

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