Riviera Cancun Golf & Resorts Review

Texas Outside Rating: 9.2

Golf - Public Course · 18 Holes · Par 72
Cancun, Mexico
· Stay & Play

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Riviera Cancun Golf & Resorts Review

Review and Rating of Riviera Cancun Golf Course in Cancun, Mexico

Riviera Cancun Golf Course opened in 2008 and is a Jack Nicklaus Signature Course.  The course is currently owned and managed by Moon Palace Resort.  Jack carved the course out of a property with dense protected mangroves and lagoons and as such it is characterized by narrow jungle-lined fairways, natural fauna and flora, lots of sandy waste areas plus plenty of bunkers and water hazards that come into play on almost half of the holes.  The dense jungle isolates other holes from view and the long cart boardwalks through the jungle give the course a very unique and different feel. 

Each hole is unique and different, the layout is fun and memorable, the course is challenging but fair, and the conditions are near perfect – all of which may be why The Top 100 Golf Courses website named it #28 in Mexico.  The view of the ocean on one hole may have also helped the rating!

Moon Palace Resorts is a pioneer of the all-inclusive concept and their all-inclusive golf package includes:  green fees, food and beverage in the grill as well as from the beverage cart, practice golf balls, and more.  Stay 3 nights or longer and play unlimited golf at Moon Palace Spa & Golf Course and Riviera Cancun!

Some holes that we really enjoyed included:

  • The 433-yard #1 sets the stage for what you can expect – a carry over a sand waste area that goes up both sides of the fairway to the green making for a fairly tight fairway that has 2 fairway bunkers and a bunker on the right front of a contoured green
  • #3 is a fun and challenging 535-yard par 5 with a lake that goes from the tee box to the green on the right side and a natural sand bunker along the entire left side plus a left and right bunker pinching your drive’s landing area and a deep pot bunker in the middle of the fairway 50 yards in front of a well guarded green
  • All of the par 3s (146 yards to 196 yards) are stunning as well as challenging thanks to forced carries over water or natural areas to greens with berms, natural areas, and 2 to 4 bunkers guarding them
  • As is typical with most Jack Nicklaus designs the last four holes are memorable and challenging and the 18th at Riviera Cancun is outstanding – water and wetland on the entire left side, wide natural waste area on three fourths of the right side, 2 bunkers in the landing zone, 3 big bunkers on the right front of the green at 100 yards out, and a tight oblong green set off to the left with a long skinny bunker on the right side plus 2 bunkers and water guarding the left side – the magnificent and modern clubhouse is the backdrop for this outstanding hole

Riviera Cancun Golf Course is a sign of the "New Nicklaus" design which includes heavily contoured and very tricky greens. The smaller rolling greens are tricky to hold and tricky to putt thanks to plenty of contour and slope dropping off in various directions.  The greens have a combination of tiers, ridges, and saddles plus plenty of slope – all of which requires careful study before each putt.  The greens were in near perfect condition, ran at an excellent speed of around 10, held the ball well, and they ran true and smooth. 

The fairways were also in excellent condition – a few had some minor damage or bare spots but nothing that impacts your play. Most are fairly tight thanks to ball devouring jungle on one of both sides, long natural waste areas, or water.  All of the fairways have some contour. They were firm when we played and we loved the extra roll.  The rough was dense and playable.

The Riviera Cancun bunkers were also excellent with soft, fluffy, and thick sand.  The faces are steep and the bunkers range in size and shape from small pot sized to long and skinny. The natural sand/waste bunkers (on 14 of 18 holes) are everywhere and they can be challenging particularly if you land behind some of the native bushes growing everwhere in the sand.

After you play Riviera Cancun, you should also play Moon Palace Spa & Golf Club which has three excellent Jack Nicklaus designed nine-hole courses, each of which is very different from the other nine and all of which are a joy to play – read our review of the Dunes Course and the Jungle Course to learn more. 

If you’re looking for a place to stay, it’s hard to beat Moon Palace Resort, a five star all-inclusive resort with luxurious accommodations, numerous activities, beautiful and enormous meandering swimming pools, a full size gym, lush landscaping,  a wide variety of dining venues, fitness center, evening entertainment, and the best service we have ever experienced at any resort!

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Course Slope & Ratings

Tee Box Yardage Rating Slope
Black 7,060 74.6 150
Blue 6,200 70.4 135
White 5,184 70.1 132
Gold 6,519 71.7 141
Red 4,913 69.6 128

Course Information

Course Architect:
Jack Nicklaus
Greens Type:
Paspalum Supreme
Greens Condition
Greens Difficulty
Fairway Condition
Bunker Condition
Beware of water on 13 holes and the 68 sand traps.

Texas Outside Rating

Overall Rating:
9.2 out of 10
Fun to Play:
Front Nine Rating:
Back Nine Rating:


Approximate Weekend
$151.00 to $255.00

Round trip transportation, golf cart, unlimited food and beverage in the restaurant, cart service beverages, and a round of golf are all a part of the all-inclusive package. The Pro Shop is well stocked with everything you need to look good and play well and the practice facilities include a driving range and putting and chipping greens. Service is unequaled!



Here's How Texas Outside Determines the Scorecard Rating

The Texas Outside rating scale ranges from 1 to 10 – a perfect 10 course would be something like this:  links along a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean and bordered by tall trees; lush fairways on rolling hills with lots of natural hazards; water (which is crystal clear) on most of the holes; immaculate greens (but they are undulating and tough); lots of variety and character (each hole is completely different and includes blind shots, elevation changes, doglegs, and significant challenges); perfectly manicured traps with the whitest and prettiest sand you’ve ever seen; a nice club house with great food and a 19th hole; a GPS; plenty of beverage carts or your own cooler and ice; and it only costs $40 bucks! What this means is that you probably won’t find any 10s in Texas – try Cabo San Lucas, Pebble Beach, or some of the Hawaii courses! 
Texas Outside rates courses on the following:

  • Beauty – tall trees, rolling hills, beautiful houses, waterfalls, and similar stuff would score high; a 1 would be flat, bushes or cactus instead of trees, and some grass but mostly weeds
  • Difficulty – a straight, 300 yard par 4 with no traps or hazards, no out of bounds or water would probably get a 1; if it is a 460 yard par 4 over two ravines, with water along one side, natural hazards on the other, strategically placed traps or that dreaded tree right in the middle of the fairway, we are talking a 10. 
  • Variety – what would you give a course where all the holes looked and played exactly the same (“I thought we just played that hole!”); were side-by-side, which is good for finding or dodging other people’s balls, but not much fun; and you can see the flag from every tee box?  That’s right, it gets a 1.
  • Fun Scale – a 10 is where you walk off the course and say “now that was fun” and you can’t wait to get back, or you immediately turn around and play another 18 holes
  • Value – a 5 is $50 to $60, a 10 is $20 to $30, and 1 is $200 or so – of course all of this is dependent upon how you liked the course.  For example, if a run down, boring municipal course, with six players on each hole was only $10; it would still get a value rating of 1.
  • Condition – this one’s pretty easy – what condition are the fairways. A 10 commands very lush perfectly manicured fairways, compared to a 1, which has fire ants, weeds, and more dirt than grass!
  • Condition of Greens and Difficulty – very hard to read greens with lots of undulation and tough pin placement, rate very high on the difficulty scale.  Condition is self-explanatory.  

All of the above determines the overall score for the golf course.  In other words, we like courses that are pretty, fun, very challenging with a lot of variety, and fairways and greens in excellent condition – all for $40.  We also tend to play the courses that are affordable for the masses, which means in the $30 to $80 range. We rate hard and we haven’t found a 10 in Texas yet – don’t worry we haven’t given up and we’re still looking.