A Side Trip: Checking Out the Raven

By: Jeff Shelley

During this trip, primarily due to time constraints, I hadn't planned on stopping by Cabo Country Club, a lengthy track near Cabo San Lucas that was built by the fabled Dye family. But during our first-day shopping trip into town, I noticed that the course had a big new sign heralding it as the "Raven Golf Club at Cabo San Lucas." I had to investigate.

I'd previously heard of the Raven golf clubs in Arizona, and knew they were upscale facilities on a par with those operated by Troon Golf. While attending Palmilla's famous Friday night fiesta with its golf club's general manager, Ray Metz, and his wife Peggy, Ray invited me to accompany him to the "grand opening" of the revitalized Cabo CC facility.

So, being a glutton for golf punishment, I took Ray up on his offer and drove down from our time-share at Hacienda del Mar and dutifully showed up at the former Cabo CC at 11 a.m. There I ran across some old friends from the small world of golf writing. For the first time in nearly a decade, I reconvened with Chris Duthie, a former editor of Links Magazine. I also chatted with Scott Kaufman of Golfweek and Superintendent News. The two were in town with six other golf writers from Southern California and Arizona who'd been flown in by the club to check out the rebuilt facility.

Golf vs. Nature

The original Cabo CC was built on a huge drain field that is a prime outlet for flooding after heavy rains. During Cabo's monsoon-like rains in early fall, the water cascades off the mountains to the north and washes down to the sea directly through this golf course. In 2001, Hurricane Juliet roared into Cabo and resulted in damages to the golf course that exceeded $5 million. A large portion of the course, especially holes 10-15, had to be completely rebuilt due to the tremendous amount of mud, water and wind damage that ravaged the course.

The reconstruction project was overseen by Intrawest Golf, a multinational firm that now serves as the managing partner of golf operations for the club. As part of the agreement, the company revamped, renamed and recreated the layout to match the high standards set for the other Raven Golf Clubs in North America. According to director of golf, Eric Grindereng, the plans at Raven include a new clubhouse.

I'd played the old Cabo CC a couple of times during past visits. Because of its relative flatness and length, I've always considered it one of the toughest tracks I'd ever played. (As evidence, the course record from the tips - where it plays 7,220 yards and earns a 75.4 rating and 138 slope - is only one stroke under its par of 72.)

As I found during my grand opening spin, Intrawest's work only added to the layout's difficulty. Using the original routing, the length is still there, but newly added are some very fast and wildly undulating greens, most of which are elevated about four feet above the fairway (to keep them out of future high water). If you're looking for illustrative examples of what Gary McCord calls "elephants" in putting surfaces, look no further than this course.

The turf suffered greatly from the deluge, which resulted in four to five feet of water covering it for several months. Algae set in on the greens, which makes them even faster than if the bermudagrass was cut short and double-rolled.

But the place looks a lot spiffier, with everything spit-polished and service standards elevated a bit higher than before. The club has undergone a series of financial and ownership woes that are too myriad to get into here. Suffice it to say that the old Cabo CC has had its share of problems and may very well encounter them again if another hurricane comes along.

Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude

When the new regime arrived, Cabo CC's old pro, Steve Dodson, departed. The voluble Oklahoman shared with Cabo del Sol's Brad Wheatley the title of being one of Cabo's only two original head golf professionals.

The local scuttlebutt is that Steve will remain in the area, where his wife has a successful real estate business, and he'll soon open a small pro retail outlet in town. If you're ever in this neck of the cactus patch, be sure to stop by Steve's new shop and let him regale you with stories about golf in Baja's toe.