In November the five winners of the 2021 Andalucía Golf Challenge-Destination PGA Riviera Maya Bahía Príncipe Circuit grand finale – held at Marbella Club – travelled to the Mexican Caribbean. For one memorable week, from 6 to 14 November, they were able to enjoy the area’s renowned charms: crystal clear and turquoise sea waters, Mayan ruins, cenotes (sinkholes) and, above all else, golf, playing at the finest courses on the Yucatán coast, which has become one of the most attractive international destinations for golfers. The winners were joined by 25 other travellers, including companions and fellow golfers, who also enjoyed an extensive program of golf and perfectly organised tourism activities.
The 2021 Circuit, which was sponsored by Viviendo del Trading, Sanitas, Bodegas Laus, Fairway+Blue, Holiday Golf and Restaurante El Gamonal, as well as Grupo Piñero’s Bahía Príncipe hotel chain, comprised a total of 23 events plus the final. It was played on courses including Madrid's Golf Santander and La Herrería (El Escorial), Los Angeles de San Rafael (Segovia), Royal Sevilla, Zaudín, Mijas Golf (Los Lagos), Santa Clara Marbella, Royal Sotogrande, Royal Valderrama, Finca Cortesín, Valle Romano, Flamingos (Villa Padierna) and La Reserva (Sotogrande). The final was played on 2 October at one of the most prestigious courses on the Costa del Sol, Marbella Club.
The winners of the trip to the Mexican Caribbean were the two leading players in category one and two, and the scratch winner. Participants had earned a place in the final as winners of the qualifying legs, plus the top-placed finishers in the overall Circuit ranking – 80 finalists in total.
The lucky five were Alberto Rubio Daza and Alejandro Carrere Lovera (first and second in category one), José Felix Garcia Spain and Maximiliaan Werswyver (from category two) and scratch winner José Ugia González.
The prize consisted of a week-long trip covering flights and all-inclusive accommodation, plus four rounds of golf at the three best courses in the area: PGA Riviera Maya, Playa Paraíso and El Camaleón Mayakoba. Just a few days earlier, the latter had hosted the Mayakoba Classic, a US PGA Tour event that has been held at the course for 14 years, so the group was able to play the course in “tournament conditions".
The host hotel was Bahía Príncipe Gran Tulum, a magnificent luxury establishment that has been completely renovated recently and is located halfway between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, in a large complex with three other superb hotels next to the beach and its own club golf. The course – actually two, as there is an 18-hole course and a spectacular nine-hole layout – has been managed for three years by Fernando Padrón, who was director of operations at Royal Valderrama Club before moving to Mexico.
The PGA Riviera Maya proved to be a pleasant surprise and a positive experience for the Spanish “expedition”, both in terms of design and maintenance. The general comments were highly praiseworthy of a course that delves into the dense Yucatán jungle and has rapidly become a flagship of Mexican golf.
In addition to this course, where two rounds were played, the group also teed up at Playa Paraíso and El Camaleón Mayakoba.
Playa Paraíso, part of the Iberostar hotel chain and less than an hour from Cancún, was designed by Paul Burke (P.B.) Dye in a stunning location. One of his finest creations, it is highlighted by memorable holes, with its majestic undulating fairways (one of the main features), deep bunkers of fine sand, multiple tees and ingeniously sloping and exceptionally formed greens making it an exhilarating challenge for golfers. It is a course that remains imprinted in the memory thanks to its incredible beauty, perfection and degree of difficulty.
What to say about El Camaleón Mayakoba? It is probably one of the best known courses in the world. Located next to the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, festooned by channels and lagoons of crystalline waters that line most of its fairways, and sheltered by tropical jungle and mangroves, this majestic course is truly spectacular.
It was designed by the legendary Greg Norman, and was the first course to host a US PGA Tour tournament outside the United States and Canada. Located 30 minutes south of Cancún and just 15 from Playa del Carmen, the course extends through three different environments: tropical jungle, dense mangroves, and sandy areas along the seashore. The same as at PGA Riviera Maya, its design incorporates a cenote (sinkhole) in the heart of one of the fairways.
In addition to the four intense days of golf, three other days were left free for sea excursions, enjoying the beaches, swimming in the cenotes (thousands of freshwater sinkholes in the midst of the jungle) or visiting the Mayan ruins.
Those who had not previously travelled to the area were especially impressed by the great beauty of the cenotes, which are unique in the world, and the regal history of the Mayan ruins of Tulum, Cobá and (especially) Chichen Itza, one of the better-preserved archaeological sites.
All of us at Andalucía Golf/España Golf would like to offer a richly-appreciative thank you to Bahía Príncipe Riviera Maya Resort (forming part of one of the Caribbean’s leading hotel chains) for their cordial welcome and excellent assistance, and especially to Vanessa Vignalli, corporate director of Bahía Príncipe Golf, with whom it is always a pleasure to work.
We would also to express our deep gratitude to the directors of PGA Riviera Maya (Fernando Padrón), Playa Paraíso (Greg Bond) and El Camaleón Mayakoba (David López Monar) for all the facilities they provided us with and for the affection they showed our group.
Unquestionably, this was a memorable trip for all of us, a large and fun group that got on extremely well together and enjoyed the experience to the fullest. We were also lucky with the weather, which was incomparable. Only at the end, almost in “injury time”, did we receive a short but intense tropical downpour, but it no longer mattered as we took the flight back to Spain that same afternoon.
In the Words of the Participants
It has been a pleasure for Espe and me to have had the opportunity to share this journey with you. We are very grateful to the organisers for always being so attentive to all of us. Being able to enjoy – thanks to the Andalucía Golf/España Golf organisation – the Bahía Príncipe Grand Tulum Hotel and playing with a group of golf enthusiasts at PGA Riviera Maya, Playa Paraíso and El Camaleón de Mayakoba has been a privilege. And also being able to combine it with visits to such significant archaeological sites as Tulum, Chichen Itza, Coba and Muyil showcasing Mayan culture. Thank you very much – a 10 for the organisers.
I have had an unforgettable experience at the hands of Andalucía Golf, from both a tourism and sports point of view. I met them in one of their national competitions and, just the same as there, they met my expectations. The organisation of the trip, led by Luis and Antonio, was exceptional. They were right to select the Grand Tulum hotel, which is part of one of the most potent chains working in the area, Bahía Príncipe. In its facilities we found everything that is expected of a luxury resort and we received incomparable service, typical of the most prestigious complexes: international cuisine buffet, excellently maintained gardens and common areas, meticulous cleaning, polite treatment in several languages, great location and a wide range of services that can be enjoyed both individually and as a family. The welcome on our arrival was excellent and lived up to the very high expectations set by the golf courses chosen for us to play.
Thanks to Andalucía Golf, I have been able to fulfill a golfer's dream (regardless of handicap) – that is, stepping out onto the Mayakoba, PGA Riviera Maya and Playa Paraiso courses – and I have been able to sense the difficulty of their imposing fairways and the demands of their soft and slippery greens, always surrounded by lush nature. I have savoured the experience of high-level competition. I am leaving extremely satisfied to have travelled to Mexico, to enjoy my passion together with other "crazy golfers" and to have done it with Andalucía Golf who have given us the experience of a trip that can well be described as a "hole in one”.
For my part, it has been a pleasure and an honour to have had the opportunity to enjoy this "new experience", but even more so to have been able to coincide with this group. My impressions of the trip could not be any better, but to make a comment... In my view, the worst assessment is for the airline (I do not know if they are sponsors and there is no option to change).
The hotel was a success and the fact it is on the beach side is much better than next to the golf course. The courses are spectacular. And above all there is the group. If we had gone to Motril with this group I would also have had a great time.
As for the organisation, for me it has been perfect on your part. I just didn't like flying with Air Europa, because the flight was very uncomfortable for me and they didn't respect our paid seats.
As for the hotel, very good, comfortable and in a beautiful setting. The service, great. The golf courses, spectacular; and the rounds of golf, very well done on your part, with some great companions. I appreciate the effort you have put in to make everything so pleasant and comfortable.
Alberto Rubio Daza
The trip has been a pleasure. In general, everything has been good – the hotel being on the beach, the days we played golf, although it is true that I was a little stressed playing on the same day as our return, but then it turned out great. Maybe I think something could have been done on arrival to help people get to know each other, as there is always some doubt that people might have already known each other from previous years, etc.
The very comprehensive overall package – the combination of travelling, meeting people, playing golf and enjoying time with family and friends – has been gratifying without a doubt. The hotel was at the height of my expectations and the courses will be indelibly marked in my memory, well worthy of the boast that you have played them some time in your life. Also, you always meet new people with whom you create something special. In general I would like to congratulate Andalucía Golf/España Golf. Thank you.
Riviera Maya was confirmed as an exceptional holiday destination for golfers and companions. The favourable weather conditions on the chosen dates, the quality of the hotel's service and the friendliness of the Yucatecan people enabled us to enjoy great golf courses, famous Mayan archaeological sites, Caribbean beaches, great local food and delicious Margarita cocktails... Congratulations for the organisation.
The general impression has been very good. All very well organised but without becoming overwhelming with events, and sufficient flexibility. I encourage you to continue arranging the next editions like this. Due to the circumstances that we were already well aware of, the last day had to be played at the most iconic course, and just before boarding. This may not be ideal, and it would be better to play there some days before and leave the round at the hotel course for the day before, so that a final group dinner can be organised the last night. Thank you very much and good luck with the 2022 edition of the Andalucía Golf Challenge.
My impression has been excellent, and the group is charming and participative. To improve – very little or nothing. Regarding the organisation of both the trip and the rounds of golf in Mexico, all done very well. Very good service in the hotel, and the facilities in perfect condition, including the room, cleaning, etc. The golf courses, for me, are among the best I have seen in terms of maintenance and service. Everything is perfect and enchanting. If possible, we will repeat for sure.
For me this week of golf has been superb and entertaining. I immediately connected with everyone, as it was a fun and well-mannered group. I never thought I would go that far to play golf, but the opportunity presented itself and there I went. The golf courses have been stunning, not without their hazards and certainly not conventional. During the rounds, a kiosk-buggy passed continuously with drinks, sandwiches, etc. We already had the clubs reserved at PGA Riviera Maya and we were actually able to return them to a different club, Mayakoba. They were in charge of returning them to the original point, which was very convenient for us.
Regarding the Bahía Príncipe Grand Tulum hotel, I have to say that I had never been in an "all-inclusive" and I had certain prejudices, but I have overcome them and now I love it. It is a huge complex with all the mod cons, maybe too big for me as sometimes I got lost, but there was always someone to ask. The organisation has been very good, although the last day was the longest: golf and back to Spain, and it turned into quite a marathon. But it was my choice: I didn't want to miss El Camaleón. I could have stayed with the rest of the non-playing group at the hotel.
What I didn't like was the Air Europa airline. Very poor food, no alcoholic beverages and water had to be paid for. On the return Cancún-Madrid flight they didn’t respect our seats, which we had already reserved and paid for in advance. Ah... I cannot forget Luis and Antonio, those responsible for this experience, who were on top of all the details and upbeat and outgoing. In general it has been an exciting trip which – without a doubt, if I can – I will repeat.
I would like to take this opportunity to greet you all. I have to say that it has been one of my best trips; the group has been great, as well as the courses and organisation. I plan to return and secure a crushing win... I’m going to take intensive classes and you are going to find out. Make room for the Dominican Republic!
José Félix Garcia España
Congratulations... you can note the experience of years of organising championships and the final prize. The Grand Tulum hotel, exceptional. We were in a suite and the attention by staff was exquisite and its location next to the beach ideal after a hard day of golf. As for the golf courses, which was best? The state of the greens was incomparable, fast and perfect... and the design of the fairways magnificent, with spectacular mangroves, cenotes (sinkholes), jungle and beach.
Leaning towards one or the other depends on each person’s taste. Of the seven days, six were taken up playing golf: two rounds at PGA Riviera Maya and one at Gran Coyote, Playa Paraiso and Moon Palace, with the final fireworks at El Camaleón Mayakoba. Drunk from so much golf. I’ll repeat next year even if I have to pay for it. Oh and Carmen, my wife, diving in the sea and in cenotes and hiking with her non-golfing friends. In the evening, dinner and dance. Can you ask for more? As I said, we’ll be back.
Everything turned out perfect on the trip. The group has been great and we all had a good time: the perfect organisation and atmosphere and unbeatable companions. I take home great memories of the Riviera Maya and of all of you. I would rate the trip as a 10. I will fight next year to join you in the Dominican Republic.
It has been a pleasure to share the trip and experiences with you and I hope to share them again on future trips. I thank Luis and Antonio for all their efforts to make this experience in the Riviera Maya comfortable, wonderful and enjoyable.
I will maintain great memories of this first trip across the pond to play golf. A hug for everyone.