Bajamar Article

BajaGeoff - 7-21-2009 at 10:55 AM

From the San Diego Union Tribune:

South-of-the-border trip worth it
By Ed Zieralski
Union-Tribune Staff Writer

2:00 a.m. July 21, 2009

We all know people who won't visit Mexico.

For anything. Anytime.

Some formed their anti-Mexico feeling before 9/11, before the drug cartel wars and the gun violence in Tijuana, before the threat of Americans being kidnapped, before the swine flu scare and before the confusion over passports.

Even those unafraid of going to Baja have probably had their travel leash shortened by economic woes.

When a poll was taken among our golf group that made the trek last week to Bajamar, everyone, to a man, said it had been years since our last round at the marvelous course north of Ensenada. But as we drove back we talked of a return to what still is a treasure by the sea, to what still is a great golf adventure for young and old, and families.

Were there some strange moments? Sure.

None stranger than being stopped after paying a $1.95 toll (there's two each way) and being asked to get out of my Yukon by a very young and very well-armed Mexican federal officer. He looked under the front seat, opened the tailgate, rooted around the clubs and then unzipped a small cooler. He checked the Gatorades and waters, and then said, “No cervezas? ”

“No,” I said. “I'm driving. Don't want to go to the Tijuana jail, man.”

He smiled and waved us on.

Later, when the very serious Border Patrol agent in the booth at the San Ysidro crossing asked me if we were bringing anything back from Mexico, I shrugged and said, “We're coming back with a lot fewer golf balls.”

Even this all-business tough guy smiled. But he did check our passports.

Make sure you have your passport with you and your $20 Mexican insurance for the day. Other costs for a trip include $49 to $55 in green fees, depending on your age, and $20 to $30 for a lobster dinner in Puerto Nuevo on the way back.

It takes a lot of golf balls to play Bajamar. Always has, always will. It's not that the fairways are exceptionally tight, but there just isn't a lot of landing area outside the short grass. Lots of rocks, chaparral, cacti and other treats that seem to gobble up the dimpled ball. There are snakes, too, so keep your head on a swivel as you look for the Titleist or Bridgestone.

If you need more golf balls, chances are a worker on the course will have a bagful of experienced balls for $5.

It takes patience, too.

On the third hole of our starting nine, the tighter and picturesque Vista that serves as a warm-up act for the Oceana nine, we stood on the tee and counted eight guys on the par-3 green.

Thank goodness the gracious eightsome allowed us to play through on the next tee.

Later, course marshal Michael Keeping of Britain was not happy to hear about the eightsome.

“We've got 17 golfers on the three courses right now,” Keeping said of Vista, Oceana and Lagos (the latter not nearly as scenic as the other two).

That's 17 golfers on 27 holes.

From that point we never saw any other golfers until we met Jim Burns — with his parents, Jim and Diane, of Davis — on the spectacular par-3 fifth hole of Oceana. That drop down the hill to start the stretch of fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth holes along the Pacific Ocean is the real reason to play Bajamar.

“My father got a deal for $99 each for him and my mom, and it included a room in the hotel, round of golf, free margarita, free breakfast,” said Jim Burns Jr., who lives in the Ensenada area. “Our family loves it here. Look at this scenery. There's a pitch-and-putt course for kids, a top-notch swimming pool and Jacuzzi and tennis courts. This is the best time to come to Baja because there's no one down here.”

The fifth through the eighth holes blend into the lava rock bluffs in a magical way. You'll photograph these and remember them long after you've played Bajamar. The ninth hole is a trip, too, with a rugged canyon wall on one side and a three-tiered green to greet you at the top of the climb up the hill to the clubhouse. One member of our group played the carom off the wall for a typical 18th-hole adventure.

The early promoters were ambitious when they called Bajamar the “Pebble Beach of Mexico,” but these four holes are as close to a Monterey-like experience as you're going to get around these parts. Torrey Pines is on the bluffs. Bajamar's Oceana is in the sea spray.

Whether it's a flock of pelicans distracting your eyes as you putt, or the sound of the blue Pacific crashing into Baja's coastline as you play your shots, it's a vacation to be there. It's as close as you can get to the testy breezes, salty air and links-style golf of Scotland.

lizard lips - 7-21-2009 at 11:07 AM

Nice and positive article Geoff. Jim Burns is a friend of mine who I played with at the first Nomads4ninos tourney at Baja Country Club. He won the long drive contest with a 320 yard drive. He can drive the ball but the rest of his game doesn't match up!

Have to play there soon again!