CALIFORNIA is well known virtually every Australian golfer as a result of classic courses as Riviera, Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines and Cypress Point to name a few. Yet California now has a new dream tale of golf destinations. These destinations are found on the Baja peninsula, a state of Mexico, yet traditionally also part of California.
Your journey can begin with the lesser known Pelican Hill Resort, located in Orange County, an hour south of Los Angeles. There are two courses designed by Tom Fazio, they are remarkably similar yet different, challenging yet approachable, both offering panoramic views from every hole. The South Coast course has many holes directly on the coastline of the Pacific Ocean. Then it is time to leave California, USA, and venture down south of the border to California Mexico.
Cabo San Lucas (at the tip of the Baja Peninsula), located where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean, provides the backdrop for arguably some of the most spectacular views and golf holes you will ever experience. For many years now courses such as Palmilla, Cabo Real, El Dorado and CABO del SOL have provided the avid golf traveller with a substantial golf experience amongst desert and coastal backdrops. However, now these courses have been complemented by the arrival of two gems – Diamante and Quivira.
Diamante is nestled on 1500 acres of pristine land along two kilometres of stunning coastline and whilst a relatively new golf facility, it is ranked by many golf outlets as one of the top 100 courses in the world. There are two magnificent courses to choose from. The first is the Dunes course designed by Davis Love III and the newest edition to this planned estate, the El Cardinal, designed by Tiger Woods. Naturally, you would expect state of the art practice facilities, clubhouse, health and fitness club and a spa and you will not be disappointed.
The new El Cardinal course reflects the strength of Tiger Woods and the beauty of the Pacific Ocean. The first three holes on the front nine are designed to ease the golfer into the round – a key feature of Woods’ design philosophy – that a course should be player friendly. Woods himself has commented that he has included many of the design features of courses he played in his youth including Riviera Country Club, Bel Air Country Club and Los Angeles Country Club. Woods vision is to create a course that brings back the need for strategy; therefore multiple shot options make the player think all the way around the course. As a result, higher handicappers are well catered for however, the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean (never far away) creates an easy excuse for choosing the wrong option. To fulfill your Baja California golfing experience, the jewel in the crown is Quivira. This writer has had the good fortune to play the vast majority of coastline courses around the world and Quivira leads the pack without exception. If you have an aversion to golf carts then this course is not for you, as walking is not an option. For example the journey from the fourth green to the fifth tee box is a 500 metre journey at a steep incline up a cliff face…this challenge is repeated throughout the course. Quivira was crafted by none other than Jack Nicklaus and is considered by many to be the Pebble Beach of Mexico. Each hole is either right on the Pacific coastline, or views that would make even the most hardened golfer stop at the top of their back swing.
Mother Nature’s Canvas
A feature, not unique, but certainly best exemplified at this course is that of ‘stations’ every third hole where a full buffet of Mexican food, desserts and beverages are available with sit down service if required. (Complimentary of course, included in your green fees!). Jack Nicklaus himself said ‘Our team worked with the canvas mother nature provided to create one of the most spectacular courses in the world’ an example is the par 4 fifth hole only a short 280 metres, however the fairway slanted below a shouldering dune on the right, traces the edge of sheer granite cliffs to the left as it tumbles down hill to a cliff hanging green 100 metres below the tee. The next hole, the sixth, offers no respite as it is 170 metre carry, again hugging the coastline Pacific Ocean. Your tee shot must find and hold a long narrow green that drops off to oblivion to the left. The beauty and strategy of these holds are repeated throughout the course and as such, the signature hole concept is pointless at Quivira.
Cabo San Lucas
Interestingly enough, the beach that surrounds Quivira was the location for the 2004 movie ‘Troy’ staring Australian actor Eric Bana and landmarks made for this movie are still evident today on the course.
This Mexican golf journey is a must for the enthusiastic golf traveller. Not only are the courses memorable, you will also enjoy the other facilities available within the modern tourist city of Cabo San Lucas. For those wanting to experience the more traditional Mexican adventure, you should visit the coastal village of San Jose del Cabo for fun, action, cuisine and relaxation not to mention (dare I say it again) remarkable golf courses, California dreaming Baja style is now a must.