El Camaleon Mayakoba Golf Course: An Interview with Director Glenn Preciado
There could be worse fates in the world than winding up as Golf Director at the El Camaleon Mayakoba Golf Course.
For Glenn Preciado, whose professional career took him through California, Texas, and Florida before winding up in the Mexican Caribbean, it’s meant making this tropical paradise his home.
Recently, I interviewed Glenn Preciado to learn more about what makes the El Camaleon golf course one of the best–if not the best– Riviera Maya golf courses.
About El Camaleon Mayakoba
“As far as resort courses,” explains Glenn, “I’ve played many resort courses around the U.S., Mexico, and Latin America, and I think this one is one of the best.”
These are not merely the words of the course director either.
In fact, El Camaleon Mayakoba is the only Latin American golf course included in the PGA circuit.
Each year, the OHL Classic is held at this gorgeous course nestled in between the complex of eco-resorts known as Mayakoba.
Located just ten minutes north of downtown Playa del Carmen, the stunning natural landscape is complemented by a stunning golf course that winds through jungle, mangroves, and waterways.
“You get a little taste of the Mayan jungle,” says Glenn.
“You pass through the mangroves, you get a view of the Caribbean, and then you swing back through those same conditions again.”
“That’s why it’s called El Camaleon, because it’s changing, the environment is changing as you play the golf course.”
OHL Classic – A PGA Tour in the Riviera Maya
The fact that El Camaleon Mayakoba is the only PGA tour event in Latin America is indicative of the quality of these tropical greens and fairways.
And, of course, of the vision and achievements of those who made sure the golf course met all of the PGA requirements.
“That had to do with the efforts of OHL,” explains Glenn.
“First of all, the course has to qualify to be a PGA course, so it needs to have an adequate practice facility, it needs to be able to accommodate the 140 plus players in the locker room and in the facility in order to qualify.”
“Then it comes down to getting the proper sponsorship and finding a week that it is available on the PGA tour.”
“It’s a challenge,” he continues, “but you know OHL and the Greg Norman team have put this tournament on the map, and like I said a lot of it is getting the resources, getting the sponsorships, and getting the ball rolling.”
El Camaleon Mayakoba – Great for All Skill Levels
For an average golfer or a mere beginner, the idea to play on a PGA circuit course seems intimidating.
Some of the best players in the world have played this course, so that must mean its inaccessible for us mere golf mortals, right?
Wrong, says Glenn.
“It is kind of an odd combination, because this course is super challenging for the expert player but it’s also very friendly for the average player.”
“We have five sets of tees so the back tees play over 7,000 yards with green tees for beginners and seniors at around 5,600 yards, and the ladies tees out ahead of that.”
The course set-up allows for golfers with differing handicaps to still play together and enjoy the course all the same.
We’ll let Glenn explain.
“A single digit handicapper and a high digit handicapper can be playing the same course and neither one is without a challenge.”
“A good player can play something that keeps him interested, and the other golf can play a little further forward.”
“Moreover,” he continues, “the conditions around the green are fairly subtle so they don’t beat up the average or beginner player.”
18 Holes of Natural Paradise
The Greg Norman design team that developed this course made a big statement from the very first hole.
Situated right in the middle of the fairway is one of the Riviera Maya’s most iconic landscapes: a cenote (sinkhole).
From there, the course winds through mangroves, jungle-lined fairways, and water hazards to present a fun and challenging round of golf.
“It is one of the best-conditioned courses you’ll ever play,” says Glenn proudly.
I asked Glenn about his favorite hole. He didn’t hesitate with his answer.
“For me #5. Our #5, which plays as #2 in the PGA the tour, is the first hole that you transition from the jungle into the mangroves.”
“It’s lined by mangroves and very demanding off of the tee,” he continues.
“I would say it’s one of the better second shots into the green where it’s well-protected by the bunkers. It’s normally into the teeth of the wind.”
“It’s just a challenging second shot, so you make par there and you’re a happy golfer.”
The best view of El Camaleon Mayakoba can be found on the course’s signature hole: the 15th.
An elevated green provides an outstanding panoramic view of the Caribbean Sea.
Look to your right and you’ll see Cozumel Island on the horizon; a glance left and you’ll get a glimpse of the shoreline of what’s considered the best stretch of beach in the entire Riviera Maya: Maroma.
The hardest stretch starts at the 12th hole and continues through to the 15th.
However, the 14th is likely the most challenging of them all.
Having to play against the wind about 85% of the year, the 14th hole proves to be a very long 450 yards with an extremely challenging second shot.
El Camaleon Mayakoba Tee Times
El Camaleon is a great year-round course.
High season runs from November 1st through May 31st, with June through the end of October considered to be low season.
Tee times run 7:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. daily.
A round of prime time golf during high season costs $299 USD and $199 USD after 12:00 p.m. (twilight).
Rates include the green fee, shared golf cart with GPS Visage RT+ yardage and golfer assistance systems, unlimited range balls, taxes and round-trip transportation.
With their advanced golf cart technology, golfers can view flyovers of each hole, keep score electronically, monitor scores in other groups and even order food and beverages from their cart.
El Camaleon Mayakoba Facilities
El Camaleon is much more than just a pretty face, er, golf course.
What makes this PGA circuit-approved course so spectacular are not just the views and the course design, but the stunning facilities.
But it’s not only the practice facilities, driving range, Jim McLean Golf Academy, and locker room.
Serving as a sort of grand finale at the end of 18 holes incredibly designed holes that snake through the local landscape, sits the world-class Mayakoba clubhouse.
This golfer’s oasis is the ideal spot to end a round of golf in paradise with a gourmet meal and a nice cold drink.
The Jim McLean Golf Academy
One of the things that make El Camaleon Mayakoba stand out among the local golf courses is the fact that it is also home to the world-renowned Jim McClean Golf Academy, the only one of its kind in Mexico.
The academy has two certified teachers, both of whom are bilingual.
In addition, the academy has a diverse array of technical tools to help any golfer better their game, including video equipment for analyzing your swing and a track band to analyze ball flight.
Depending on how much time you have and how much you’d like to invest in improving your game, you can take anything from a 30-minute lesson to a six-day golf school.
Moreover, the Jim McClean Academy organizes kids camps so that the juniors can come out and experience El Camaleon while at the same time getting the quality teaching along with it.
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