Spreading the word about great golf courses, wonderful destinations and the people who create them, no matter where we might find them, has always been a goal of the “Talking GolfGetaways” podcast. On Episode 167, hosts Mitch Laurance and Darin Bunch go across the southern border for an enthralling conversation with Mexican superstar architect Águstin (Augie) Pizá of PizáGolf, a man who not only creates wonderful course designs but who is now pushing the boundaries of multi-purpose golf facilities worldwide into previously unchartered, and now-welcomed, territory.
After welcoming Augie from his home office in Puerto Vallarta and describing his award-winning resume, Mitch begins the conversation by asking Augie to share his 2005 monthlong journey to the Mayan rain forest of Lacondon, and talk about how it’s representative of Augie’s human philosophy, as well as his course design, on a deep level. What follows is a fascinating description of Augie’s connection to nature and the land, and our responsibility in always maintaining that bond. Darin then asks Augie to share his early history in the game, how he arrived at his decision to enter the world of golf course architecture and why he decided to pursue a most unusual Master’s Degree in Golf Course Architecture from the University of Edinburgh.
The trio then dives into Augie’s resume as a course architect. He details some of the courses he worked on early in his career, beginning with his first experience meeting Jack Nicklaus on Palmilla Golf Club, the 27-hole project that started what would become the golf boom in Cabo San Lucas. Augie, a master storyteller, talks about how meeting Nicklaus at that moment in his career inspired him and led to an increased passion for continuing his path. Augie then shares what it was like for him to come back years later, in full command of his successful Pizá Golf company, when asked to restore Cabo San Lucas Country Club after a devastating hit by Tropical Storm Lidia in 2017. Augie details the challenge, and subsequent success, of rebuilding seven holes on the course that were completely washed away, as well as reworking the remaining holes, all of which garnered rave reviews for the iconic course in Cabo.
Darin then moves to other courses around Mexico that bear Augie’s formidable fingerprints, as they talk about Jack Nicklaus’ 36-hole designs for Punta Mita Golf Club in Puerto Vallarta and the Nicklaus course at Vidanta’s Grand Mayan Resort in Puerto Peñasco. Augie explains how important being the Project Manager on those projects was, guiding day-to-day operations to achieve the visions Nicklaus had for two of Mexico’s premier golf destinations. Darin follows up with an important question for Augie, “What do you want to accomplish when you take on a project?” Augie’s passionate, simple (but eloquent) response tells us all. “I want golfers to have fun, to want to come back.”
After a short discussion of work that Augie also did on the Briceño 18 in Bogotá, Columbia and at Itanhangá in Rio de Janeiro (with a fantastic side-story about meeting Brasil’s “Elton John” who was a member at the club), Mitch asks Augie to describe the work he did as Project Manager for the only Gary Player Signature Course in Mexico — Puerta Cortes Resort in La Paz, which also served to link that project and the work Augie did in creating a multi-purpose facility that incorporates a unique driving range design with a 10-hole pitch-and-putt course to the work that now occupies much of Augie’s time and energy: the creation of alternative golf course and facility designs.
Using his stunning, radical design for Wellness Golf at the Five-Star Chablé Resort in Yucatán, Mexico as an example, Augie details the concept of using creativity to create a space for various formats for enjoyment in golf, different targets for practice, playing barefoot, utilizing different hitting stations for fun. It became a wildly successful addition to Chablé, and let Augie know that he had indeed entered a new phase of his career as a brilliant, imaginative voice for the future of the game.
Darin follows up by asking Augie about another trademark design along the same lines, that of “The Pit”, a private one-acre area for a client in Mexico City that uses a modern, sculptured art look to frame not only a fantastic golf practice backyard, but which serves as a gathering place for his entire family, with bunkers that become sandboxes for kids, an in-bunker fire pit, an incredible sound system and beautiful night lights.
Mitch concludes the podcast asking Augie about his exciting new plans, a recently-opened office in San Diego, California, which will allow Augie to connect with more clients in the United States. Wonderful news indeed for those of us who love the game and certainly welcome one of the most fascinating, accomplished, forward-thinking and fun people that golf has ever seen arrive on our shores. Enjoy the connection.
—Words by Mitch Laurance