Course and resort adhere to Mayan ecoprinciples
Is there a more environmentally unique golf resort in the world than Mayakoba, home of this week’s PGA Tour stop?
The showpiece of Mexico’s Mayan Riviera, Mayakoba includes four luxury hotels as well as El Cameleón, a Greg Normandesigned golf course that every November hosts the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.
But what sets apart this $2.4-billion US resort 70 kilometres south of Cancun are ecofriendly initiatives that include adherence to an ancient Mayan forestry management philosophy called “socoleo.”
Aided by biologists, geologists and forestry experts, Norman and his team learned which trees were expendable, which were crucial to the ecosystem, and how to minimize the impact of the cuts in weaving El Cameleón through the environmentally sensitive jungle and mangrove forest.
Norman’s tight and constantly challenging 7,084-yard design includes two par threes that play to the edge of the resort’s 1.6km beachfront on the Caribbean Sea. And just offshore is a prime stretch of the Mesoamerican coral reef, second in size only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
It’s a spectacular setting made all the more striking by the twisting man-made canals that connect the four luxury resorts: Fairmont Mayakoba, Rosewood Mayakoba, Banyan Tree Mayakoba, and Andaz Mayakoba.
Common to the region are cenotes, caverns formed over millennia by rainwater filtering through underground layers of limestone. Planners for OHL Group, Mayakoba’s Spanish developer, saw that by chipping away the top layers of rock, they could tap into the freshwater flowing beneath the surface and build an interconnected system of canals through the jungle to serve as the resort’s main transportation system.
Guests get around the 240-hectare development in thatch-roofed electrically powered boats known as lanchas, as well as by bicycles and golf carts.
Opened in 2006, Fairmont Mayakoba was the property’s first hotel and is still widely regarded as its signature resort. Set under a mangrove canopy, the hotel includes 401 guest suites, many of them situated beside tranquil canals and lagoons. Wildlife boat tours are scheduled hourly at a property that includes a Willow Stream spa with treetop treatment areas.
Mayakoba offers gourmet restaurants, designer shops and all the other attractions expected at luxury resorts. But it was the 2007 arrival of the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, Mexico’s first PGA Tour event, that brought the resort international fame and stamped the Mayan Riviera as a golf destination to rival Los Cabos on the country’s Pacific coast.
Vying for attention are popular nearby courses such as Playa Paraiso Golf Club, a heroically difficult P.B. Dye layout; Moon Spa and Golf Club, a 27-hole Jack Nicklaus signature design; Playacar Spa and Golf Club, a Robert von Hagge jungle layout booby-trapped with water hazards; and another Normandesigned beauty, Playa Mujeres Golf Club, featuring a thrilling mix of lagoon and ocean-front holes.
The Mayans, a sophisticated people who closely studied the stars, never foretold of golf’s coming. But with the help of their ancient knowledge, the game has become a natural fit in the jungle landscape.
mayakoba includes four luxury hotels as well as el cameleón, a Greg Norman-designed golf course.
For Metro Canada