A warm wind whips off the shimmering sea and the white flag – somewhat ironic, I’m thinking – snaps with the gusts. The narrow green, 170 yards away, clings to the ragged cliffs; a small oasis of turf that beckons the brave. The problem? Bravado is not really my forte. I make a quick, white-knuckled swing with my 7-iron and the ball soars into the infinite blue sky where the gulls and frigates fly. And, no surprise, it lands where the humpbacks and swordfish swim. Indeed, spending a week playing Los Cabos golf has been tough on my Titleist stash. But, while there have been losses, the gains have been substantial.
Situated at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula, in a hot-and-dry Mexican region of saguaro-studded hills, never-ending seas, and beautiful white sand beaches, Los Cabos is a playground with plenty of appeal. The string of high-end hotels, all-inclusive resorts, and luxurious homes that line the corridor between San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas are proof of that.
Los Cabos is known as “Land’s End” — the southernmost point on Baja California that’s marked with the famous natural rock arch, “Los Arcos,” that the sea chiseled out eons ago. Famous bars (Cabo Wabo and El Squid Roe immediately come to mind), world-renowned marlin fishing, and, of course, miles and miles of exquisite beaches, are other notable attractions.
And then, of course, there is the golf. There are now 14 outstanding courses in the region. Due to the quantity and the quality, Los Cabos is widely considered the best golf destination in Mexico. And the courses keep coming. In fact, in the past three years, five new courses, including Tiger’s first course design in North America, have emerged. While other golf destinations are struggling to find their way, even losing courses, Los Cabos is in growth mode. It’s really one of only a few golf destinations in the world that can claim this.
As I left Calgary, Alberta on a cold spring day, I could feel my swing-starved system warming up as I pondered flickering flags along the Sea of Cortez. And, somewhere over Utah, I think, the thought of tacos at the turn was also making my mouth water. I had visited Los Cabos once before, ten long years ago, played the Palmilla Golf Club and the legendary Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol, Jack both Nicklaus courses of the finest order. So I knew what I was getting into. Not surprisingly, I was ready for more. Thanks to an itinerary that included new layouts such as Quivira (where I would “sacrifice” a number of balls to the sea gods) and Puerto Los Cabos, as well as other long-standing favorites in the area I had never seen, I was like a kid on the way to a candy store.
Regardless of where you play in the corridor, know this: the courses all have outstanding turf conditions, warm and friendly service done the Mexican way, and the powerful presence of the sea. For the most part, there isn’t a golf hole to play that doesn’t boast a magnificent view of the Sea of Cortez. And many of the courses — Cabo Real, Cabo del Sol, Diamante Dunes, and Puerto Los Cabos — feature holes right along the surf.
After settling into my resort, the centrally located Casa Del Mar, which is hard on the beach in the middle of the tourist corridor, I set out for one of the new kids on the block, Puerto Los Cabos. A massive new development in San Jose del Cabo that hugs the yacht-filled marina, Puerto Los Cabos will soon include 18-hole courses by Nicklaus and Greg Norman. At present, play is on a composite course with each designer contributing nine holes. While the uphill starts on both nines are not ideal, there are plenty of highlights. The Norman nine, for example, tumbles toward the sea and serves up a stirring introduction to golf in Los Cabos. The Nicklaus nine, much of which is located further inland, also includes a picturesque seaside par-3, the short 15th, that doesn’t disappoint.
What also won’t disappoint on your golf junket in Los Cabos are the comfort stations that are a catchy — and very tasty! — theme on many of the courses. Complete with bartenders who mix mean margaritas, cooks who have their taco game perfected, and rows of salty snacks, they put the beer and hot dog “game,” the norm at many American courses, to shame. For the most part, these services are included with your price to play golf. Tipping, of course, is encouraged.
Even though they fly somewhat under the radar, both Cabo Real and Club Campestre San Jose also have plenty of merit. Cabo Real, which recently lost one hole along the sea (the land was sold to a developer for $28 million), features a stunning back nine that parades through a wild and rugged desert landscape that reaches far into the unseen hills off the strip. And even though a number of holes are situated near the highway, the quality of the golf holes at Club Campestre San Jose, a Nicklaus design with plenty of bite, makes for a highly memorable golf experience.
Not surprisingly, given the rich-and-famous reputation that Los Cabos carries, there are a handful of private clubs that are getting plenty of buzz. Diamante, for example — which features the heralded Dunes Course by Davis Love (many consider it the best course in Los Cabos) as well as Tiger’s inland effort at El Cardonal — is rightfully positioned as one of the premier golf and residential communities in the area. The development also features a brand new 12-hole short course designed by Mr. Woods. An interest in purchasing a time share here may serve you well in terms of getting access to the courses. Just saying.
My “last hurrah” was the seaside roller-coaster ride around Quivira, another new facility that features a Jack Nicklaus Signature course. Unquestionably, this is one of the most dramatic courses I’ve ever seen. Quirky? Yes. Extremely challenging? Yes. Fun and visually amazing? Yes and yes. The seaside holes here are, without a doubt, some of the most spectacular in Los Cabos. Carved through acres of wind-carved dunes and complete with an old lighthouse, a mile-long cliffside cart ride along the sea to get to the fifth tee, and, of course, comfort stations that are second-to-none, this is a jaw-dropping experience that will be etched on your brain for a long time. Just bring an extra sleeve, or three, of Titleists.
Andrew Penner is a golf writer and photographer based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.