Cancún, on the east coast of Mexico, was an isolated little fishing port on the Yucatán peninsula until the late 1960s. Fast-forward some forty years from then and – after some serious financial input over the decades – it has become one of the main tourist destinations in the country.
The enormous number of new hotels and resorts in the area has been the catalyst for the construction of over a dozen great golf courses, enabling visiting golfers to play on top tracks designed by a wide range of the great and the good in American course architecture – from Robert Trent Jones II to Robert Von Hagge, Jack Nicklaus to Tom Fazio.
Moon Palace is one such Nicklaus design and its Jungle and Lakes 9-hole courses were augmented by a new 9-hole loop named Dunes in 2004. The Nicklaus team that laid out the original 18 holes was again responsible for these additional holes but the Dunes are distinctively different from the old resort-style design of the Jungle and Lake in both looks and playability.
Golfers wanting a carefree round of golf should stick to the Jungle/Lakes configuration which delivers a very pleasant parkland round of golf in relaxing surroundings. If, on the other hand, you want something more than the usual holiday game of golf then head for the Dunes nine where its tight fairways, forced carries over water and undulating sandy waste areas will provide a surprisingly tough test of your golfing ability.
Moon Palace is a classic resort course with the added component of water hazards on just about every hole. The first hole is a welcoming, large fairway and a green with a front and rear bunker. The 2nd is a finesse par five. Yes, some can get home in two. The rest of us should play smart and keep it to a three shotter and pick our preferred wedge yardage. The straight away par four third has a fairway bunker in the middle of the fairway about 165 yards out. Play left, right or for you stallions, carry it. The 4th is the longest hole on the course and a tough par five. There is a large fairway bunker in the landing area on the left. Play this one as a three shotter. Right of this bunker and then aim your second shot at the next left fairway bunker to set up an attack iron. The fifth is a beast of a par four that leans left. Huge waste area bunker left, off the tee aim at the two fairway bunkers. A decent drive will still leave you with almost two hundred yards in. The 6th is a long Florida par three. The 7th is a decent birdie hole, but you must avoid the three fairway bunkers left. The 8th is the shortest hole on the course, a peninsula green. I do not understand how it is rated as the 11th toughest hole. The front closes with the number one handicap hole and deservedly so. Long and leaning left with a water hazard down the left side.
The back starts with a long par four. Favor the left off the tee to avoid the right fairway bunker. The 11th is a tight three shot par five and is the number two handicap hole. The 12th is a 229 yard par three with a water carry. Just hope the pin is not front right. Do not be embarrassed to hit driver. The next two holes are not hooker friendly. On 13 and 14 my drives were in the water. For the approaches water is also in play. I would recommend playing the last par five as a three shotter. However, my playing partner was able to get on in two, but you bring the jungle into play. The 16th is the shortest par four and a good birdie hole. The 17th is the last par three and is rated the easiest hole. The 18th has a small water carry with a few fairway bunkers thrown in.
A resort course that I would not pay to play again.
I played the Lakes and Dunes 9s about 14 years ago a day after a huge monsoon. The hotel allowed me to go out and play, but warned me that there might be some puddles but that the course should dry out during the day.
I thought the course was a really nice, classic American style resort course. One which has lots of pristine bunkers and vast wide fairways in good condition. The course was flat but aesthetically pleasing to the eye. The only real 'signature' hole that stood out for me was a par 3 where the green was surrounded on most sides by water. What I thought was really cool, was the 'Beware of the Crocodile' sign on the walk up towards the green. It certainly added some additional nerves to my putt for par!
Overall it was a good experience to play the Moon and with unlimited golf there, is a no brainer.
Crocodiles, snakes, aardvarks and iguanas, oh my! These are just a few of the exotic animals and birds that you may see on this golf and nature safari. The Golden Bear’s mantra was to ensure that there would be the least amount of disruption to the delicate environment of the area and no impact on the local flora and fauna. The original 18, known as the Jungle and Lakes nines, opened in 2002 with 7165 yards that intertwines through dense jungle and rocky sloped lagoons. This course has been host to the Mexican Open and is covered in “paspalum”, the new salt-tolerant turf grass that has grown in popularity throughout the tropics. In 2005, the Dunes nine was unveiled with a desert feel because of the vast waste areas that encircle most of the holes. We played the Lakes and Dunes tracks. Both courses have water that comes into play on most holes. The Lakes course is the tighter of the two but The Dunes is definitely the more picturesque. Both courses had generous fairways but the rough is almost non-existent. If you do not hit the fairway there is not much to save you from the jungle that will “eat up” any errant shots. My favorite hole was #3 on The Dunes, a long 210 yard, uphill par 3 with bunkers and gorgeous canyon in front. However the next two holes that circle a large lake are top-notch. Even though the green fees are steep you will want for little else on this day. All of your food and beverages are included. In fact you can have three meals then belly up to their pool bar to reminisce about your day over a cocktail or two. So eat drink and be merry, you’re on vacation! To read more of Dave Finn's golf travel articles to Mexico visit http://golftravelandleisure.com/category/mexico-carribean/riviera-mexico/