Land’s End, Baja Style
Gold - Costa Palmas
Author

Land’s End, Baja Style

Kingdom Magazine

Los Cabos radiates a dry desert climate with low humidity and cool sea breezes, particularly from November through to late spring. Brilliant blue skies and beaming sun? Check. Technicolor sunsets? Like clockwork.

Situated at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, Los Cabos is the Land’s End of the eastern Pacific, providing golfers, fishers and sun-seekers with the whole enchilada on a silver plate

Los Cabos radiates a dry desert climate with low humidity and cool sea breezes, particularly from November through to late spring. Brilliant blue skies and beaming sun? Check. Technicolor sunsets? Like clockwork.

Formerly a rustic port favored by deep-sea anglers, in the span of 30 years Los Cabos has been reinvented as a beacon for upscale tourism. The game-changer has been the introduction of a pristine portfolio of golf courses built along the 20-mile coastal corridor stretching between San Jose del Cabo—a quaint colonial town—and Cabo San Lucas, a sports fishing mecca and nightlife capital.

Jack Nicklaus, the Golden Amigo, should take a bow. He first ventured to Cabo in the 1960s to take a break from the PGA Tour and to troll the deep seas for trophy marlin, and he would later put Los Cabos on the international golf map with his designs at Palmilla in 1992 and the Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol shortly after.

Nicklaus has since returned to build four additional layouts, thereby almost single-handedly catapulting Los Cabos into the golf vacation stratosphere. If his output is prolific, so is his enthusiasm.

“I couldn’t be happier with the way things have evolved in Los Cabos,” Nicklaus said. “I truly believe Cabo is not only a flagship destination for golf in Mexico, it’s as good as any golf destination in the world. It’s nice to have a legacy of spectacular courses in one of my long-time favorite places.”

Situated at the junction of the Sea of Cortes and the Pacific Ocean, Los Cabos features a unique landscape where the mountains, desert and oceans converge. This is “sui generis”—a place unto itself. The verdant green fairways drop from cactus-studded foothills to golden beaches and the deep blue fishing grounds.

Los Cabos has become the undisputed golf capital of Latin America and improved flight connectivity from most major U.S. cities has put this exotic getaway within easy reach of most intrepid Americans.

Palmilla

The first Jack Nicklaus Signature course in Latin America, Palmilla Golf Club, set the stage for top-shelf golf in Los Cabos when its Mountain and Arroyo nines opened in 1992. Chiseled into a box-shaped canyon walled-in by stark brown peaks, Palmilla fully partakes of the region’s desert-on-ocean ecosystem. Routed around cactus-covered hills, boulder-strewn arroyos and vast waste bunkers, the layout’s five sets of tees provide admirable versatility. Several holes call for heroic carries over “no man’s land” from the tips, but broad terraced fairways, generous bail-out areas and open-entry greens accommodate players of lesser attainment. The Ocean nine, added in 1997, features a 600-foot elevation change, carrying players from the mountains to the sea.

The golf club is five minutes from One&Only Palmilla, a legendary hideaway built in 1956 by the son of a former president of Mexico. The hotel was later transformed by South African entrepreneur Sol Kerzner into a world-class resort. This elite retreat, a favorite of Hollywood A-listers, extends onto a rocky promontory that juts into the azure-blue sea. The water is calm enough for swimming at a trio of sheltered coves. Even before its guest rooms were restyled and its restaurants rebranded, this lushly landscaped property reigned as the grand dame of Cabo’s 5-star hotels.

Cabo Del Sol

Cabo Del Sol’s Desert Course was laid out by Tom Weiskopf. Renowned for his striking creativity in desert landscapes, Weiskopf shoehorned holes into rugged terrain bisected by deep barrancas. The sea floods the horizon at every hole. A thick cactus forest and granite outcrops flank broad fairways, defended by large sculpted bunkers, while the slick greens, the heart of the course, feature long slopes and subtle rolls.

Chileno Bay

The calling card at Chileno Bay Golf & Beach Club is a Tom Fazio design with rolling fairways interlaced by sandy arroyos and framed by flower-strewn hillsides. Elevated tees offer magnificent views of both the mountainous interior and the sea. Fazio created a graceful, flowing course intended to simulate rolling ocean waves. Formal bunkers are filled with bright white sand while native tawny sand outlines the fairways. The back nine builds to a crescendo at the 512-yard, par-4 18th hole, which tumbles downhill to an infinity-edge green.

Costa Palmas

Tucked away on the East Cape, 45 minutes from Los Cabos International Airport, Costa Palmas Golf Club opened in 2019 and stretches across a rolling “dunescape” ringed by the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains. Described by designer Robert Trent Jones, Jr. as “a golf symphony composed of three movements and two transitions,” the layout’s opening holes have greens with open entrances, a design trait that invites players to use bump-and-run shots. Upland holes explore a lovely parkland setting at the high point of the course. Fairways and greens are defended at every turn by well-placed bunkers on this breezy 7,221-yard layout. The golf club includes a six-hole, par-3 short course, a one-acre practice putting green and Bouchie’s, a casual, open-air café.

Twin Dolphin

Routed across a broad sloping plateau bisected by three major arroyos high above Santa Maria Bay, the scenic, naturalistic layout at Twin Dolphin Golf Club—built by Fred Couples and Todd Eckenrode—makes excellent use of the site’s native contours and rock outcrops. Opened in 2018, the golf club occupies the site and retains the name of the iconic Hotel Twin Dolphin, a Cabo hospitality legend. Framed by tall, serrated peaks, this unembellished course has spacious fairways and open-entry greens, conditions are firm and fast. In addition to four sets of tees ranging from 7,156 to 5,011 yards, the club offers three additional sets of combo tees for maximum versatility. Twin Dolphin’s $450 green fee (plus mandatory $50 caddie fee) is the top ticket in town.

Rancho San Lucas

Centerpiece of a resort community set back from a virgin stretch of Pacific beach, the Greg Norman Signature course at Rancho San Lucas Golf Club, opened in 2020, is the destination’s newest venue. Known for his “least-disturbance” design, Norman engaged the site’s existing terrain, creating a low-profile layout with ocean views from every hole. Spanning three different ecosystems, it rambles through windswept dunes at the start, climbs through a cactus forest, and returns to the sea on the back nine. The club’s signature features are its revetted pot bunkers. These sharp-edged, steep-walled sandy pits, constructed from recycled artificial turf, are identical to the natural sod-walled bunkers often found on British links courses. During the winter months, golfers can observe breaching humpback whales directly offshore from the seaside holes.

Diamante

Located 15 minutes north of downtown Cabo San Lucas on the Pacific, Diamante is a sprawling resort community with 36 holes of golf plus a family-friendly par-3 course.

The Dunes Course is a brawny Davis Love III design parted through vast white sand hills set back from the sea. This breezy, lie-of-the-land links, known for its huge undulating greens, skirts enormous 50-foot dunes and big blowout bunkers on its journey to and from the sea. Among the feature holes on this prodigious layout is the massive 590-yard par-5 18th, which offers multiple landing areas and calls for a lofted approach to a shelf-like green perched 50 feet above the fairway.

Diamante’s El Cardonal, featuring an “Old California” design motif, marked the architectural debut of Tiger Woods when it opened in 2014. Defined by bold, flashed-faced bunkers, the course transitions from sand dunes to rolling foothills edged by desert and winding arroyos. Woods also designed Diamante’s Oasis Short Course, a versatile test with 12 par 3’s ranging from 41 to 143 yards. The lakefront layout, accented by swaying palm trees, can also play as a three-hole loop featuring a full-length par 3, par 4 and par 5.

Quivira

Grafted onto a spectacular site at Land’s End, Quivira Golf Club—the sixth Jack Nicklaus-designed course in Los Cabos—is an aesthetic tour de force. It also has massive dunes, twisting arroyos, rolling foothills, lots of rock… so, a little bit of everything Cabo has to offer.

The course passes a famous landmark, the El Faro Viejo lighthouse, which dates back to 1905, and is the centerpiece of Old Lighthouse Golf & Ocean Club. The course weaves through dunes before the 13th—a short par 3—plays across a yawning abyss to a green set atop a pinnacle of granite rising from the surf. Perhaps the most daring, eclectic course Nicklaus has ever built, Quivira presents an unforgettable test.

Old Lighthouse Golf & Ocean Club is an exclusive community that occupies one of the most dramatic locations in Los Cabos, set high above the cliffs at Land’s End, where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific.

Co-developed by Lyle Anderson, the visionary who created Desert Mountain in Arizona, Old Lighthouse offers spacious custom homesites where views are “only limited by your own peripheral vision”. Owners enjoy both sunrise and sunset from homes they personally designed, or from one of the community’s luxurious villas.

Marlin Alley

Nicknamed “Marlin Alley,” Los Cabos is a sport fishing capital nonpareil—more big-game fish are caught here than anywhere else in the world.  Blue and black marlin season runs from June through December. Striped marlin are plentiful year-round. Sailfish are taken from April through October. Tuna, dorado, wahoo and roosterfish are among the prized species that swim in Cabo’s nutrient-rich waters. In addition to deep-sea fishing, inshore fishing is popular
on pangas, a 22-foot Baja skiff.

Winter warmer

The whale watching season in Los Cabos, December through March, marks the arrival of whales that migrate from the frigid waters of the Arctic Ocean to the warm, calm waters surrounding the Baja Peninsula. Ideal salinity and abundant marine life make the bays and lagoons around Los Cabos the perfect place for whales to birth and rear their young. Of the eight species that venture to Cabo, the most visible are the humpback whales, which spout close to shore and thrust themselves out of the water in fantastic leaps. Whale-watching excursions are available from the Cabo San Lucas marina.

Puerto Los Cabos

Situated on the outskirts of San Jose del Cabo, Puerto Los Cabos Golf Club is a 27-hole facility with an 18-hole course by Jack Nicklaus and a nine-hole layout by Greg Norman.  Puerto Los Cabos offers three 18-hole combinations. While the club dates to 2007, Nicklaus unveiled his second nine, along with revisions to the previous nine, in 2018. The new holes emulate the original style: subtly contoured greens, large sculpted bunkers and dramatic elevation changes. Large bunkers, inspired by Melbourne’s Sandbelt, signpost the fairways and defend the greens on the Norman Course.

Cabo Real

The reversal of the nines at Cabo Real Golf Club several years ago improved the balance of a Jekyll-and-Hyde course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. The front nine spills down to the Sea of Cortes. Cabo Real’s back nine, marked by steeply pitched holes carved into rugged desert foothills, features elevated greens and ridgetop fairways to create a top-of-the-world feel nearly 500 feet above the sea. Green complexes and containment mounds mimic the shapes of the richly hued mountain peaks that backdrop the course.

Club Campestre

Sandy waste areas, large-scale bunkers and sinuous arroyos mark the Nicklaus Design at Club Campestre San Jose. Campestre’s greens, among the most liberally contoured in Los Cabos, can be very challenging depending on pin placement. The signature hole is the risk-reward par-5 seventh, a double-dogleg that plays to a peninsula green that juts into a pond. The longer, tougher back nine ascends to higher ground, circulating players around a rolling desert plateau. Club Campestre showcases the beauty of the Baja desert and represents excellent value.