Golf in Mexico
By Greg Norman
The PGA TOUR finally put the “world” into the World Golf Championships by bringing its first international WGC event to the world’s fourth most populated city. And they couldn’t have picked a better destination than the Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City. The event was an overwhelming success with a star-studded leaderboard, massive galleries, and the No. 1 player in the world taking home the trophy.
My favorite part of this event was seeing Mexican culture as the heartbeat of the tournament from the zealous announcers to the crowds holding cardboard cutouts of their favorite players in sombreros. It brought a new energy to the PGA TOUR that both players and fans alike could feel reverberating throughout the week.
As this is the first of a seven-year deal, I am confident that this tournament will be the catalyst to raise the game’s profile in Mexico and showcase what this country is capable of on the global stage.
The WGC wasn’t the only monumental achievement for golf in Mexico this year. 2016 commemorated a decade of PGA TOUR golf in-country as the OHL Classic at Mayakoba celebrated its 10th anniversary, and I am proud to have been there every step of the way. Mayakoba made history in 2007 when it was the site of the first official PGA TOUR event to ever be staged outside of the United States or Canada. The tournament has now distributed more than $46 million USD of prize money and generated an immeasurable amount of exposure and promotion for the sport of golf in Mexico as well as the Riviera Maya-Cancun tourist destination. Additionally, the OHL Classic has always been committed to supporting local and national charities. To date, the tournament has donated over $2.2 million dollars to philanthropic causes, positively affecting the communities of Playa del Carmen and Cancun.
Perhaps most important to the future of golf in Mexico, the OHL Classic has been committed to growing the game at a grassroots level. As the sponsor of Golf PARa Todos, they have developed a series of instructional golf events that strive to create a fun-filled, diverse and educational program for families that teaches about the game of golf, its ideals and the premier professional golf tour in the world. The program is held several times each year and boasts an average attendance of 500 individuals per event. Over the years, more than 18,600 people in total have attended Golf PARa Todos.
With two stellar PGA TOUR events hosted in Mexico, my hope is that it continues to raise awareness and inspire families and young children to take up the game. The TOUR clearly sees potential for more tournaments in Mexico following these successes – I wouldn’t be surprised to see an event added to the West Coast swing in the Cabo region in the coming years.
In order for Mexico to really develop golf from the ground up, the game needs to be made accessible and affordable to everyone. Today, there is not one public access golf course in or around Mexico City. Whether it is a 12-hole par-3 course or an 18-hole championship course, golf needs to be available outside of private or resort clubs. As someone who has been dedicated to designing and building golf courses in Mexico over the last thirty years, I would love to build public courses in the greater Mexico City area. I am excited to say that we are currently having conversations with developers in the area that are starting to take shape.
Mexico has taken an appropriate three-pronged approach to grow the game – Professional Golf, Grassroots Golf and Golf Tourism. The latter has seen an explosion over the years as Mexico has become a true world-class golf destination. Sitting in the Cancun and Cabo airports, now you see people traveling with bathing suits and golf bags. Mexico is no longer just beaches and margaritas – it is now home to some of the best golf in the world with over 160 courses covering its territory. Whether you enjoy the jungles of Puerto Vallarta, the cenotes of Riviera Maya or the sparkling Sea of Cortez in Cabo, there is something for everyone.
Greg Norman Golf Course Design continues to work on a number of projects in Mexico from coast to coast. The Norman Course at Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta recently celebrated a grand opening and now has the distinction of course number 101 in my portfolio! We are also well underway with construction on a new resort course at Rancho San Lucas in Cabo, with plans to open in early 2018. Puerto Los Cabos, Litibu and Costa Capomo are also in development with new projects on the horizon which are yet to be announced. It didn’t happen overnight, but Mexico is now becoming synonymous with golf. This bodes well for the future growth of the game in this incredible country and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to play a part.