Cabo Golf Courses – Among the World’s Best

The tip of Baja, Mexico boasts many natural attributes, including some of the world’s best marlin fishing. Located at the juncture of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez, the area has two major towns, Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, located 25 miles apart. The cities contain many fine eateries, bars and places to drink and dance the night away, making Cabo a premier destination for peripatetic partygoers. Hotels, resorts and time-share condominiums are being built all the time, giving Baja’s “toe” the look of Spain’s Costa del Sol.

Another featured Cabo attraction is golf. The game is truly sublime here, with many holes offering spectacular Sea of Cortez vistas. The layouts – Cabo Real, Eldorado, Cabo del Sol, Palmilla Resort, Cabo San Lucas Country Club, San Jose del Cabo Municipal Course, and Querencia Golf Club – lend a sophisticated air to this Latinized version of “Land’s End.” Here’s a look at Cabo’s courses:

Cabo Real

The two 18-hole courses at Cabo Real lie within a 3,000-acre development situated mid-way between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. The Cabo Real Golf and Beach Resort is owned by Eduardo Sanchez Navarro, whose father originated Mexico’s largest breweries. At least one other 18-hole course is on the drawing board at Cabo Real. The original Cabo Real course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., has a front nine that ascends up a hill, with its inward half dropping to the sea. The front nine boasts wild terrain and some of the toughest shots in North America. The back side, with its generally flatter personality, is a bit more accessible.

The second 18 at Cabo Real, Eldorado, is a spectacular 7,050-yard championship-caliber course with a 143 slope from the tips. This Nicklaus product, which opened in 2000, contains six holes on the Sea of Cortez, while the other 12 holes wind around and through arroyos. Eldorado, with its lush fairways offset by tan desert surroundings, is a golfer’s paradise. Upcoming Cabo Real facilities include Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton hotels – with the latter opening this November, 700 homes, a shopping center and a beach club. Work on the third course may start as early as 2002.

Cabo del Sol

Originating with the Jack Nicklaus-designed Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol – dubbed the “Pebble Beach of Baja,” the course alongside the Hacienda del Mar Resort will be complimented by Tom Weiskopf’s Desert Course in November 2001. The new layout winds inland behind Ocean and offers 180-degree seaward vistas from nearly every hole. Scheduled to open in November with the Weiskopf course is Baja’s first “real” clubhouse, a 24,000-square-foot structure with food and beverage service, locker rooms and other upscale facilities.

The 7,103-yard Ocean layout features seven holes along the Sea of Cortez. Nicklaus once called the site “the best piece of golf property on earth.” The Golden Bear also said that Cabo del Sol possesses the “finest three finishing holes of golf in the world.” The 16th, 17th and 18th – a par-4, par-3 and par-4 – parallel the Sea of Cortez, with wayward shots landing in either inescapable seaside sand or in rugged rocky outcrops. Golfers are often distracted while playing these holes, as breaching whales and flying fish frolic in cerulean waters in the background.

Palmilla Resort

Cabo’s initial golf resort features the “First Jack Nicklaus Signature Design in Latin America.” One of the major features of Palmilla is its white-washed inn, a sprawling seaside haunt of classic architecture perched above the crashing surf of the Sea of Cortez. Palmilla’s bar, one of Baja’s favorite haunts for over a decade, captures Cabo cool like no other place on the coastline.

Palmilla Resort now has three Nicklaus nines – Arroyo, Mountain and Ocean. Although the sites reflect their predominant geographic characteristics, each nine offers Sea of Cortez vistas. The Mountain Course may be the toughest nine, with its lengthy par-4s, forced carries, snaky “transition” areas, and nasty cacti lending considerable difficulty. The original Arroyo nine is more facile, with wider fairways, more escapable fairway bunkers, and many greens accepting pitch-and-run approaches. The Ocean Nine has probably the toughest opening holes in Land’s End, three increasingly longer par-4s of 398, 465 and 486 yards, respectively.

Cabo San Lucas Country Club

Cabo San Lucas Country Club is the closest venue to its namesake town. The course stretches 7,220 yards from the tips and, because it’s relative flat and lies near sea level, plays very long. Several tough par-3s add to its difficulty quotient. The course was designed, literally, by the famed Dye family. Roy Dye, brother of the famous Pete Dye, drew up the original plans for the layout but died shortly after the first hole was built. The family completed the course, with Roy’s oldest son, Matt, doing 90 percent of the work, while Pete, Perry and Alice Dye were also involved. The Dyes came up with a terrific test, one that the Arizona State Golf Association has given a 75.7 rating and 138 slope.

San Jose del Cabo Municipal

The very first Cabo course, San Jose del Cabo Municipal is a nicely tended nine-holer on the edge of its namesake city. In the early ’90s, green fees at the muni were $10 a round. But that has changed along with Baja’s emergence as a premier golf destination. Rounds are now $45 for nine and $75 for 18. Although most fairways are lined by homes and condominiums, the layout has a nice rural ambiance, with cows grazing along one of the par-5s.

Querencia Golf Club

The first private club in Cabo, Querencia recently opened its Tom Fazio course. Fazio ventured outside the U.S. for the first time to design Querencia Golf Club, which is situated between Palmilla and Costa Azul. The course’s grand opening was celebrated in February 2001 with an appearance by the PGA Tour’s young Spanish star, Sergio Garcia. Besides the spectacular Fazio layout, the club will eventually sport a nine-hole short course, a massive practice facility, and a 26,000-square-foot clubhouse with Sea of Cortez panoramas. The 840-acre development at Querencia also involves 255 homesites, 50 villas, and assorted condominiums and casitas. Memberships have been selling quite well.

Golf in Cabo doesn’t come cheap. During the prime October to March season 18-hole rounds are north of $200. However, during the other times of the year the tariff is much more economical. Affordable off-season stay-and-play packages include unlimited golf and premier accommodations. For more information about Cabo golf, call toll-free at 888/265-0818 or 713/254-9290.