Los Cabos, Mexico’s world class vacation destination, lies along the 20-mile shoreline between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo on the south side of the Baja California peninsula and it’s a golfing Mecca for many Americans who travel down from the west coast of the USA.
Jack Nicklaus designed the original Ocean course at Los Cabos in the mid-1990s and it’s rightly regarded as one of the very best on the entire American continent. The Weiskopf-designed course followed in 2001 and, although it has not quite received the plaudits of Jack’s layout, it is nevertheless a first class track, fully deserving of its high national ranking.
Designed with ocean views from every hole, the course has generously proportioned fairways that feature bunkers which are a little less penal than those next door on the Ocean course. Weiskopf and his associate Phil Smith also specified a number of short par fours that might tempt some big hitters to pull out the driver and go for the green in one.
A couple of water hazards on the final two holes also catch the eye here. A lovely pond with a fountain guards the left side of the 17th green, set at a 45-degree angle to the fairway. From this point, water flows into a rocky creek that runs along the entire left side of the fairway before crossing and falling into a pond that protects the front right side of the green – a pair of closing holes that would grace any great course.As Tom Weiskopf, the 1973 Open Champion, says, “with its dramatic views of the Sea of Cortez from every hole, The Desert course at Cabo del Sol is one of the most unique layouts I've designed. The natural beauty of desert, mountain and ocean provides an ideal setting and some of the best terrain for golf anywhere in the world. My design incorporates traditional bunkering, expansive greens, wide fairways, multiple tee areas, natural waste areas and spectacular ocean views”.
The tough aspect in being a 36-hole resort is when the "second course" sits in the shadow of the primary one. That's the case with the Tom Weiskopf design at Cabo del Sol's Desert Course. Opened in 2001 -- a full seven years after the more acclaimed Ocean Course opened -- the wherewithal of the new addition to compete in its own way was akin to being the singer who follows Frank Sinatra at a concert.
Weiskopf has always prided himself on his ability to create golf challenges that can fit for a wide variety of players. The Desert Course had some initial hurdles to overcome. First, the layout occupies the hillier area of the property and has to cross twice over highway 1 -- the main link for all areas throughout the greater Cabo area.
The final result is a top quality effort. In fact, the initial set of holes comes out strongly. The opener plays uphill and turns left in the drive zone. It's imperative to hit a quality tee shot to get into position for the approach. You then cross highway 1 to reach hole #2 thru #13.
The 2nd is a tough par-3 with a diagonally angled green. Hitting enough club can be a real chore to reach the putting surface. The rest of the outward nine is wonderfully balanced with different types holes and shot requirements. The par-5 3rd is a birdie hole but not without proper execution. The short par-4 4th has two fairway sections -- you can play the conservative shot short of the break point or attempt the more heroic play. Just don't be indecisive.
At the 5th things intensify quickly. The par-3 at 214 yards is one of the most demanding I have played from Weiskopf's handiwork. The hole features a carry over a pond and the green is well defended by a cluster of bunkers -- when the pin is front left or on the extreme back right -- the execution must be flawless.
The 6th is a first rate mid-length par-4 -- just 403 yards. The key here is how Weiskopf adroitly necks the fairway down the further one hits the tee ball. The key is getting to the left side but a pesky rock slide awaits those too foolish to know better. The green is another gem -- narrow and long and with drop-offs for either a pulled or pushed approach.
Weiskopf provides a "catch your breath" hole at the short 7th but only with appropriate club selection in mind. The 8th climbs uphill and the demands are quickly apparent on this solid par-4 of 441 yards. The front ends with a cape par-5 hole -- the more you decide to cut the left corner the more the burden will rest on the player to execute.
The inward side is equal to the task although a number of the holes do play downhill as you commence from the par-4 10th which is nearly 400 feet above sea level.
There are a number of key holes -- the par-5 12th at 592 yards is a beast when the prevailing wind plays back into one's face. Only three solid shots will suffice. The par-4 13th plays downhill but at 480 yards you're still facing the same headwind and failure to find the fairway puts plenty of pressure to cross a desert wash that cuts in front of the green.
For the final five holes you return to the other side of highway 1. The mixing and matching of holes is splendid. The par-4 14th is well protected by a center-placed desert landscape -- you must decide if the more riskier right side if worth the effort or play out left and take on a far longer approach. There's also a keen false front so the approach must be executed flawlessly.
Weiskopf does give player an opportunity to make up a bit of ground with the par-5 15th. But, just as quickly, you then encounter the downhill par-3 16th at 234 yards. The hole is framed with the Sea of Cortez in the distance and the green is another that's diagonally positioned -- from lower right to back left. Anyone taking on the left side needs to carry all the way to the hole. Weiskopf does provide a bailout area but there's no automatic chip'n putt for par from that side.
The two final par-4's are well done and each uniquely different. The 17th plays 435 yards and swings hard from right-to-left. The more you can challenge the left side the easier the approach will be. The downhill approach is another well defended -- when the pin is placed deep on the rear right it takes a jewel cutter's nerve to be that precise with the approach knowing full well that a slight tug left is a watery grave.
The downhill 18th is a both a scenic panorama with the Sea of Cortex once again in full view. Here you have to decide how aggressive with the tee shot do you wish to be. The pond from the 17th becomes a manmade serpentine stream that works its way down the left side at the 18th and cuts 20 or so yards in fron of the green. If you opt to attack the right side fairway bunker you may not realize a much smaller bunker that lies just beyond it. Pull the tee shot too far left and the stream lurks. The green is angled to the right and when the flagstick is placed to the far right corner it can be a real test of nerve and skill to fire at it. Yet, once again, Weiskopf does provide sufficient bailout area for those who can't get to the green in two strokes.
I have played my share of Weiskopf courses -- whether in concert with his former partner Jay Morrish or those Tom did solo. The Desert Course was no easy task in routing a course in such unforgiving terrain. Add in the elevations encountered and road crossings and getting the appropriate balancing act is truly something to marvel at.
The Desert does not have the "wow" factor found at other Cabo courses -- namely its big brother Ocean Course right next door. Ditto for the likes of Diamante, Quivira and Palmilla. But to consistently score you need to play quality shots and the range of different hole types is a testament to Weiskopf in giving players an ebb and flow experience that works very well. Those who come to Cabo del Sol and only play The Ocean Course will clearly be missing out.
M. James Ward
I played this course twice the same week during last April from different tees and different wind direction and strentgh which made it 2 extremely different course and very fun to play.
The first time was on my own on a fast twilight round from the gold tees while the second was with customers/friends playing a fun competitive tournament which made it a quite more serious round.
And I have to say it is not only a great complement to the Ocean course but also a great venue, amazing design, fantastic views from the Ocean and extremely well kept. It is not common these days to find a course in the Caribbean with bermuda grass this close to the sea, which makes it a challenge to mantain. But here at Cabo they manage to keep it great and tight.
There are some great golf holes out there like uphill par 5 3rd hole where you can get home in 2 or find trouble to get in 3 depending on wind. 4th is a great short downhill par 4 where iy you can hit it over 270yds you have to take the risk, it is well worth but avoid the left (and the right too!).
Short par 3 5th is unfair, into the wind the false front will make your ball roll back will downwind God help you to hold the ball on the green, I would for sure make a change to a more forgiving green complex.
Par 4 7th is even too short from the Gold Tee and from the tee there is nothing you can imagine, it is once you have played it that a better idea gets into your mind as how to play it. You mus have a yardage book and a GPS watch to decide what to hit off the tee.
Par 5 9th with that forced carry is one of the great golf holes, the more agressive you go the bigger the price and the risk as well.
Par 5 12th is another great, where the carry from the gold tee is not for everyone and even more into the wind as I played it from that tee-
Par 3 16th with the elevated tee with views of the ocean is maybe the most picturesque hole, I hit a hybrid into the wind and a 7 iron downwind so the difference according to wind and set of tees can be huge.
17th is great but again shows little off the tee for first timers and if you plan a golf vacation playing only once here you might have many not nice surprises after golf shots you believe are the correct ones.
18th is a not long par 4 totally downhill going back to the Club House with water in front. The problem is you don't imagine how much ball can roll down and it is isually tough to find the correct choice.
All the same and with things I would improve, it is a great venue and fun game. If you go, ask for yardage book and be intelligent of the tee. a good day will bring you a good score!