Located less than an hour’s drive to the south of Cancun, in the centre of the Riviera Maya, the eighteen holes at the Hard Rock Golf Club (formerly Playacar Golf Club) were hewn from dense Mayan jungle by the late Robert von Hagge.
Playing corridors are generally narrow and they lead to smallish greens so golfers can expect their golf game to be fully tested on a layout that’s a lot more challenging than a regular, run of the mill resort course.
And because the owners of the Playacar Palace resort operate an all-inclusive policy, players certainly get their money’s worth from their green fee as it includes transportation to and from their hotel, full locker facilities and all food and drinks consumed in the clubhouse and on the course – now if that won’t temp a golfer away from the pool whilst on vacation then nothing will!
Tom Doak made a point of playing Hard Rock in 2017 and awarded the course a rating of four out of ten. He commented as follows in his Christmas 2017 Confidential Guide update:
“This course was built as the centerpiece of the Playacar resort development and has only recently been taken over by the operator for the Hard Rock brand in Mexico, but the course fits the name: it’s very narrow between trees, with a lot of sharp doglegs. There are homes bordering most of the holes, but the jungle is so thick you’d hardly notice.”
As it name implies Hard Rock Riviera Maya is a resort course. The first hole is welcoming, it leans right so favor the left side of the fairway. The green has two bunkers left, one rear and one right. The 2nd is a 600 yard par five, so hopefully you got loosened up on the first hole. It is a reverse S, off the tee aim at the left fairway bunker. From there the best shot is a high draw that starts at the right fairway bunker. Your approach will be to a green that is tucked into a water hazard with right and rear protected. Tough hole and deserving of the number two handicap. The first par three is the shortest, yet it is the number 112 handicap hole. The green is only about 10 yards deep and 40 yards long at a redan angle between a BAB front and one rear. The short dogleg left 4th is a birdie hole. Consider laying up off the tee to be short of the three bunkers on the outside elbow. This will still leave you with a wedge. There is a dried out stream bed (when I played there was nothing in it) right and short of the green. The fifth is a strange dogleg right. The leg is late about 120 yards. Thus, off the tee favor the left side as you may be blocked out on the right. This is another hole with a bunker behind the green. The 6th is similar to the 5th except left. The leg is about 140 yards out and the tee shot is out of a chute. Favor the right to avid being blocked out. The green sits in front of a water hazard. The 7th is a fun hole, dogleg left and to reach the green is about a 285 yard carry. Consider laying up, there is a large bunker on the inside elbow that is about 115 yards out. The green is just about enveloped by two wraparound bunkers. Good birdie hole. The 8th is rated the easiest hole on the course. It is a long par three with a bunker left and water right and back. The 9th looks a lot tougher than it really is. Yes, there are two water carries. The first off the tee is negligible and the closer to the hole the wider the fairway. That being said water does run down the entire right side. The approach is over water, but if you are playing the correct tees and hit a decent drive you should be inside 150. Another green with rear bunkers.
The back starts with a long dogleg right. Favor the left side off the tee. You will have a long approach to two tiered green with an intimidating front center bunker, one left and one rear. There is no way to sugarcoat the 11th, it is a 621 yard bear. You come out of a chute, use the fairway bunker as your aiming guide. From there the hole slides left. A water hazard come into play on the right side about 160 yards out. This compresses the fairway on the right to less than 30 yards. The green sits behind the water hazard with a bunker front right and one rear. The 12th isn’t much of a break a long right leaning par four. Off the tee aim at the fairway bunkers on the left side. This will leave you with a long approach to a three tiered green with a BAB front right. The 13th is the longest par three and the green is set in a natural bowl, with a large bunker left, two right and one rear. The 14th is a long straight away par four. The tee shot is out of a chute and there is a fairway bunker right about 175 yards out. This table top green has a bunker left. The 15th is another long par five. It bends right so pick one of the left fairway bunkers as your target line. The fairway gets hourglassed by two trees on the right and left about 120 yards out. Consider this carefully on your second shot. Another three shot par five. The long par four 16th is the number one handicap hole. Ideal tee shot is long and straight. This will still leave you with a long approach to a green that sits behind six pot bunkers. The 17th is a mid-length par three with two bunkers in front of the green. The 18th is a 530 yard par five with all kinds of water, especially on the left side. A good target line off the tee is the right fairway bunker. From there pick your preferred yardage in to a green that has water front left and right and bunker left and of course in the rear as well.
I cannot recall seeing so many bunkers behind greens. Typical resort course.