Marvel in Mex­ico: Real Del Mar Golf Re­sort

Real Del Mar Golf Re­sort

Golf Vacations - - Contents - by Dave McKibben

Lo­cated just 45 min­utes south of down­town San Diego, the Real Del Mar Golf Re­sort is some­times over­looked by Amer­i­cans who trek across the U.S. border into Mex­ico to es­cape ex­or­bi­tant green fees, five-hour rounds and hov­er­ing mar­shals. This nar­row, 6,400-yard canyon course is tucked be­tween the moun­tains and is barely vis­i­ble from the coastal toll road. There is a “Real Del Mar” sign posted along the high­way for driv­ers headed south to­ward Ense­nada, but road signs are easy to miss when stun­ning views of the Pa­cific Ocean are the main at­trac­tion.

Lo­cated just 45 min­utes south of down­town San Diego, the Real Del Mar Golf Re­sort is some­times over­looked by Amer­i­cans who trek across the U.S. border into Mex­ico to es­cape ex­or­bi­tant green fees, five-hour rounds and hov­er­ing mar­shals. This nar­row, 6,400-yard canyon course is tucked be­tween the moun­tains and is barely vis­i­ble from the coastal toll road. There is a “Real Del Mar” sign posted along the high­way for driv­ers headed south to­ward Ense­nada, but road signs are easy to miss when stun­ning views of the Pa­cific Ocean are the main at­trac­tion. So on a re­cent Sun­day morn­ing in March, Jin Woo Choi didn’t mind deal­ing with a lit­tle early morn­ing fog as he took his warm up swings. “What’s not to like about this place?” said Choi, a res­i­dent of Ti­juana and part of a group of Korean golfers who fre­quent. “It’s a sea­side course. It’s chal­leng­ing, it’s not too ex­pen­sive and it’s wide open.” Miguel Valls, an­other course reg­u­lar who lives in Ti­juana, is con­vinced Real Del Mar is the best golf­ing bar­gain in all of Baja. “The green fees [$55 on Satur­day, $40 on Sun­day] are half the price of ev­ery other course around here,’’ said Valls, orig­i­nally from Va­len­cia, Spain. “Sure, it’s a lit­tle more dif­fi­cult than some other cour­ses be­cause it’s so nar­row. But that’s part of the chal­lenge, right?” And Real Del Mar is cer­tainly a chal­lenge, es­pe­cially for play­ers who spray their tee shots or tug their ap­proach shots. Sean Thomas, who be­longs to a pri­vate club in Ocean­side, is a long hit­ter who loves to un­leash his driver when­ever he can. But Thomas had been warned about the tight fair­ways of Real Del Mar, so he put a 22-de­gree hy­brid in his bag for the road trip and wound up hit­ting it off nearly ev­ery tee. “The chal­lenge is ob­vi­ously the nar­row­ness and I don’t think there’s any di­vine rout­ing here,” he said. “This one of those cour­ses that if you’re a short hit­ter, you’re go­ing to be in play more than a long hit­ter be­cause of the con­tour of the holes.” But even if you lose a few balls in the thick veg­e­ta­tion sur­round­ing the fair­ways, you’ll likely keep your bag stocked by find­ing lost balls from other way­ward hit­ters. And since you don’t have other play­ers breath­ing down your neck ev­ery hole, there’s plenty of time to search for your drive in thick brush or just en­joy the wildlife. The course is less than 10 miles from down­town Ti­juana, but it has the feel of a nat­u­ral wildlife pre­serve. Ea­gles, hawks, owls, herons soar over­head and mar­shals are re­placed by coy­otes and lynx. “I re­ally loved the nat­u­ral­ness and re­mote­ness of Real Del Mar,” Thomas said. “It’s also pretty ap­peal­ing to play a round in less than four hours. If you play on a week­end in San Diego, you’re look­ing at six hours for a round, which I don’t find fun.” Opened in 1993 and de­signed by Pe­dro Guereca Gur­rola, Real Del Mar also fea­tures seven lakes and more dan­ger than just also fea­tures seven lakes, 47 bunkers and 600 palm trees. Be­cause of its af­ford­able green fees, the course has be­come pop­u­lar with ex-pats who live in along the coast be­tween Ti­juana and Rosar­ito Beach. The four par 5s are all dif­fi­cult to score on be­cause the slen­der fair­ways don’t al­low play­ers much mar­gin for er­ror on a lay-up shot. But the tough­est of the par 5s is the 526-yard 17th hole, which dog legs to the right and is ap­pro­pri­ately named “Al­ca­traz.” Off the tee, there is trou­ble on the left side with sev­eral tall trees and plants that site on top of a hill. On the right side, a small river fol­lows the edge of the fair­way, mak­ing the sec­ond shot ter­ri­bly de­mand­ing. If you’re still in play for your third shot, you’re faced with an is­land green. The pret­ti­est hole is No. 6, a down­hill par 3 that mea­sures 200 yards from the blue tees and fea­tures a stun­ning view of the

Pa­cific Ocean and the Coron­ado Is­lands in the dis­tance. No. 18 is an­other down­hill par 3 with a lake in front and sand traps sur­round­ing the green. Car­los Calderon, Real Del Mar’s di­rec­tor of golf, said there are plans to ren­o­vate the course, which was pounded by a se­ries of win­ter storms. “Plans are un­der­way to ren­o­vate the bunkers, re­store the lakes that have been in­vaded with wild plants,” Calderon said. “We’re also go­ing to cut the high grass around the fair­ways and greens, so it will be eas­ier to find your un­playable balls.” Up­grades are also planned for the 75-suite ho­tel, snack bar and club­house.

Real Del Mar Golf Re­sort: For more in­for­ma­tion on Real Del Mar, visit http:// www.re­aldel­mar­gol­fre­sort.com/ or call 800803-6038 from the United States or 01 800 788 1023 from Mex­ico. Re­sort rates on suites be­gin at $119 a night and stu­dios at $89 per night. Green fees on Tues­days and Thurs­days are just $25.

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