Play where the pros play: Mayakoba's El Camaleon Golf Club in Mexico's Riviera Maya

PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Quintana Roo, Mexico -- It's like a black hole in the middle of the fairway -- dark, deep and dangerous.

Golf balls that fall into a cavernous cenote on the first hole at El Camaleon Golf Club rarely come out. The sinkhole looks like a bunker from the first tee, but it's something more ominous, devouring meek second shots on the opening par 5.

It's the first indication that this Greg Norman design is a shot-maker's course. The 7,024-yard El Camaleon annually hosts the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, the PGA Tour's only stop in Mexico or the Caribbean.

The design, tucked inside a lavish resort development just 40 minutes south of the Cancun International Airport, traverses through three ecosystems, the jungle, the mangroves and the beach. The signature par 3s at no. 7 and no. 15 overlook the emerald waters of the Caribbean Sea.

They're scenic for sure, but it's the collection of par 4s that define how the round goes. Water near the green creates daunting approach shots on El Camaleon's fifth and sixth holes. The ninth green rests next to a rocky desert wash. Water left and jungle right pinch the narrowest fairway at the 386-yard 17th hole. Four bunkers -- the most of any hole -- add visual and strategic elements to the 458-yard 18th hole. Improvements have added a new bar and patio to the upper level of the clubhouse. A new restaurant is scheduled to open by spring of 2014.

Video: Matt Ginella on the unique El Camaleon design

Feb 11, 2014

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Jason Scott Deegan

Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.