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Puerta Cortes Golf Getaway

By Dave McKibben

It took Craig Bevan almost 10 rounds before he finally landed a tee shot in play on El Cortés Golf Club’s diabolical 14th hole, which features a 200-foot drop off a cliff and a 220-yard carry to the fairway.  At 612 yards, the par 5 14th in La Paz is among the longest, most treacherous, and stunning holes in Mexico.  

“Every time you tee off, you just hope that it stays true,” said Bevan, an Alameda, Ca. resident who owns a townhome in the Puerta Cortés resort that includes El Cortés. “It’s amazing to watch your ball hang in the air that long and hope that it finds some green grass. I’m over my initial problems. The hole is kind of my friend now.”

Bevan wouldn’t mind if he was able to keep the 14th hole and the entire course his little secret. Fourteen of the 18 holes designed by golfing legend Gary Player offer tantalizing views of the rich turquoise waters of the Sea of Cortez, the fairways are immaculate, the greens roll true and rounds typically run under four hours.

“This place is pretty spectacular,” said Bevan, who owns a home in the Las Colinas development of Puerta Cortes. “It’s kind of magical here. What attracts me here is it’s quiet and tucked away. As a member, I can get on anytime I want. I’d love to see the course gain some more notoriety, but selfishly I’d like to keep it all to myself.”

But word is starting to get out within the golf industry about El Cortés, located just two hours from Cabo, Mexico’s golf mecca.

“In the winter and spring, we have a lot of Americans coming down here to play this course,” Cesar Arechiga, El Cortés golf course manager. “And a lot more people are starting to come from Cabo for a day trip, just to play our course. Of course, we have a lot more to offer in La Paz than just golf. La Paz is a great place to fish, dive and we have the {friendly] whale sharks in the fall. We’ve become a destination.”

And now with the debut of Hotel Indigo earlier this year, La Paz has its first upscale resort. Tucked within the 550-acre Puerta Cortés complex, the 115-room Hotel Indigo is part of IHG Hotels & Resorts’ luxury collection. Indigo’s renovated suites, equipped with spa-like bathrooms and dedicated workspaces, offer panoramic views of the golf course, La Paz Bay and the Sea of Cortez. 

I cooled off after two toasty early May rounds at El Cortes with a dip in Hotel Indigo’s freshly remodeled pool, sipping Negro Modelos (a dark Mexican lager) with my playing partners at the swim up bar. On my last day, I skipped the pool and relaxed at the Puerto Beach Club (steps from the beach), where hotels guests have exclusive access, and enjoyed a delicious poke bowl with a Paloma (Tequila, lime juice and grapefruit soda).

It was only six years ago that the future of the golf course and the entire resort was in doubt. But the course’s luck and look drastically changed when Ascendancy, a Mexican-based asset management firm, purchased the resort in early 2018 and poured over $5 million into remaking and rebranding the former Costa Baja resort into Puerta Cortés, a collection of oceanfront and hillside residences with a world-class marina, fine-dining restaurants, the Gary Player Signature golf course and what was then the Costa Baja hotel. 

The new owners poured over $1 million into rescuing the distressed course. The bet is beginning to pay big dividends. 

“I think we’ve become one of the top five courses in Baja,” Arechiga said. 

While the 14th is the longest and most daunting hole, the par 4, 6th is easily the most scenic. The most elevated tee on the course offers a to-die-for view of La Paz Bay and a wide-open fairway, flanked by several small pot bunkers, and an approach shot into a tiny green. Pars on back-to-back rounds made the 6th my favorite hole.

Accessing La Paz is easy and inexpensive via the Cross Border Xpress in Otay Mesa, where $23 will take you across the border, through customs and airport security in 15 minutes to the remodeled Tijuana International Airport. Street parking, reserved and valet parking are available at CBX, which has had over 22 million passengers since opening eight years ago. Round trips for the one hour, 40-minute flights from Tijuana to La Paz start at just $150 on Volaris Airlines. 

The Puerta Cortes Golf Getaway package offers the best value for U.S. golfers. For under $1,200, two players get a two-night, three-day stay in VistaMar, an elegant condominium complex near the marina with two and three-bedroom units featuring panoramic views of the Sea of Cortez. The package includes two green fees per player, welcome drinks, breakfast for two at the Barco restaurant and a $20 spa credit at Espiritu Spa & Wellness. For more information on the packages, email reservations@puertacortes.com

The nearby marina offers dockside dining from a variety of cuisines, guests looking for even more variety can catch an Uber or cab to downtown La Paz. On the third night of my stay, I caught a cab to town and had a few local IPAs at the Pacific Brew Tap Room before I joined in La Paz’s 489th birthday celebration at the La Paz Jazz Festival on the beach boardwalk. 

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