Golf Aficionado Review: TPC Danzante Bay
Courtesy of Rob Spellman
Attached to the fabulous Villa del Palmar Beach Resort and Spa at the islands of Loreto is Danzante Bay; the first golf course to be built at one of the eight Villa del Palmar locations across Baja California. Designed by Rees Jones, his team recently completed the two-phase build. After operating for more than a year as an 11-hole golf course, the final seven holes at Danzante Bay opened in December 2017. The course was built in two phases while the land was cleared and developed by resort owners. Having just played the course in January, it’s a seamless design that you would never guess was developed in phases.
In fact, since playing the course in January, Golf Aficionado Magazine isn’t the only one heaping praise on the course. The TPC Network, owned by The PGA TOUR, announced in March that Danzante Bay has become the fourth international facility in its collection of championship golf courses. Flying the TPC banner further validates that the Danzante Bay golf course and amenities meets the highest standards of professional golf.
For those of you not familiar with Loreto, it is a great alternative to the overdeveloped and densely populated Cabo San Lucas. Loreto is located 200 miles north of Cabo, getting there can be a bit of a challenge. However, if you are up for an adventure, the effort is well worth it. Currently, Alaska Airlines leaving from LAX will be your best route from the U.S. into Loreto. From the Loreto airport, a 40-minute shuttle ride will have you at the front gate of the resort. An alternative route for travelers would be flying into San Diego, making the border crossing into Tijuana, and then flying directly to Loreto on Calafia Airlines. Calafia offers daily flights out of Tijuana; service on Alaska from LAX is currently only available on Thursdays and Sundays.
No matter which route you take to Loreto, the journey will be worth it. Rees Jones flawlessly executed the two-phase approach and took full advantage of the unique terrain that only Baja California could provide. Rich in natural resources, the final design produced jaw-dropping views of the Sea of Cortez, dramatic mountain views, isolation of the desert and serene valleys. TPC Danzante Bay is an 18-month calendar course, with each hole on the course worth of its own month! Highlighted by one of the most stunning golf holes in the world, is the 17th at TPC Danzante Bay. This signature hole sets a new bar for scenic par 3s. Words like dramatic, breathtaking or stunning cannot say enough to describe this hole; the picture helps, even though it does not nearly do it justice. In the morning, resort guests flock to the tee box watching the sunrise. By the afternoon, golfers pinch themselves between photos making sure they’re not dreaming.
To be honest, I could go on and on about the 17th but TPC Danzante Bay is not a one trick pony. The course layout consists of four natural elements; mountains, valleys, desert, and water, all producing a variety of stunning golf holes highlighting the vast natural resources of Baja California. Usually in golf, you never look back, only focus on the next shot. At TPC Danzante Bay you definitely want to take a moment to look back as the view from green to tee is sometimes more amazing than the view from tee to green.
Runner-up to the 17th at Danzante Bay is the Par-4 12th that was the original signature hole at Danzante before the 17th opened. This Par-4 is one of the hardest you will play on the course, off the tee you have to keep it straight and favor the right side of the fairway, anything left and you are in big trouble in the form of desert rock and cactus. As you make the approach shot into the green you will now find plenty of trouble of the right side in the familiar form of desert rock and cactus, so this time aim for the left side of the green and make sure you have enough club to carry the greenside bunkers. After you have tamed the beast and made it to the green you will hear, waves crashing on the beach and be in awe of just how close to the water you are.
The outward nine at Danzante Bay consists of the newest holes; 2-8 are the final seven that opened in December. The front nine takes you thru the mountains and down the valleys of Loreto not presenting a view of the Sea of Cortez until the 8th. The most memorable hole on the front nine is the third. Another stunning par-3, this hole requires a challenging tee shot into a tucked green protected in the back by a mountain wall and in front by the deep canyon floor. The tee shot tempts you to carry the canyon, and if you try to play it safe and take an extra club, you could easily hit the back wall and bounce back into the canyon below. The first time I played the course, I struggled with the distance and failed to carry the canyon twice, when I finally clubbed up I ended up bouncing off the back wall into the canyon. Experience being the best teacher, next time around I played it safe, taking most of the carry out of it, aiming for the left side of the green I was able to land short of the green but the natural slope towards the canyon carried the ball into the middle of the green; not as dramatic as going for the pin, but you can’t argue with the result.
TPC Danzante Bay Course Rating: 4.65
Rob Spellman, is an avid golfer and publisher of Golf Aficionado Magazine, he is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Golf Travel Writers of America.