Friday, November 13, 2009

If you're ever on a cruise ship down Cozumel (Mexico) way, bring your sticks. The Cozumel Country Club — about a 15-minute taxi ride from the cruise port — is a highly playable alternative to a day spent in town haggling for merchandise.
Last week I made my second visit to the club, during a cruise on Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas. The cruise line had offered an excursion to the club at a rate of $169, green fees and transportation included. There's a pro shop, snack bar and practice range. The staff was courteous and friendly.Cozumel

On my first visit there two years before, I had found the course a little ragged, but this year it was in very good condition. A Jack Nicklaus design, it's also the first course in Mexico to be designated a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. Easy for them to say! Right on the first tee you are confronted with a sign that reads: DANGER!!! CROCODILES!!! CAUTION DO NOT RETRIEVE BALLS FROM WATER FEATURES.
Since my entire game is predicated on hitting balls into "water features,"  I knew this would cost me a few strokes. The crocodile who in 2007 had lurked smack dab in the middle of the sand trap on the par-3 12th was not on view this time, having retreated to the adjacent pond, but we did have to stop our carts often to avoid squashing the iguanas crossing our paths. The distances between some of the greens and the following tees are daunting, making this a tough walk for those so inclined. On some of the rides through the jungle (especially between 17 and 18), I felt like I was in the remake of The Bridge on the River Kwai.
My partners were a couple named Chris and Phil Woods from London, England. We played from the whites (5,624 yards, 66.7 slope/114 rating). The toughest tests come toward the end. No. 16 (in Mayan, Hol Waklahun — but of course you knew that) is a par 5, a dogleg left bisected by a 90-yard deep mangrove that prompts a layup from the shorter hitters. (Like yours truly.) There's another mangrove on the twisty No. 18 (Hol Waxaklahun); this one must be carried off the tee. Frazzled by that time, I slapped my drive right into the grove. Phil had no such trouble; with a solid par, he capped off a round that also included six birdies.
All in all, a welcome break from the all-you-can-eatathon of the cruise. For more information: (Photo: Dick Friedman)

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