Puerto Penasco – Rocky Point for you gringos

I’ve always heard about Rocky Point, aka Puerto Penasco.  It’s a short 3-1/2 hour ride south of Phoenix, over the border and at the top of the Gulf of California.  People have talked about it for years ever since we moved here in ’95.  Those that visited have all said great things.  Good food & drinks, beautiful condo complexes, tchotchke shopping and a beach – all much closer than the more expensive California beaches.

I’ve been to other parts of Mexico over the years including stays in Cancun and Cabo, and ports of call to Cozumel, Riviera Maya, Cabo, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. I mostly enjoyed the time in Mexico, but I must say, I prefer the Caribbean countries.  But that requires a much greater than 3-1/2 hour ride to get there.

So again, I ask, why did it take me so long to visit our neighbors to the south?  Well, for starters, traveling through Sonora Mexico is much different than the trip across the desert and into San Diego.  Stories of violence and extortion were probably the main reasons I waited so long to visit.  Sure, there’s still the “voluntary” donation setup for the Mexican Red Cross just on the southern edge of Sonoyta as you leave the tiny 3rd world town and prepare to traverse 60 miles of barren desert.  Many consider the donation a good luck charm.  I guess the Policia standing guard are there to ensure no one steals the contributions, but one has to wonder what happens if you don’t contribute.  Speeding?  No turn signal?  Perceived drug-runner?  Who am I to argue?  Regardless, the donation is for a good cause… right?

When you donate, they give you a round sticker with a red cross.  Take my advice and display it proudly as you pass through Mexico.  I don’t know who I’m helping, but I’m feeling safer now that I am.

Translation –
“I am helping.  You can too!

Up until just a couple of months ago, violence in Rocky Point meant some drunk spring breakers from Arizona got in a fight during beer pong.  Even though the media and rumor mill make it sound like Rocky Point is a haven for the Cartels, you never actually heard of violence.  That is until Dec 18th, 2013.

That’s when the Federales took on a top Sinaloa drug cartel lieutenant that was camped out at one of the aforementioned luxury condo complexes, the Bella Sirena.  The four hour gun battle included helicopters, hand grenades and machine guns.  How’s that for a morning wake up call?

In the end, 5 gangsters were killed and there are reports that the top lieutenant suffered the same fate.  But like Bin Laden, not many got to see the body.  He was supposedly hauled away by the survivors of the battle.

Personally, I blame Obama.  As it turned out, there were links to the “Fast & Furious” guns that Eric Holder sold while he was vacationing in Cancun.  But I digress…

Back to the story…  I got an invite from Will Lykins to join a group of guys for the weekend to play golf, drink beer and stay at his place.  Maybe that’s all I needed – an invite that included golf, beer and a safe place to stay!

Most of the guys were regulars on this annual trip – so I was the rookie.  Will and Peter went down on Thursday and Mike and Dan on Friday.  Considering I had a business trip that would get me home late Friday afternoon, I thought it would be wise to take the 3-1/2 hour drive during daylight.  Fortunately, Tim had work commitments and couldn’t leave until Saturday as well.

After getting home Friday, I packed my bags and clubs into the car and set the alarm for 5am – trying desperately to squeeze every last minute of sleep out of the night.  This would leave just enough time to wake up, get ready and pick up Tim at 5:30.

At 4:30, Lisa wakes me and says “what time are you getting up?”  My immediate thought was “I guess now”, but that would not have gone over so well.  Oh well.  So much for that last 30 minutes.

After picking up Tim, and a stop at Dunkin, we hit the road and pulled into the condo at about 9:15.  The crew was already awake and finishing up breakfast.  The Sonoran Sky is the last property to be fully 100% completed in Rocky Point.  It’s a great property on the eastern edge of Sandy Beach.

Sonoran Sky Resort

After a few minutes at the condo, it was time to get ready for our 10 o’clock tee time at Mayan Palace’s Peninsula Golf Club – a Jack Nicklaus designed course.  Of course, a 10am tee time in Mexico really means some time around 10 or 11.  Off we went for a 30 minute ride east of town, through some pretty nasty areas – including a garbage dump.  I shutter to think what’s buried deep in the piles of rubbish.  I really believe that this dump started by someone who threw some garbage out the window and others followed.  Before you know it, you have a massive garbage dump on the edge of town with piles and piles of trash.  Nice.  With the scorching temperature in the summer, I can only imagine.

As you approach the Mayan, you see the buildings off in the distance – with nothing but desert in between for miles.  The winding concrete road into the resort reminds you of the grand plans for this desert oasis, but there’s nothing to show except for dry canal beds that will some day be filled with water from the Sea of Cortez.  When we pulled into the resort, it was obvious it was still under construction.

Mayan Palace – Phase 2

When I researched it online, I found out that this is Phase 2.  It looks like Phase 1 is complete and there are some amazing photos of the place – but I have no idea where they were taken.  It wasn’t obvious to me where Phase 1 is actually located – but it looks gorgeous in the pictures!

Mayan Palace – Phase 1

I can’t tell if the dirt roads near the resort are part of the charm or lingering effects of the 2008 financial collapse.  Regardless, we approached the golf club parking and were greeted by a couple of attendants who whisked our bags onto carts and prepped us for play.  We parked along the other 12 or so cars in the lots, not surprisingly, most with AZ plates.  You could tell pretty quickly, however, that this was going to be a nice course.  A quick check of the scorecard also indicated that it was going to be a difficult course as well.

One thing that jumped out was the massive sand dune between the clubhouse and the Sea.  I was hoping this wasn’t some weird feature of the golf course, like the crazy bunker on the 4th at Royal St. George’s.

World’s Largest Bunker 😉

After paying our $55 green fees, we headed to the first tee and I was amazed at the scenery.  Mountains in the distance, sea at our backs and the inlet filled with turquoise water.  An incredible contrast of colors.

View looking north with the inlet and mountains
I couldn’t get over the views from the course.  With almost unlimited amounts of gulf front land, the course took full advantage and built 9 of the 18 holes along the water.  It seemed liked every hole on the front ran along the brilliant greens and blues of the Sea.
Signature Hole
Tim blasting off
Just a little wind!
Tim with the ball just leaving the clubhead
Peter – what follow through!
Peter and Tim
Slight breeze!
During the round, the beverage cart came by and offered 2 for 1 beers, all of the Mexican variety of course.  On a resort course like this anywhere else in the world, you’d expect to pay $8 per beer.  Here, $5 – for two!  That’s like Phoenix Muni golf course prices in the summer time.  Load us up and away we go.
A couple of holes later, horror struck.  I noticed that my pouch where I keep my valuables like my wallet, money and watch was left open.  I quickly dug in to see if anything fell out.  Thankfully, everything checked out and we were on our way again.  I couldn’t imagine losing my wallet in Mexico.
Incredible ocean colors!

After 9 holes, my scored checked in at 47.  Not bad for a windy day on course I’ve never played – and a couple of triple bogeys.

The back nine turned away from the Sea and more towards the inlet, but that didn’t stop the wind from messing with us.  On one hole, I hit 6 iron from 123 yards – pin high right.  That’ll give you an idea of the conditions.  We’re still wondering how you can play 18 holes of golf, with every one of them into the wind.

After several holes, I realized I was stringing together quite a nice back 9.  Things were clicking and I was really enjoying the day.  Until 17 tee.  That’s when I started my mental checkout process and realized that, while I thought I had everything from my pouch, my car key was not there.  I scrambled through my bag, the cart and my pockets with no luck.

I don’t know how to describe the feeling, but it was odd.  Not scared or frightened, panicked or crazed.  Just perplexed.  I started to run through options in my head.  The most logical to me was call Lisa and beg her to meet me at the border with a replacement.  Other options were FedEx, for Monday delivery, or call BMW Roadside Assistance to see if they could remotely open the doors and/or start the car.  I don’t even know if that’s an option, but can you imagine that call.  “Uh, I’m here in Mexico and I lost my car key.  Can you remotely open the doors and start it for me.”  Yea… The call to Lisa was the least painful option.

Now, on 17, a stellar back 9 working and my mind racing a million miles an hour.  My next thought was, I just hope my car is there when we get back to the clubhouse.  We retraced our steps to see when we got the beers and when I realized the pouch was open.  We narrowed it down to between 7 and 9.  OK, that’s not so bad.

We finished the round and I made a quick check of the scorecard and it had me at a 39 for the back!  Great finish, but would it all be tarnished?  We turned the corner and much to my relief, my car was still there.  As we were getting our clubs cleaned, we asked the attendants if anyone had turned in a key.  Nope.  Hey, it was worth a shot.  We told them we needed the carts to head back out to course to look for the key.  As we were getting ready to take off, the cart girl pulled up and I asked her if she found it and she displayed it with a huge smile on her face!

She said she found it on 8 – on the cart path – in the water.  Oh No!  What?!?!  In water?  Of course, it had to be an electronic key, so I grabbed the key and started sprinting towards the car, repeatedly clicking it to see if the doors would open.  It seemed like I had to get closer than normal, but the lights finally flashed.  Relief!


After the round, we stopped at Capone’s.  Plenty of gringos in this place.  They had the basketball game on so we sat down for a real authentic Mexican dinner – BBQ Shrimp Pizza and BBQ Chicken Pizza – and of course, more beer.

We finished up just as things were starting to get crowded since UofA was coming on later.  There were plenty of Wildcat fans coming in to set up shop.  Most of which were young guys, locals perhaps, that ordered plenty of buckets of Tecate Lights.

Back at the condo, we tried to find the game on TV, but no luck.  Neither the condo, nor the Tiki Bar downstairs was able to pick it up.  Luckily, there’s an RV park right next to the condo complex.  Surely someone had to have the game on there, so out we went, but not before I snapped this shot from Will’s balcony.

View from 202

It didn’t take long for us to connect with Ron and Terry.  Retirees from Boise with a 42′ Toy Hauler – completely decked out with multiple TVs.  In fact, they have more TVs in their 42′ than I have in my entire house!  They welcomed us in like we were family.  We settled in and made instant friends.  Sure we watched the game, but we had more fun talking with them about their travels.

Unfortunately, the Wildcats lost a heartbreaker – so I’m glad we weren’t back at Capone’s.

The next day, we were up early and getting ready for another round.  Two of the guys took off to get back to the valley, so the four remaining headed out for breakfast.

A stop at Rosy’s was everything I thought Rocky Point would be.  A great Mexican restaurant with waitresses who didn’t speak English.  For $10 all in, we had a huge breakfast that carried us through the day.

Today’s choice for golf was another Nicklaus course, Laguna Del Mar.  This one is on the other side of Sandy Beach, on the west side by Cholla Bay.  And, like the other, in a development that seemed to go bust in 2008.

This one is just like the name implies – a lagoon by the sea – with water everywhere and tight fairways.  Currently, it’s just a 9 hole course, so to play 18, you play the same holes twice.  We opted for just 9 – and that was plenty for me.  Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty for me, but it sure was fun.  I think the water level of the lagoon went up due to the number of balls I deposited in the crystal clear water.

After the round, it was back in the car and home in time for dinner Sunday night.  Thanks again to Will for the invite and the guys for allowing me to crash their group.  We had a lot of laughs and a great time in general.  If you’re ever in the market for a new home in Arizona, call Will.  Maybe you’ll get an invite to join next time!

With it being a quick trip, I didn’t get to play the only other course in Rocky Point, Las Palomas.  It’s described as a much friendlier course than Laguna and much less windy than the Peninsula.  Next time.

Ariel view of Las Palomas

See.  There.  I said it.  Next time.  I do plan on heading back to Rocky Point, but I’m guessing it will be just the guys again.  And next time, it won’t be a 4:30 wake up call.

Stop wondering. Start wandering!

1 comment

  1. Pingback: Hole in One!

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