With naturally rolling hills and pitching-wedge proximity to the Sea of Cortez, Los Cabos is the perfect place to build a golf course. The only question is where to put it. Resorts geared toward both monied snowbirds and jello-shooting spring breakers have filled much of Baja's quiet eastern coast, forcing course designers toward the blustery Pacific. This wilder coast once seemed like an inhospitable frontier, but Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are proving that imperfect conditions can make for perfect rounds.
Quivira, the new Nicklaus design, will feature more seaside holes (seven) than any other course in Los Cabos. The course – Nicklaus's 26th in the Caribbean and Mexico – may prove to be his most memorable design. Carved out of massive sand dunes and rugged rocky cliffs, the course wends its way from white sand beaches to private coves and vast desert canyons. Its ocean holes are reminiscent of legendary Cypress Point – especially the par-three 10th, which has a smallish green situated on a rock outcropping protruding from the surf. Located adjacent to Pueblo Bonito, a Ritz Carlton–run resort and spa, the course will be opened to guests this spring.
From the highest point on Quivira, golfers can see the Diamante residential development and Davis Love III's Dunes course, which has already earned laurels for being the best track in the country. But it isn't the established course that has duffers fascinated, its El Cardonal, Tiger Wood's addition to the same property.
Tiger hasn't had much luck getting his courses to actually open in recent years. The catastrophic economic downturn scuttled projects in Dubai, North Carolina, and farther north on the Baja Peninsula. Despite the ever-present wind, Woods was tasked with making something walkable and playable for all manner of golfers – all manner of Diamante home owners or renters anyway.
Though Woods didn't have the kind of spectacular seaside terrain to work with that favored Nicklaus at Quivira, he has done his level best to provide plenty of distinctive environments. Inspired by the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland, Woods has adopted a design philosophy predicated on the idea that there should be several different ways to approach each green. Bunkers are plentiful but don't demand certain shot choices, and every other feature seems designed to force a decision. The par-four 10th, for example, has a drivable green that is small enough to make anyone without a Major under his belt consider laying up.
Players who want to sample courses from even more great players can make the now doable (thanks to infrastructure improvements made for this year's G20 Summit) drive north to La Paz and visit the Costabaja Resort, where a Gary Player–designed course offers blissful views of bright blue water. Its enough to make any student of the game believe they've found a warmer, sandier Scotland.
More information: Aeromexico offers direct flights to Los Cabos International Airport from Atlanta, a Delta hub. There are plenty of resorts in the area, but few rooms during spring break. Wait for the students to leave.