La Paz, Mexico – While growing up here in the capital of Baja, Luis Cano recalls hearing of at least a half dozen plans to develop a narrow spit of land just across the Bay of La Paz. But El Mogote, as the peninsula is known to locals, was still barren when Cano, now a prominent Baja developer, bought it in 2001.
The land no longer is barren. From the boardwalk in La Paz, homes and condos can be seen rising in the distance. Patches of green also are visible; a just-opened Arthur Hills layout anchors the development, called Paraiso del Mar.
Hills fans will be surprised by what they find at Paraiso. The 78-year-old designer acknowledges that “I’ve been pretty traditional all my life,”
The grading of tee boxes is intentionally imperfect, a la Chambers Bay, accentuating the natural feel of the layout. Fairways on the windy site are 80 yards wide or more in places, and there’s no rough. Nos. 4 and 7 meet on a double green, and green contours throughout will turn some putts into thrill rides. There’s a blind tee shot on No. 9. And everywhere, there are pot bunkers – including one in the 16th green – all filled with natural sand.
“It just seemed like a good idea to dig holes in the ground,” Hills says. Cows on the property thought that was a swell idea; during construction, they sought shelter in the bunkers.
If that sounds like a story from the old country, Take away the native brush, and Hills says the land form reminded him of Saint Andrews. So he ran with it.
The course is the first in the area, and at least initially, it will be open to the public. Plans are in the works for a caddie program manned by locals.
“We could say, ‘This (Paraiso) is gringo land and this (La Paz) is local land,’ ” Cano says. “We don’t want that.”