El Cielo Country Club
Story by: Rick Stedman
Photos by: Ed Stone
Guadalajara’s El Cielo Country Club is appropriately named. Spanish for “the sky,” El Cielo sits at nearly 7,000 feet in elevation, providing panoramic views of sprawling Guadalajara, Lake Chapala and other Mexican villages below.
One of the beautiful holes at El Cielo Country Club near Guadalajara, Mexico
Home of Lorena Ochoa, the women’s number one golfer in the world, Guadalajara is the country’s second-largest city; home to more than 1.6 million tapatíos (as its residents call themselves).
Although the course measures only 6,763 yards, it is a walker’s nightmare. That’s why a golf cart and caddie are included in the $120 U.S. green fees. The omnipresent undulations and hilly terrain give new meaning to ‘up and down’ golf.
“The elevation changes made for some tricky lies, even on the fairways,” observed New York City resident George Bastuba, a first-time visitor to the course. Though in pristine condition, El Cielo’s rough lived up to it's name. Playing out of the rough was indeed challenging throughout the entire course. “Club selection got trickier on the approaches due to the elevation changes and the rough,” said Bastuba. “I was going up two or three clubs in order to hit out of the rough and still worrying that my shots might not make it!”
The 370-yard, par 4, eighth hole is a prime example of the elevation changes that are present throughout the course. This short par 4 plunges more than 150 feet from tee to landing area.
Throughout the 18 hole, par 72 course, bucolic scenery is the standard. The course sits in the Reserva de la Primavera hills just outside of Guadalajara and provides magnificent views from almost every hole. A variety of wildlife also call El Cielo home, including hawks, deer, marmots and various reptiles (specifically rattlesnakes). If you have a tendency to miss the fairway be sure to bring plenty of ammo for two reasons: rattlesnakes reside in this area – so don’t go searching for your ball; and golf balls at the El Cielo pro shop will run you about $4 a ball.
A par three on the championship El Cielo Country Club golf course.
Another first-time visitor was Laura Serena from Vancouver, British Columbia. “The views of Guadalajara are beautiful, and I liked the variety of landscapes, like the water features that added extra challenge,” she said. “The caddies were excellent, too. Despite language barriers, we were never lost in translation.”
El Cielo’s caddies are a great accompaniment to your round of golf. Though some have limited English skills, their golfing suggestions are still very well conveyed. They know the course like the back of their hand, and they graciously suggest the best shot selection.
Designed by DeVictor-Langham and built by Kenova Construction, El Cielo opened in 1997 and was originally called El Palomar Golf Course. It underwent a recent ownership and name change to the current, and more appropriate El Cielo Country Club. The course rating is 72.0 and the slope is 122.
A final note about this scenic golf course: don’t forget to bring your camera. There are plenty of great photo opportunities in addition to some wonderful golf. You can visit the El Cielo Web site at http://www.elcielocc.com/, but unless you speak Spanish you won’t find it very useful.
Once your golf outing is finished spend time exploring some of the interesting sites in Mexico’s second largest city. It won’t be difficult since Guadalajara is the birthplace of Mexico’s most famous traditions, including: tequila, charreadas (Mexican rodeos), the Mexican hat dance and mariachi music. Salud!
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ABOUT THE WRITER:
Rick Stedman is a professional writer with a long list of credits. In addition to iGolf.com, he has written for Golf Online, Golf, Inc., Golf Business, and Bunkershot.com, and served as editor of RVgolfer Magazine. A career journalist, Rick has penned golf and travel articles for Northwest Travel, Snowshoe Magazine, Northwest Best Places, Visit Los Cabos travel guide, The Oregonian, and The (Tacoma, Wash.) News Tribune. His favorite golf adventure: Playing 18 holes of sand golf at Whispering Sands Golf Club in Jubail, Saudi Arabia. Rick earned a BA in Communications from Washington State University in Pullman, Wash. An avid golfer, Rick, lives in Yakima, Wash.