The World Golf Championships inaugural Mexico Championship will be held this week at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City, Mexico. This new host course takes over from Trump National Doral and will serve as host as part of a seven-year agreement, through 2023. (That decision is a whole other story.)
Club de Golf Chapultepec architecture and history
Way back in 1899, Scotsman Willie Smith won the fifth U.S. Open at Baltimore Country Club by a staggering 11 shots. His prize money that year: $150. He was also the only golfer to break 80 three times that week (his brother Alex came in seventh). Smith's margin of victory was the largest in the U.S. Open until Tiger Woods won the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by 15 shots. Five years later, Smith moved to Mexico City to become the club professional at the Country Club of Mexico City.
During his time there, Smith was hired as architect to build Chapultepec, which happened to coincide with the Mexican Revolution (circa 1910-1920). After Emiliano Zapata's troops ransacked the club, Smith was found badly injured and trapped under a fallen beam because he had refused to leave his post at the country club. Unfortunately, Smith passed away in December 1916 before work was completed at Chapultepec. His aforementioned brother Alex (who won the U.S. Open in 1906 and 1910) completed the project.
Club de Golf Chapultepec opened in 1928 and served as the original and primary site for the Mexican Open from 1944-1960, before the tournament began rotating sites. The very first event, held in December 1944, was won by Al Espinosa, head golf professional at Mexico City Country Club at the time. As the inaugural professional golf tournament at Club de Golf Chapultepec, it brought the modern tournament to life at the facility and is a rightfully historical site for golf, especially in Latin America.
Since that time, the club has hosted the Mexico Open four times in the modern era. Won by Ed Byman in 1974, Ben Crenshaw in 1981, Jay Haas in 1991 and Óscar David Álvarez Orrego in 2014 as part of the PGA Tour Latinoamérica.
However, the actual course bears little resemblance to that Willie and Alex Smith layout. Percy Clifford, who designed many courses in Mexico during his career, brought about a major renovation in 1972.
Holes To Watch
Not exactly a “bucket list” course, everyone is anxious to see the Club de Golf Chapultepec. Keep in mind that the course being outside Mexico City is situated at roughly 7,800(!) feet above sea level. The rule of thumb when playing that high up is to take the yardage and reduce by at least 10 percent. The total length on the scorecard is 7,267 which with altitude adjustment is more like 6,541. Hence the PGA Tour converting a one 500-plus-yard par 5 into long par 4. With that said, the parkland-style course presents a good mixture of short and very long holes with a few interesting course quirks. The par 3s range in length from 172-225 yards, par 4s from 316-525 yards and par 5s from 575-625 yards.
A short (316 yards), downhill hole that will be accessible for the bombers. It has two (yes, two separate) greens, of which the right one is more often used. It will be interesting to see how the Tour sets up this hole each day; will they alternate play or only use one of the greens? Players aiming at the right-side green will face a line of trees that they will have to carry to reach the green with their tee shot. Likewise, to hit the left-side green from the tee would require a high draw over trees to a green guarded on the right by a bunker. NOTE: The par-3 17th also has two greens but will most likely only use the one that’s next to a pond.
This dogleg-left hole is the longest par 4 on the course measuring a stout 506 yards. Playing slightly downhill, a good drive of at least 290 yards is needed to be able to gain visibility to the green and its three bunkers: one to the left and two to the right. A downward shot with a mid-iron will be necessary to hit the green, which slopes from the back to the front.
Converted this week from a par 5 to a par 4, this minor dogleg right requires a moderate drive down the right side to avoid a fairway bunker approximately 265 yard from the tee. The green is protected on both sides by trees and by three bunkers, two towards the left front and one towards the left back. The green has three levels and slopes from the back to the front and from left to right. Meaning players will need to be precise with their approach shots if they want a chance at birdie or to avoid three-putting.
The No. 2 handicap hole on the course starts with a tee shot that’s downhill towards a reverse dogleg fairway with a slope from left to right. The second shot is back left uphill towards a green protected by two deep bunkers on the sides forcing players to use mid or long irons. The green has a deep slope from the center towards the front and a hill behind it.