Not to mention the golf! What a pleasure it was to meet Mr. Player, one of the world’s top golfers! He was in La Paz at CostaBaja this past weekend, where he christened the beautiful, ecologically balanced golf course he designed for the developers of CostaBaja. Do I golf? No, unless the clothes are really cute. But here’s why I love golf: it drives real estate. Especially second home real estate. CostaBaja is a beautiful new resort-marina-beachfront-golf-fishing community at La Paz, overlooking the sparkling clean Sea of Cortez, which Ernest Hemingway dubbed “the aquarium of the world”. I am totally in love with this part of Mexico and almost purposefully missed my flight home. If I could live anywhere Mexico, this would be the place — sorry San Miguel. This was my second trip to Baja — a few years ago we toured, with friends, the magnificent golf and luxury living nirvana Querencia, in Los Cabos, which is where the rich and famous of Hollywood have always played on the beach. (In fact, there are now direct flights to La Paz from LAX.) I’m told Michael Dell has an amazing home at El Dorado in Los Cabos — maybe that was his jet we saw on the two point five hour ride to La Paz? Holy cow — looks like recessionary prices start there at $4 million. The entire Baja landscape is striking, and not just for it’s great real estate. The peninsula is composed of volcanic mountains with multicolored layers of volcanic ash and lava. Then each island in the Sea of Cortez is different, and there are so many sprinkled about. Isla Danzante is a place of high volcanic cliffs while Isla Carmen is full of fossilized shell, which is proof that some 20 million years ago, the Baja Peninsula was connected to the rest of Mexico and the Sea of Cortez was non-existent. The great shift of geological plates broke the Baja peninsula apart from the mainland, creating a rift that became filled with the royal blue waters now known as the Sea of Cortez. Incredibly rich in marine life: 800 species of fish, dolphins, whales and sea lions who we were told actually hug you and tickle your face.
But I digress: golf. It is true that interest in golf is waning with the younger generation. Most golfers are fifty-something. Rounds are down, and golf courses are up for sale. I learned that in the boom, almost one golf course per day was going up in the U.S. as 300 to 400 new courses opened each year. They were driving lifestyle communities, and real estate. But golf has suffered with the real estate recession. And country club memberships are on the decline. Many people think golf courses are not good for the environment as they need green turf grass which sucks water but that is always not true: an 18 hole golf course produces enough oxygen for a town of 100,000 people every year. And in La Paz, one ecological about face happened when the CostaBaja developers paid to treat and recycle the city’s sewage. Instead of dumping it into the ocean (which nearly every third world country does) they treat it and use the tank water to irrigate the golf course.
“The rest of the world embraces golf,” said Player. “They see it as a badge of economic wealth.”
He also said the high tech golf ball has created problems in the game because new balls travel 50 yards further, and with bigger, stronger men getting into the game, well, Player says courses may just have to get bigger to accommodate the big boys and their power drives.
Player, 75 (but does not even look 69) later golfed with Mexican-born golfer Lorena Ochoa. Besides his businesses, the South African-born golfer has several causes he works on and links to golf — childhood obesity to try and prevent diabetes, and smacking removing that sense of entitlement from our children.
In the end, even Player admits it’s all about the real estate:
“It’s important to design a golf course,” said Player, “that makes people feel good when they come off the course…”
And go home to their first, second — or third — home.