Fishing poles still outnumber golf bags in the baggage claim terminal at Loreto’s tiny airport on Baja Sur’s east coast, where the balmy, blue-green Sea of Cortez waters are loaded with snapper, grouper, dorado, marlin, sailfish, seabass and yellowtail tuna. But in the past year, more and more golfers—some of them quite famous–have begun arriving in this small village of 13,000 people that was founded in 1697 by Jesuit missionaries.
In one month, Philadelphia Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie arrived on his private jet and former Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto was here for a week. Some golfers have begun docking their yachts in the bay, climbing on dinghies with their clubs and floating to shore.
The attraction? Legendary golf course architect Rees Jones’ latest masterpiece, TPC Danzante Bay at the Islands of Loreto. The course, located 20 miles south of Loreto at the Villa del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa, features an out of this world 17th hole that is perched on a cliff, 250 feet above the tranquil Sea of Cortez. From the back tees, 178 yards away, the peninsula green appears like a sliver. Breaching whales, leaping dolphins and flopping stingrays are often the backdrop while golfers ponder their club choice.
“It’s not the golf that’s so tough,” said Danzante Bay’s Head Pro Danny Garcia. “It’s your imagination and getting caught up in what’s around you. Your focus leaves you. When you try to hit the shot, you have to regroup and restart your brain.”
Inexplicably, the 17th hole’s jaw-dropping location wasn’t in the original course design. But that changed when the resort’s developer, Owen Perry, took renowned golf course architect Rees Jones up to a ridge and explained his vision for the hole.
“We’re standing on the cliff and a few blue whales cruise by; I couldn’t have planned it any better,” Perry said. “Rees said ‘We’re going to have to redo some things, but if you do it, it’s going to be one of the best holes in Baja.’ “
Mission accomplished. Since opening in December of 2017, Danzante Bay’s signature 17th hole and the 7,200-yard, par 72-course have captivated the golf industry, winning awards from three noted golf publications, including two Editors’ Choice awards from Golf Digest.
On a recent weekday, the course was full of life, but not crowded. Rounds of 3½ hours were easily accomplished as golfers navigated their way through valleys, arroyos, dunes, and foothills. Every hole includes panoramic views of Danzante Bay, the Sea of Cortez, the Sierra de la Giganta Mountains or the surrounding five Islands of Loreto.
Unlike most resort courses in golf-crazy Cabo, Danzante Bay’s fairways are wide enough for the average player, yet still challenging for the low-handicapper.
“Rees and I both felt golf was getting too tough,” said Perry, a Rancho Santa Fe resident whose Villa Group manages 12 luxury resorts throughout Mexico. “The average golfer was not enjoying the experience. We wanted to build a course where the resort client could come and have a good day. That was our goal and I think we hit that.”
In Cabo, there are 18 resort golf courses lined up along the Baja peninsula. Loreto has just two, Danzante Bay and the Loreto Bay Golf Resort.
“Everybody mentions that this is Cabo 20 years ago,” Garcia said. “The golf course and the resort are laid back and peaceful, like the town. Loreto’s a magical, undiscovered town. Nobody bothers you.”
As more tourists discover the golf course and the plush accommodations at the 188-room Villa del Palmar, Perry knows his resort could quickly become overcrowded. So expansion plans are underway at Danzante Bay, where paving has begun to make way for 140 luxury homes–11 lots have already been sold. Construction has started on the last of four water desalination plants and there are plans for a marina, a private beach club, a golf clubhouse, a golf practice facility and more restaurants.
“We have this whole bay to develop,” Perry said.
For now, it’s enough for Perry simply to enjoy the panoramic views of Danzante Bay and the islands of Loreto from any one of seven tee boxes on the 17th hole. Chances are, he probably won’t be alone. Resorts guests have become fond of hiking up to the hole with the breathtaking views for selfies or group pictures at sunrise, sunset or any time in between.
From now until Dec. 20, TPC Danzante Bay is offering unlimited golf packages, which include three-night stays at the Villa del Palmar Resort & Spa. Play has been limited the last few months, so the course is in superb condition and the greens are rolling pure. The resort recently received a Secure Travel Seal for the World Travel & Tourism Council, which allows travelers to be aware of which resorts around the world have adopted global health and hygiene protocols. Reservations can be made by calling 800-790-4187 from the United States or Canada or 800-838-2662 from Mexico.
Story by Dave McKibben
Villa del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa: https://villadelpalmarloreto.com
TPC Danzante Bay: www.tpcdanzantebay.com
Loreto Bay Golf Resort: https://www.loretobayresort.com/en
El Zopilote Brewing Company: https://www.facebook.com/elzopilotebrewingloreto
Sabila Spa: https://villadelpalmarloreto.com/sabila-spa
Danzante Tours: www.viajesdanzante.com
San Francisco Javier Mission: https://www.loreto.com/san-francisco-javier-mission-loreto