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Best Of The Best 2006: Mayan Gold

Mike Nolan

When P.B. Dye first arrived at the site for his Iberostar Playa Paraiso Golf Club, he found soil that was better suited for highways than it was for fairways. “It would have made a good roadbed,” he recalls of the rocky dirt at the course’s setting on the Yucatán Peninsula south of Cancún. Even after trucking in enough topsoil from the Yucatán’s interior to build a Mayan pyramid, the designer faced another natural hurdle: “The water here eats steel,” says Dye, son of golf course architect Pete Dye. “Sprinkler heads were flying off all over the place.”

Planting seashore paspalum (a turf grass that thrives when irrigated with seawater) on the fairways and greens solved Dye’s hydrological concerns, allowing him to focus his efforts on designing an especially fun golf course. Highlights of his 6,800-yard track include the par-3 second hole, where pin placement can make a three- or four-club difference on tee shots, which are hit toward a sunken, multitiered green and directly into the prevailing wind that blows off the Gulf of Mexico. The eighth hole, a par 4, features a massive, elevated, steeply pitched, three-tiered green, where keeping a putt on the surface is as great a concern as sinking it. However, says Dye, “Golf is more than Couples and Daly,” so the Paraiso, with its five tee options and generous landing areas, presents a fair test for players of all levels.

Iberostar Playa Paraiso Golf Club
+52.984.877.2800
www.iberostar.com

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Photo by Daniel Simon