In just 30 years, Los Cabos has gone from 0 golf courses to one of the most spectacular golfing destinations on the planet, with a staggering 20% of its operating courses currently ranked among the 100 best in the world by Golf Digest.
We telescope the region’s meteoric golf trajectory in this illustrated timeline.
Golf in Los Cabos starts modestly with the unveiling of a 9-hole municipal course in San José del Cabo. The Mario Schjetnan designed layout at Punta Sur was later renamed after the nearby Mayan Palace resort, and is now managed by Mexican hospitality brand Vidanta.
Jack Nicklaus is the unquestioned godfather of golf in Los Cabos, with six magnificent courses to date on his Land’s End résumé. Developer Don Koll brought the Golden Bear to Los Cabos in the early 1990s, a move that first paid dividends in 1992, when Nicklaus crafted 9-hole Mountain and Arroyo courses opened at Palmilla.
Nicklaus’ masterpiece, however, came two years later, when the Ocean Course debuted at Cabo del Sol. This stunning loop, which Nicklaus himself called “the best golf property I’ve ever seen”, has been rated one of the 100 best in the world for 15 consecutive years and counting.
The only course with views of the granite monuments at Land’s End also premiered in 1994. That was Campo de Carlos, a course designed by Roy Dye and his son Matt that was later rebranded as the Cabo San Lucas Country Club.
Robert Trent Jones Jr. helped to put Los Cabo on the golfing map in 1996, when television cameras pick up whales breaching near seaside greens in a Senior Slam at his newly designed Cabo Real course. Cabo Real is now one of three local courses managed by Questro Golf.
Nicklaus returns to add a 9-hole Ocean layout at Palmilla, bringing his portfolio there to 27 total holes; and, taking advantage of his time in Baja Sur, adds another full course at Eldorado, an exclusive private club in a residential oasis home to big-name actors and athletes.
Tom Fazio’s superb Querencia is a creeper. For the better part of a decade, diabolical yet picturesque challenges like the dogleg, dual-bunkered, par-5 fourth were known only to millionaire members. That changed in 2016, when Golf Digest finally let the cat out of the bag, naming it one of the world’s 100 best in their annual rankings.
Inevitably cast as the lesser of the two Cabo del Sol courses, former British Open champion Tom Weiskopf’s Desert Course nonetheless deserves, and has received, numerous plaudits. It’s currently rated by Golf Week as one of the 50 best courses in Mexico and the Caribbean. Those wishing to compare it to Nicklaus’ neighboring Ocean Course can do so at two yearly pro-am tournaments: The Los Cabos Pro-Am, and the Jim Flick Invitational.
Club Campestre was Nicklaus’ 4th Los Cabos loop, a 6,966-yard challenge that boasts all the master’s traditional touches: forced carries, water hazards, loads of uneven stances, and even more bunkers. But that’s not all. So scenic is this downtown San José jewel that it has also served as an event venue, most notable for the Sabor a Cabo food and wine festival.
The world’s only composite design from Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus opens at Puerto Los Cabos, a luxury development just outside San José del Cabo. Norman sculpted the front-nine Mission course, Nicklaus the back-nine Marina. Ask a local who prevails in the battle of the sport’s best nicknames, and the consensus is the Great White Shark narrowly edges the Golden Bear; thanks in large part to the incredible par-3 6th, where the tee box sits on the equivalent of a 10-story building, and features views of miles of gorgeous coastline.
In Los Cabos, only Nicklaus landmark Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol has achieved the same sort of acclaim as Davis Love III’s links style Dunes Course at Diamante; and even that falls short when it comes to the opinion of the sport’s premier tastemakers. Voted top new international course in 2010, GOLF Magazine declared the Dunes Course the 52nd best course in the world in 2013, the highest ranking ever achieved by a Los Cabos golf course. It has since ascended, and now sits at 38. Greater glories are still to come.
Jack Nicklaus triumphs again with a breathtaking cliffside layout at Quivira, a resort and residential development from Pueblo Bonito founder Ernesto Coppel Kelly. The 7,139-yard tour de force was voted the world’s best new international course in 2015 by GOLF Magazine, and has since earned additional acclaim for its on-course comfort food stations.
The biggest news of the year, however, was the first completed course from Jack’s closest rival for career major championships, Tiger Woods. Tiger’s parkland style El Cardonal at Diamante also made its debut in 2014, and although it lacks Quivira’s majesty, it continues to attract loyal adherents.
Querencia designer Tom Fazio scores again with the long-awaited Chileno Bay, a seaside jewel nestled between the Sea of Cortés and the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range.
Tiger Woods also came back for a command performance, albeit an insouciant one. His 12-hole Oasis short course at Diamante is a fun-filled little lark, a one-of-a-kind golf experience that bucks the traditional model.
A new course from two-time major champion Greg Norman is scheduled to open in Spring 2018 at Rancho San Lucas, a Solmar Group development on the Pacific Coast north of Cabo San Lucas; and the Twin Dolphin Golf Club, designed by former Masters champion Fred Couples, is expected to follow later in the year in the tourist corridor that connects the cape cities.