Just about every Christmas, for the past dozen years or so, my family and I have spent a fortnight in Barra de Navidad, a small town on the Pacific coast of Mexico, four or five hours south of Puerto Vallarta. Two weeks in the sun when Vancouver Island was getting wind and rain, maybe even snow, was just what the doctor ordered. We’d stay in a small family-run hotel two blocks from the beach, spend most days playing in the waves, go out for supper most nights and partake of potentially lethal margaritas concocted by our good friend Wayne (aka Dr Death). In other words we did what tens of thousands of Canadians do in Mexico every winter: overindulge and have a blast.
I don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a good time, but every year I would leave Mexico with just one tiny regret: I never got to play golf. Just across the bay from Barra was a five star hotel called Grand Bay. It was the sort of place where, if you had to ask how much it cost to stay there, you clearly couldn’t afford it. It had its own five star golf course, Isla de Navidad, that was absolutely gorgeous. It also happened to cost $220 U.S. for eighteen holes. Admittedly this included a cart and a caddie, but I just couldn’t bring myself to fork out that much cash for a single round of golf. Hey, I’ve played St Andrew’s and it cost barely half that! So every year I would pay 10 pesos to take the panga (a little passenger boat) across the lagoon and over to the golf course, where I would have breakfast and then wander around like a lovesick teenager, gazing at the beautful fairways and greens, glaring at the lucky bastards who were playing the course (all six of them – I said it was exclusive), and pick up the odd brand new Titleist Pro V lying in the rough. And every year I would promise myself that next year I would suck it up and pay the King’s ransom. And I never did.
This year Scottish Wife and I are in Mexico again, still on the Pacific coast, but this time in a small town called Guayabitos, an hour or so north of Puerto Vallarta. It’s similar to Barra in many ways, family oriented with a great beach and lots of lovely restaurants. We have a couple of good friends staying with us in the same hotel and two more couples staying in hotels just down the road. Last week, over a mid-morning beer (very important to avoid dehydration in hot climates) one of the guys, Dan, asked if we were interested in playing golf in El Monteon, about a ten minute drive away. I declined, telling them my story of unrequited love at Isla de Navidad, and said I really couldn’t afford it. Then Dan explained that 18 holes of golf there, club rental and pull cart included, would cost less than $30. Throw in my share of the taxi fare and a bit more for lunch and a couple of beers and it would still be less than $40. Now that’s the sort of deal to get a retired teacher really excited! To be fair, Dan did explain that this was not the sort of golf course that they’d be playing the Abierta de Mexico (Mexican Open) on any time soon.
I would have to say that Dan’s assessment was fair. On first glimpsing the course from the highway, the phrases ‘cow pasture’ and ‘donkey paddock’ sprang to mind. The rental clubs were whatever you chose from a long table lined with some of the rustiest putters, 2 irons, 7 woods and left handed drivers that have ever been assembled in one place at the same time, outside of a 1902 garage sale of outmoded golfing paraphernalia. Bags came free with the clubs, but it was a little disconcerting when the rental lady insisted on checking my bright yellow golf bag before I picked it up ‘en caso de escorpiones’ (‘in case of scorpions’!) Not surprisingly, my first tee shot was not my finest… My playing partners were Dan (a semi retired meteorologist whose job clearly hadn’t left him enough time to find the perfect golf swing), Dave S. (who hit the ball Babe Ruthian distances but unfortunately often along the third base line) and Stu (who putted like Tiger Woods for nine holes, but made up for it on the back nine by wielding his other clubs like Elin Woods in a domestic argument). Birdies were made, along with quadruple bogies; six balls were lost on a single hole (the horrendous 325 yard island green 6th hole, which had iguanas sunning themselves on the banks of the pond, fish and turtles splooshing through the murky green water and – I swear it – vultures circling overhead); and a good time was had by all. If I had to enter my score on the computer back home I’d probably be a 24 handicap by now, but the post round cervezas induced the sort of warm glow that renders keeping scorecards unnecessary.
And the name of the course? ‘El campo de ensueños’ – the field of dreams! The story of how our taxi driver took a detour on the way home, including a stop at a village corner store where he bought a flat of two dozen ‘chicas’ (small beers) and said we weren’t going home until they’d all been drunk, and then took us on a tour of an absentee American billionaire’s property right on the cliffs above the Pacific coastline…well, that story will have to wait for another day. For the moment, I’m just happy that I’ve had the chance to enjoy one of my little dreams – experiencing el golf de Mexico!
Dave loves his visits to Mexico, but he usually blogs about golf – as a rules official, former caddie or member of Glacier Greens Golf Club in the Comox Valley. You can check out his blog here.