Situated just a mile from the Azteca Stadium in the southwest outskirts of the sprawling metropolis of Mexico City, Club de Golf México has a fascinating international golfing history for a course that is not long past half a century in existence.
Miguel Aléman, then president of Mexico, established the club in 1949 and three years later, the course – designed by architect Laurence Hughes and Percy Clifford, 6-time Mexican amateur champion – was ready for play.
Carved out of an old grove of cedar, spruce, cypress and eucalyptus trees, with a deep, dry creek running through the middle of the property, the layout measured over 7,200 yards when completed.
Club de Golf México may have been built as a mighty long course back in the early 1950s but one has to remember that the golf ball travels a lot further in the more rarified atmosphere of 7,600 feet above sea level!
Nonetheless, it’s an extremely tight track with narrow, tree-lined fairways, deep rough and well-trapped greens so course management is the name of the game at Club de Golf if a decent score is to be made.
It was accuracy with the golf ball that saw the Irish team of Harry Bradshaw and Christy O'Connor win the 6th Canada Cup trophy in 1958 and for Bradshaw (who withdrew from the competition in Tokyo the previous year with a nose bleed that lasted 10 days) it was almost a clean sweep of the prizes but he was beaten in a 3-hole, sudden death playoff for individual honors by Spain’s Angel Miguel.
Arnold Palmer went one better nine years later when the event – rebranded the World Cup of Golf – returned to the Club de Golf course. Arnie won both the team title with partner Jack Nicklaus (finishing ahead of New Zealand) and the individual International Trophy for the golfer with the lowest 72-hole stroke play score.
It’s been said that generally across the 1950s to the 1980s, the quality of golf course architecture was somewhat of a Dark Age. This prestigious club was established in 1949 and built by the decorated Mexican golfer Percy Clifford whose portfolio is focused in his home country. Since hosting the World Club in 1958, this old classic has only ever been discussed by a small golfing population.
This is a truly private club for elite Mexican golfers. When I travel to other countries, I want to immerse myself in the local culture and enjoy the company of the citizens regardless of what language they speak.
At Club de Golf Mexico, the large luxurious clubhouse is enjoyed by the privileged few and I truly got to experience what it means to be at a private club in another country that is entirely committed to its members. This was a very welcome change from the countless number of resorts that exist in Mexico for travelling tourists where everybody speaks English (mostly with an American accent) and it takes away from the authenticity.
At almost 8,000 feet above sea level, I was not disappointed with the layout, and certainly felt lucky to have received an invitation to play. Everything about this club screams old school traditions that haven’t changed a single bit since the club opened. For starters, the pro is over 80 years old who sits in an armchair in the pro shop chatting with his pals of the same vintage. You look around and see that everybody walks the course with just a handful of buggies available near the starters house. Caddies are a premium and a truly integrated part of the experience. For my caddy, although he couldn’t speak English and I can’t speak Spanish, we both could count to ten in the respective languages which was our way of communicating yardages. We were a team and the game of golf was our chaperone.
The playing conditions were fantastic, and the towering trees line the fairways like soldiers standing to attention outside a king’s palace. On the front nine, the course immediately tells every golfer that accuracy is your only option. Distance isn’t ever a problem because of the altitude, but the landing areas are tiny. I’ve played many tight courses over the years, but in places, Club de Golf Mexico takes it to a new level. However, it never felt too penal and I loved the challenge of the doglegs. If you miss a fairway, the branches are high enough that you’ll be able to continue playing and not cause delays. Simply put, it’s just an old tough golf course that makes you hit great shots.
The back nine has more personality and the land finally begins to move with more width. I found much more variety in the visuals although the holes continued to be lined with trees. I consistently thought the routing offered a wonderful walk and really married well with the topography. Sadly, the architects forgot to create interesting greens, they are all mostly flat, the same size and round. You rarely had to contend with much break or slope. While I’m not wishing for elephant burial grounds, a little imagination goes a long way to boost the strategy of getting the ball in the hole.
The course comes to a crescendo at the par 5 17th hole which plays to an elevated hidden green with perfectly placed bunkers guarding the entrance.
Overall, the course surpassed my expectations and presented many unique aspects rarely seen these days.