Friday, July 12, 2024

Golf in Los Cabos: Mexico’s most acclaimed golfing mecca

The first golf course to open in Los Cabos debuted in 1987. It was a modest beginning for Punta Sur, a 9-hole layout designed by renowned Mexican landscape architect Mario Schjetnan. Then, in the 1990s, a prominent local resort owner brought professional golfer and golf course designer Jack Nicklaus to Los Cabos. 

Nicklaus’ reputation and the trio of world-class courses he designed – at Palmilla (now Cove Club) and El Dorado – jump-started a golf boom in Los Cabos that is still going strong 30 years later.

Once Nicklaus put Los Cabos on the golfing map, other major champions followed in his footsteps, including Tiger Woods, Greg Norman, Tom Weiskopf, Fred Couples and Davis Love III. All five have designed heralded layouts, as have Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Tom Fazio, two acclaimed course architects with a couple of Los Cabos layouts to their names.

Los Cabos garnered fame for its links layouts blending desert and mountain terrains with spectacular ocean views and luxe amenities, and by 2018, Golf Digest dubbed it the “Golf Capital of Latin America.” As if to prove the truth of its claim, the publication ranked four local courses – Nicklaus’ Quivira and Cabo del Sol courses, Fazio’s Querencia, and Love’s Diamante Dunes course – among the world’s 100 best. Perhaps even more impressively, Los Cabos dominated the list of best courses in Mexico, taking 10 of the top 16 entries.

How many golf courses are there in Los Cabos?

There are 18 operating courses in Los Cabos, including layouts in Cabo San Lucas (Quivira, Solmar Golf Links, and the Dunes, El Cardonal and Oasis courses at Diamante); San José del Cabo (Club Campestre, Vidanta Los Cabos and Puerto Los Cabos); the Tourist Corridor (Cabo San Lucas Country Club, Cabo Del Sol’s Cove Club and Desert Courses, Twin Dolphin, Chileno Bay, Cabo Real, Eldorado, Querencia and Palmilla); and on the municipality’s East Cape (Costa Palmas). 

Pueblo Bonito Resorts

What makes golf in Los Cabos so special?

Much of Los Cabos’ reputation for world-class golf is attributable to superb layouts from big-name designers. But what makes the region so special are its consistently spectacular views and over-the-top amenities. 

Los Cabos didn’t invent mid-course cocktails and comfort food specialties, but as Golf Pass notes, Los Cabos “is the only golf destination that’s gone all-in on the comfort station. Almost every course worth playing, resort or private, offers the experience. It’s also part of the reason the courses at the tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula are generally quite expensive to play.” 

However, for many golfers, it’s the views and vantage points that set Los Cabos apart.

The area boasts more than 100 miles of coastline, and nearly every local course is built with Pacific Ocean or Gulf of California views in mind. Nicklaus’ sixth and most recent design at Quivira in 2014, which Golf Magazine declared the best new international layout that year, flaunts ocean views from every fairway, for instance, with seven holes built directly along the magnificent Pacific coastline. Whales can be seen breaching from of Los Cabos’ courses during the winter months, adding to the allure.

What is the best course in Los Cabos?

The Tiger Woods-designed El Cardonal course at Diamante may have been the first in Los Cabos to host a PGA Tour event, but El Cardonal is not actually Diamante’s best or most famous course. 

The first Diamante links-style course was designed by Davis Love III, and upon opening in 2009, “Dunes” was an immediate smash with golfers and critics alike. Golf Digest ranked it the 34th greatest in the world in 2020, and Golf Magazine also considers it among the Top 100. Perhaps not surprisingly, Diamante’s Dunes course is also currently rated the best course in Mexico.

Which courses are open to the public?

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Golf courses in Los Cabos fall into three categories: public, private and resort courses with limited access. For example, staying at certain resorts or residential developments may provide tee-time access at affiliated courses. Attending time-share presentations, meanwhile, is another potential avenue to access at private clubs.

The best public courses are a trio of layouts managed by Questro Golf: Cabo Real, Club Campestre and Puerto Los Cabos. All feature first-class design, but the latter, offering a 27-hole layout designed by Jack Nicklaus (Ocean and Vista Courses) and Greg Norman (Mission Course), is definitely the most interesting. Cabo San Lucas Country Club, despite the name, is also open to the public – along with its locally popular driving range – as is Vidanta Los Cabos, the region’s first course and only 9-hole layout. 

Which courses are private, and are they possible to play?

Two courses in Los Cabos, El Dorado and Querencia, are private, so much so that no one – save members and their guests – is welcome. Private but resort-affiliated courses, meanwhile, are playable based on one’s accommodation status. 

How much does it cost to golf in Los Cabos?

Golf Pass is correct in its assessment that comfort food stations play a part in Los Cabos’ expensive greens fees. Public courses are the most affordable, but even these can be costly. Puerto Los Cabos, Questro Golf’s top option, charges more than US $300 for an 18-hole round during high season (November through May, twilight excepted). Private and resort courses are typically in the same range, if not more expensive. 

How do locals play? Locals with IDs proving residence get discounts and also tend to play at twilight when rates are lowest. The most affordable course in Los Cabos is the first-ever course, Vidanta Los Cabos (formerly Punta Sur). But playing the 9-hole layout twice for a full-round experience will cost in the range of US $150 during high season. The Cabo San Lucas Country Club is another relative bargain, but this course can still top US $200 during the winter and spring months.

Yes, slow-season summer rates are slightly lower, and Questro Golf is famed for its multiple-round offers, which allow golfers to experience a trio of courses at discounted rates. But golf in Los Cabos is never cheap. 

Chris Sands is the Cabo San Lucas local expert for the USA Today travel website 10 Best, writer of Fodor’s Los Cabos travel guidebook, and a contributor to numerous websites and publications, including Tasting Table, Marriott Bonvoy Traveler, Forbes Travel Guide, Porthole Cruise, Cabo Living and Mexico News Daily. His specialty is travel-related content and lifestyle features focused on food, wine and golf.

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