Los Cabos Golf
A note on green fees and tee times: Winter rates can get high--up to $278 at some courses. So you can do much better by playing late in the day or in the off-season, which, depending on the course, may run from January to September. Discounted green fees may also be available through your hotel--just one advantage of staying close to the course.
THE OCEAN COURSE AT CABO DEL SOL
km 10.3, Carretera Transpeninsular; 800-386-2465. Yardage: 7,103. Par: 72. Slope: 137. Architect: Jack Nicklaus. Green Fees: $125$278.
T&L GOLF Rating: *****
The highest rated of all the Jack Nicklaus Signature designs, the Ocean course is a must-play track in immaculate condition. Winding through desert arroyos and dramatic beachheads, the routing takes you twice to the sea, though the beauty of the ocean holes shouldn't overshadow the quality of the ones that lead you there. The fourth (a 555-yard par five) and the fifth (a 458-yard par four) each provide dramatic downhill, downwind opportunities to airmail the longest drives of your life. Follow those with back-to-back par threes, where enormous waves crash on rocks or sand around the greens, and you'll already be thinking about coming back tomorrow.
When you make the turn, stop for a plate of Rossy's fish and shrimp tacos, which are included in your green fee. Director of golf Brad Wheatley drove so many times to San José to eat at the original Rossy's that he finally had the restaurant open a kiosk with seating under a palapa next to the pro shop.
Well refreshed for the challenge ahead, you're faced on number eleven with a Nicklaus trademark, a risk-reward double fairway that makes it possible to drive this short par four. The best, though, is yet to come. "The finest three finishing holes in all of golf," says Jack Nicklaus. Don't argue with the Golden Bear until you've tried them. Sixteen is a lovely little par four that slips quietly down to a large green perched on a shelf of rocks above the beach. Seventeen is a shortish par three, but not if you take the Nicklaus challenge and hit the 178-yard shot across the crashing waves from his personal tee box, precariously placed above the rocks. Finally, to put it simply, eighteen is what ocean-side golf is all about. Way to go, Jack.
ELDORADO GOLF COURSE
km 22, Carretera Transpeninsular; 011-52-624-144-5451, 800-393-0400. Yardage: 7,050. Par: 72. Slope: 143. Architect: Jack Nicklaus. Green Fees: $100$225.
T&L GOLF Rating: ****1/2
Nicklaus's most recent course in Los Cabos, Eldorado has six seaside holes and a dramatic clubhouse setting on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Both nines start inland through giant arroyos, then rise into the hills and fall back to the sea. Though it has wider fairways and fewer forced carries than the Ocean course, Eldorado still mounts a strong challenge to your game. With a green at the end of a box canyon, the par-three third is a clever hole that Butch Cassidy's Hole in the Wall Gang would have admired. The big thrills start at the dogleg par-five seventh, which flows like a glacier of green down a mountain to the beach. Both nine and eighteen play hard by the ocean toward greens set beneath the clubhouse. A stray shot on either will be, to misquote Michael Jordan, who played here recently, "nothing but beach."
PALMILLA GOLF CLUB
km 7.5 (measured from San José del Cabo), Carretera Transpeninsular; 800-637-2226. Yardage: 3,337 (Arroyo); 3,602 (Mountain); 3,540 (Ocean). Par: 36 (all nines). Slope: 144 (ArroyoMountain, MountainOcean); 145 (ArroyoOcean). Architect: Jack Nicklaus. Green Fees: $60$205.
T&L GOLF Rating: ****1/2
The course that put Cabo on the map, Palmilla Golf Club opened in 1992 with two distinct nine-hole sides, called Arroyo and Mountain. A third, the Ocean nine, opened in 1999, and now there are multiple ways to play the track, though the original eighteen is still the preferred path of many players. In addition to beautiful ocean views on nearly every hole, the course is lined with incredible desert plants--300-year-old cardon cacti that rise thirty feet and the torote, or elephant tree, which sheds layers of paper-thin bark when its trunk swells to absorb the rare Cabo rain.
The Mountain is the most striking nine. The stunning par-four fifth crosses a deep arroyo twice before descending to a green that seems to have been dropped onto the desert by a helicopter. The new Ocean nine is perfect for a nine-hole excursion in the late afternoon. The routing is oddly serpentine, but Nicklaus makes up for it with large, undulating greens and with the par-four third, which plays over an old road and then straight to the ocean, with the Palmilla fishing fleet anchored in the distance.