The spectacular dune landscape found on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula is where American developer Ken Jowdy decided to locate his latest project, calling in the design partnership of Davis Love III and architect Paul Cowley to transform the hilly desert terrain beside the new residential development into one of the best golf courses to open for play around the world in 2010.
It’s the 20th layout that Love Golf Design has built in recent years and the first time the company has moved outside the USA to construct a course. In total, 84 acres of paspalum-grassed fairways weave around a series of enormous sand hills with the back nine – which touch on the residential element of the project between holes 10 and 14 – measuring a meaty 4,010 yards, some 700 yards longer than the front nine.
Such a dramatic site for golf – described by one commentator as “awesome, simple as that” – only surfaces once in a while and Davis Love readily acknowledges that fact saying, “the property is truly spectacular. It will blow away everyone's perception of resort golf. You are either playing towards the ocean, along the ocean or away from the ocean. And then, at times, you're down in the dunes and you pop up and are surprised by the view of the ocean. It's just such a stunning course.”
Diamante played host to the ninth edition of the World Club Championship in November 2012. Considered by some to be the best amateur event in golf, players waxed lyrically about the Dunes course and it was David Abell and Kelly Miller (representing Seminole) that lifted the trophy.
Plenty of people have weighed in about Diamante and the holes encountered but there's been no real discussion about a major element clearly missing.
Diamante is located in a very windy locale. There's a clear reason why the bulk of courses were created on the Sea of Cortez side. The wind speeds encountered on that side are relatively predictable. The flip side is having golf on the more turbulent Pacific side. It's not uncommon for winds to reach 4-5 club differentials.
Now, dealing with wind is part and parcel of golf. But, the issue that holds a major anchor around the neck of Diamante deals with the usage of seashore paspalum as the turf choice. When golf is located along areas where wind is clearly an obstacle i's incumbent to have a turf type allowing for maximum versatility so players can use a ground game option when the aerial approach becomes problematic.
Diamante is without question spectacularly beautiful and the natural dunes is simply riveting. So much of the positive vibe the course rightly gets is tied to this aspect. paspalum thrives in warm climates and clearly Cabo has an incredible number of hot sunny days in a given year. The grass can handle heavy foot traffic and is not as water dependent as other types. The aesthetic is also a plus and when held against the natural dunes and glistening white sand bunkers the photogenic nature of the course clearly stands out.
In my experiences when paspalum is used it provides a near perfect lie when balls find the fairway. Just be prepared for balls to often "stick" and have little to no appreciable rollouts. Therein becomes the issue with Diamante Dunes and likely with other future course designs in the area.
Plenty of the hype about Diamante is how it resembles the world renown links courses of Scotland and Ireland. Davis Love III says as much in a promotional video for the facility. While the "look" may be present -- the "playing" dimension is clearly not there. The fascination and enduring appeal of links golf as found in Ireland and the UK is the elasticity in how courses present themselves. The golfer who can't carry the ball sufficient distance can use the ground to get one's ball to the target. Without elasticity you have a clear recipe for a course that will simply favor only one type of play predominantly.
Let me flip this around -- if the links courses from Ireland and the UK had to use paspalum the standing they have attained using fescue would be dramatically different and quite rightly far less so.
Diamante is also limited with a front side routing that's fairly simple -- going out and back and following a general parallel alignment with the Pacific Ocean. As I said at the outset the location is seductive, intoxicating and the experience you receive from the customer side is clearly at the highest of VIP levels. I mean how many places provide their own segregated hitting bay area on the practice area and with music to boot? For some the quality of the tacos, burritos, tequila, etc, etc, will be on the same equal footing with the golf. Ditto the personalized customer service which clearly is top shelf. For me, lasting memorability comes from the core foundation found front and center through the architecture and how the ground is prepared to maximize that.
Keep in mind this, the course has changed since its inception. When I first played the course the closing hole was a long par-4 turning left in the drive zone. That hole is now gone because of internal development issues. There's also been a change with the short par-3 10th added -- followed by a long par-4 which used to be a long par-5. The former 12th and 13th holes no longer exist and fortunately were altered with two new holes located at the 13th and 14th hole slots. The new holes are a better addition and more in character with the motif of the layout but hardly world class level.
The outward nine is a good mixture of holes bolstered considerably by the immersive nature of the dunes that frame many of the holes. But, the nature of what lies within the dunes line itself is not all-world. Among my favorites include the short par-4 4th with its split fairway ultimatum. The par-4 9th is also top tier demanding two extremely well-placed shots -- one off the tee and then following-up with a first rate approach to a green that provides no quarter for the half-hearted play.
The new par-3 10th is simply sufficient. It fails to really elicit anything more than being a hole connector. As a good counterpoint the uphill par-3 12th is a quality hole and worthy of special mention.
For me, the real juice with Diamante comes when you get to the par-5 15th. This is truly a big time 3-shot par-5 when the prevailing wind is into one's face. The lasting dimension is the putting surface. Sitting above the fairway and providing a real test of nerve with the approach and aided by the aforementioned jaw-dropping scenery.
The remaining trio take you to the beach area and have been sufficiently outlined by others. They collectively each bring much to the forefront -- both visually and strategically. I am personally glad to see the par-5 17th now the closing hole. However, the encroachment of the hotels just to the right of that fairway does rob the clean vistas formerly there and does add a bit of clutter.
Look, ply individuals with enough quality food, drink and people serving you at your very whim as if you were the Crawleys from Downton Abbey and tie that to a world class view where land and water meet and ipso facto it's presumed the golf is equal, or even better, to the task at-hand. Sorry, not buying it.
Diamante reminds me of Old Head in Ireland. The same people who rave about Old Head being a legitimate world top 100 course fail to see the how many pedestrian holes are in the mix even with such an awesome setting. Diamante is the Mexican equivalent but without being as obvious. I can only wonder if architects such as Doak, Hanse, Phillips, DeVries, Coore & Crenshaw and a few others, had such a site what they would have done differently. No matter. The usage of paspalum would likely have still been the turf of choice.
There is no question dunes land is very, very special and rightly so. In all the world how many such natural sites can possibly exist? Diamante will no doubt draw people to its riveting location -- no less than Hillary was drawn to Everest.
As I said at the outset, Diamante is ill-served by the turf type used. I cannot say it enough but the spellbinding nature of the property can easily seduce people in believing the golf found there is on an equal, or even superior plane. Yes, the golf is present in those specific narrow moments, yet not enough consistently as proponents tout for inclusion as a World Top 100 layout.
M. James Ward
Amazing design, condition, and views. I could have done without the undulations in the fairways. Greens were consistent and in great shape. Super fun experience!
The Dunes at Diamante, a design by Davis Love III, for me was the best course I have played in Mexico. A lot of people criticize Diamante Dunes for being included in the top 50 of Golf Magazine’s Top 100 in the World. Many do not say it belongs. I liked it a lot and of the 706 different golf courses I have currently played, I have it at 109 as I gave it high marks for strategy, use of terrain, playability, and memorability. I also thought all of the holes were above average, although none completely blew me away. They are just solid golf holes. Finally, I was impressed with the green complexes, particularly the variety of them as well as the defenses.
I liked Diamante Dunes because I felt it had a lot of strategy. The back nine was clearly more interesting than the front nine as you are in the dunes more often. I thought the better holes are 3-5, 9, 11 (now 12) and the former 15-18 (now 14-17). I was impressed with the finish to the course. We played the 6536 tees which have a rating of 71.6/135 while the back tees are 7022 with a rating of 74.1/141. Much like Querencia, I wished there was a set of combo tees at 6800 yards.
I really liked how the wind sometimes came into play and sometimes you were sheltered in the dunes. I liked the blind shots when they occurred although they were infrequent. I liked how you played in open space, in the dunes, up and over the dunes, down into the dunes, and the holes with the views of the water. I thought there was really good mounding in the turf, which is kept in excellent condition. This links-like golf course allows you to get some extra roll on your ball yet playing into the greens you rarely had to consider taking one less club as the greens held the approach shots much like a parkland golf course. There is some really lovely contours to the greens but I did not feel any of them were excessive. Finally, I liked how you play in all directions here. The course takes full advantage of the terrain and you feel "free and easy" here.
I played Diamante Dunes in early February, 2019 and in looking at the previous reviews I saw that with the addition of the Hard Rock Hotel( being built when I played) that the routing on the back nine has been changed quite a lot versus the course I played. The routing I played was really special and ended spectacularly.
Below are the previous yardages and pars versus the now yardages and pars:
10 – 3/172 now 4/568
11 – 4/507 now 3/209
12 – 3/ 211 now 5/592
13 - 5/516 now 4/425
14 - 4/380 now 5/600
15 - 5/587 now 4/390
16 – 4/432 now 3/154
17 – 3/175 now 5/588
18 – 5/590 now 4/484
I think I can figure out what they did with the completion of the hotel by adding distances to some holes and eliminating the previous tenth, sliding everything else forward but adding a new eighteenth. That is a pity as the previous routing was really special. Is this new routing enough to send me back to play it again? Well, there are about 300 different golf courses I would like to get to: “so much golf, so little time.” One thing is certain in that the back nine remains approximately 700 yards longer than the front nine.
Note: even the yardages on the front nine have been changed slightly in the past year the holes remain the same.
The first hole plays from an elevated tee and is a par 5 at 534/504. The tee shot carries a waste area of some length depending on the tee chosen. There is a wide-open expanse to the right of this dogleg slightly left of a large dune running the length of the hole with sand and a few trees on the left. A single pot bunker guards the middle of the fairway on the tee shot. I went left into the sand with a tree in my way, but had a reasonable chance at recovery until I left it short in the pot bunker near the front of the green. The green sits back to the left against the dune. It is a reasonably easy starting hole but you can only get away perhaps with one mistake, not two. It is a reasonably flat hole but has some nice rolling humps in the fairway after the tee shot.
The second is a long par 3 of 229/215 that goes back in the other direction. This plays slightly downhill into a natural bowl with the green surrounded by higher Dunes. The slope in front of the green will move a ball struck short left to right if you avoid the bunker and tree. The left side of the green is more accessible than the right side as a bunker eats into the center left of the green which has some nice slopes on the back end of either side.
The third hole is a par 4 of 392/365 playing as a dogleg left running between dunes on either side. The best line is from the center or right side of the fairway but two fairway bunkers in the middle of the fairway must be avoided starting around 260 yards out. There are also two fairway bunkers on the right but I felt they did not really come into play. Another bunker is greenside on the right as you hit uphill into a large green. The green is slanted back to front and left to right. You can miss the green slightly left and still make it on.
The fourth hole is a short par 4 of 358/323 and is meant as a driveable par 4 for the longer hitters depending on the wind although they have to clear a dune line to a higher/elevated fairway. This is a fine risk-reward hole as I played down the fairway and was left with a short pitch up to the elevated green which is narrow. A miss long is trouble due to the sand behind the green. The green does have a bunker to the right front and bunkers to the left front. The green is tilted left to right. I found this to be a fun hole and an easy hole but one that felt very natural and took advantage of the higher dune and lower dune.
A par 3 of 154/143 follows next and you get a view of the Pacific Ocean. There is a bunker short and right of the green which is very tilted. I was impressed by the beauty and creativity of this hole which has slightly higher dune levels on either side but with the open view of the green.
Six is a par 5 of 475/465 that plays as a dogleg left with a tighter fairway due to the long bunker on the left side of the fairway. The green sits back up in the dunes. When I played the hole, the wind was low and the hole was too easy as a par five but I did appreciate how the fairway wound itself through the dunes.
The seventh is a long par 3 of 290/247. From an elevated tee you play across a valley of sand and vegetation back up a bit to a green that has sand and vegetation areas to the right. For some this could play two clubs less but I played only a club less as I was told by a playing partner of the backstop long and left of the green that can bring balls hit too far back onto the green.
Another short par 4 comes next at 374/355 eighth which I thought felt “manufactured” due to the large bunker on the left side of the green and the bunkers farther down in the middle of the fairway. Longer players will try to drive over this green for a shorter pitch into the green. Due to a bunker on the right front of the green I also felt it was obvious to play into the green from the left side. There is a slope left of the green that one can use to get onto the green with a lesser club which I thought diminished the hole a bit.
A longer par 4 finishes the front nine at 484/440. The safe play is down the left side as a bunker on the right is quite large although there are also two to the left. The second shot is through a narrower area of the fairway and requires one to carry the arroyo/waste area. The green has a steep slope on the front and has ripples in it. I loved this golf hole and thought it was the best constructed on the front side. But I also may have loved it also for the many cacti on this hole. It is a gem.
And from here I might be guessing a bit due to the changes made to the back nine. For example, the tenth is now a par four of 568/507 whereas for me it played as 507/453. From an elevated tee this hole has a wide, with a rolling fairway. The approach shot is uphill to a green with no bunkers. The bail out area is to the right side of the green.
Next is a longer par 3 of 209/180. This hole is plays longer as it is uphill, you cross over a sand ravine and perched on a dune. There is a large, deep bunker on the left and a bunker front right. The green feels very narrow from so far away and has a ridge line on the right middle. It is a wonderful hole to play and situated perfectly at the top of this dune. In addition, compared to the other par 3’s this plays very differently with the uphill and different looking green. This has a wonderful view of the ocean/Baja peninsula at the green, but maybe the view is now blocked?
What was once a shorter par 5 of 516 yards appears to now be a par five of some length 592/575 facing back at the mountains. The twelfth plays again from an elevated tee where you hit to a wide fairway on this sort of double dogleg hole. The second shot has to avoid a bunker on the left eating into the fairway. The third shot needs to avoid a pot bunker on the right of the green.
The thirteenth is a par 4 of 425/392 yards with a slope in the fairway from right to left. There is a deep bunker on the front left of the green. From another elevated tee, I liked how this hole went down with the green sort of tucked into the dune on the right. The green has a fair amount of undulations.
The long par 4 fourteenth comes next at 600/568 yards. From another elevated tee the fairway looks narrow and gets narrower as you proceed towards the green, leaving only a sliver of fairway for the final 60 yards or so into the green which is situated up on a shelf. While there is a huge bail-out are to the right for the tee shot, should you go there you really limit the options for the distance for your second shot. I do not recall a bunker on this hole but it does not need any there is so much danger if you go offline at any point.
A shorter par 4 of 390/359 follows and plays relatively flat although the fairway has a higher area to the right side which ends at a arroyo/waste area that then continues to the center and right side of the green, which also has no bunkers. The left side of the fairway almost feels like a walking path only as it is very narrow.
The short par 3 sixteenth of 154/130 (was 175) comes next. I liked the elevated green with the run-offs as well as the waste area eating into the front side.
Seventeen (formerly the 18th?) plays at 588/536 and is an outstanding hole. It plays slightly uphill until the final pitch/approach shot which is very uphill to the raised green perched on a shelf. After clearing a long waste area, there are three small waste areas crossing the fairway to capture a tee shot (I went in the middle one). The hole attempts to confuse you by being a double dogleg but actually it is relatively straight. The green tilts back to front and was one I regret missing a four feet putt to save par. I liked how the hole provided a chance at recovery but demanded everything from you. It felt very natural to me.
I do not believe I played the new eighteenth hole so I cannot comment on it. It is listed as a long par 4 of 484/444 yards. However, the previous par 3 tenth hole of 172/158 I thought was merely interesting but not in the same league as the other par 3’s.
For a course of this caliber, it is worth a trip to the area just to play it? It is an outstanding golf course with its many twists and turns and use of dunes and having so many different lengths to each category of par. Certainly there are other reasons to visit Cabo San Lucas/Baja Peninsula/Sea of Cortex. The ocean color is spectacular and the food is terrific. Querencia and the two courses at Cabo Del Sol are very worthwhile (I only played the Ocean twice). So with all of that added in, yes, one should make the trip to play Diamante Dunes. I did not play El Cardinal while I was there and could have. Some have told me I did not miss much; others have said it is worth playing. I did not have the Hard Rock Hotel l to consider as it was only in the process of being built but it would likely bother me now if noise drifted over from it. But I do know this, in my opinion, Diamante Dunes is very good and one can certainly make the case that it should be in the World Top 100.
Diamanté dunes was a very good of course, but I don’t feel it is worthy of its number one ranking in Mexico. Links style with a great deal of exaggerated mounding, many of the holes feel repetitive. However, I do endorse the halfway house tamales.
Having played the Ocean Course at Cabo Del Sol the day prior which, in some rankings, is in the top 100, I was not prepared for the difference in quality as the Dunes is well deserving of the ranking and blows the Ocean Course away. The magnificence of the sand dunes, which come into play on most of the holes, was stunning. Similar in some ways to links in Ireland and some in Scotland but much warmer! The service is outstanding and the comfort stations that you encounter every 3 or 4 holes are fantastic for the food and drink. Pace of play can be 4.5 hours due to the frequent stops but this is a fantastic golf course and I'm glad to have played there on both windy and calm days. Only quibbles are that some of the par 3's are ridiculously long, even downwind, but the course is overall fair but challenging. Also the 17th hole has become 18 due to the addition of the Hard Rock and Nobu hotels which also caused the shifting of dunes on a signature hole and the loss of an unobstructed view of the ocean. Still this is an unbelievable course that should be played if you have the chance.
It was a long awaited visit as in 2014 in my previous trip to Los Cabos I was not able to even get inside the property. But this time with some time in advance and help from a friend I was able to play one of the best courses in the world, who in some rankings is a top 50 (and I believe it deserves the spot!).
It was not a one day visit, before play I had to go to an interview and was showed the different lodging alternatives, the par 3 Oasis Course (designed by Tiger Woods) and some parts at El Cardonal and after that interview I got my spot to play the following day.
My tee time was scheduled at 2pm and was told to arrive not before 12:30pm which I of course did as I was told. Once you arrive to the entrance of the Resort the guy in the gate will know your name, your tee time and everything from you. Even at the Club House the guys that receives you, the starter, the waiter at the palapa in the driving range where you have lunch will know who you are. Is it nice? More than it, just shows how they treat you and what you are about to experience.
Once arrived I was taken to the driving range where after a nice and private practice session I had lunch in the palapa with some iguanas walking around me, not bad!!!
It was a little disappointing to play on my own, but there was nobody there and it was just my caddie and me. I decided to play the Tee II (6700yds par 71) which with the wind blowing I considered an enough challenge together with fun.
The course is not like every other Caribbean paspalum grass one, it is sort of wild, like an UK Links course but by the Sea of Cortez with different grass and less roll from the tee shots. It was really windy and tough but I played some really good golf which made it a lot of fun although playing alone.
Each hole has a challenge, each one has a trademark, everything is totally special. Again, describing every hole could be find on the internet, will try to say what is special:
- Tee 1st elevated to the fairway offers a very nice view of the course and ocean.
- Par 3 2nd played totally downwind, elevated again from the green where you need some roll to get to the green
- Elevated green on 3rd offers quite a challenge playing into the wind.
- Par 3 5th has a very wide and shallow green, with wind acorss I was left with a 20mts putt for birdie.
- Par 3 7th played 250 downwind, hit a hybrid to that green
- Par 4 9th with the false green like Mackenzie did at 10th of Jockey Club Red Course is something I loved!
- Par 3 10th is a new hole, done because old 18th was torn away to build a hotel.
- Par 4 11th from an elevated tee has maybe the best tee shot on the course.
- On 12th green you can see 9-10-11 from Neighbour Quivira, nicest part of the course.
- Par 4 14th downwind was drivable.
- Par 3 17th into the wind played something like 30yds longer
- Par 5 18th is a great hole but playing downwind and if you miss the tee shot it is impossible to hold the ball from 80yds
The walk with my caddie was very enjoyable, he knew perfectly well the course and every piece of advice was useful for me.
On 14th hole I was let through by the owner of the project, I felt really embarrassed after driving the green 3 putting from 12mts.
Everything here is about discretion and quality. Had the chance to eat some wraps after the game and it was the best food I ate in 10 days at Los Cabos.
It is not easy to get here, but if you have the chance go and play. I know many wil lwant to play El Cardonal (Tiger Woods Design) but this one has a better piece of land and design, it is for some reason that it is a top 50 course in the world.
Had the pleasure of a first visit to Diamante Dunes in October. Stamped with Davis Love’s trademark, the Dunes course is a work of art from course architect Paul Cowley and what a wonderful course his labor of love has sculpted from these ferocious dunes here in Cabo. The scale of the site is very impressive as is the sheer space available and isolated feeling you have while playing. If the heat permits the course has been set up to be a wonderful walk with only a couple longer treks in-between holes like from 9 to 10. Truth be told most people won’t walk the course given the high temperatures there. I did in about 95 degrees and it was very reasonable with plenty of water available. The routing from tee to green is excellent. The mix and variety of holes is extremely diverse and tremendously fun to play.
Given the sand based conditions and warm weather the course plays quite firm and fast though the grasses are naturally warm weather grasses so not quite as easy to play bump and run shots as on your traditional links turf from the UK and Ireland. The greens are large and wonderfully shaped tying in naturally to the surrounds, dunes and native areas. Normally the site is windy given its location on the Pacific but during my stay there was little wind to speak of.
The course can play as long as you like with the back tees stretching to around 7400 yds. I played safe and stuck with the 6800 yd tees but had to smirk when I arrived at the 250 yd par 3 7th that was put back to like 270 yds on the day. Normally this hole plays down wind. Beautiful hole just a brute at those lengths.
Again I would have to return to the scale of some of the holes, to me they have this kind of enormous feeling of space which is rather unique and massive and it comes back over and over again throughout the round. Many of the holes appear further away than they are and the dunes make the targets often look far smaller than they are. In fact, quite the contrary there is a huge amount of short grass making the course very playable for all levels. It’s not a course where you lose balls easily unless you start hacking it into the native areas which I wouldn’t recommend given the many different creatures like snakes, scorpions and spiders I’d suggest avoiding.
During my visit they were on the back end of some sizeable changes, a new par 3, 10th hole was added and the 17th became the new 18th. An excellent finishing par 5 with a challenging elevated green to approach. The 10th a short par 3 with a huge green was still a work in progress and perhaps every so slightly out of context to the rest of the course but that has already since been slightly improved with the addition of a new bunker to give the player more to consider while standing on the tee.
Diamante Dunes resort has been set up as a real estate development and time-share resort. While this seems like a successful formula for them I sincerely hope that they open up the course a little more for keen golfers visiting Cabo as it tremendously adds to the variety and quality of the local golf offering.
I’ll most certainly be back someday!
The 5 star hospitality starts the minute you pull up. Each group has a chaperone that escorts you into the pro-shop, then to the locker room and then escorts you to the driving range. It’s all very formal, but it’s a novelty worth enjoying. No money was spared at this place, and the isolated location of the club attracts the world’s wealthiest – and with Tiger stamping his name to the place, the club should flourish. The Dunes course was available to the public for a while when it opened to assist with selling properties, then it closed to members only, and now you can book tee times on the website again. We could tell that they would take money from anybody in order to keep revenues up. The driving range has all the luxuries one would expect at a place like this. Pyramids of Pro-v1s for as far as the eye can see, comfort stations and perfectly manicured lawns and greens. If you don’t mind having iguanas hanging out on the rocks nearby, then you should be able to blend in with the environment. The first hole is a par 5 to get things going. There’s about 150 yards carry over waste land to a generous fairway. It’s reachable in two shots for the longer hitters, although the hole does move right to left with plenty of obstacles in the way. The greens on the Dunes course are noticeably large and this characteristic continues throughout offering plenty of pin placements. Unlike other golf clubs down in Cabo, this course has a reputation of being excessively windy, and the day we played was no different. Davis Love’s opening stretch is a par 5, par 3, par4 and a par 4. There’s a slight back and forth feeling, but the challenge is thrilling. There are more hump and bumps in the fairways, changes in elevation, playing between v-shape valley dunes, teeing the ball across diagonal lines and hitting knock-down shots to keep the ball under the wind than you can keep up with. It’s like elements of Sand Hills and Royal Birkdale were given a work permit and moved to Mexico. The feeling of links golf is tremendously welcome and monumentally different than the other courses in the area. I found myself hitting the ball into punchbowls, playing bump and run shots from 60 yards out and compressing iron shots off my back foot more times than I could remember. The only difference with Scotland is that I was putting on factor 50 sun cream in between holes like it was going out of fashion.
The par 5 6th hole was most memorable for me on the front side, although many other holes impressed me. You tee off over a large waste area to a diagonal fairway moving right to left. The ball seems to hang in the area longer than you’d like, but if you’re fortunate to catch the fairway, you’re then left with a uphill approach shot through a narrow gap to a green surrounded by high dunes. It’s really well designed and everybody in the group greatly appreciated the architecture. The 7th is a long par 3 which moves away from the water to a large punchbowl green 210 yards away. It reminded me a little of the 5th at the Kingsley Club. The 8th is the weakest hole on the front side with its oversized fairway and not much more than a wedge for an approach shot. The course jumps right back into top 100 status with the long par 4 9th hole. Avoiding the well placed bunker complexes leaves you with the toughest decision you’ll face all day. The green has two tiers, but the top tier is about 10 feet above the bottom tier. With the pin on the back on the day I faced it, getting the yardage absolutely perfect was a must. If you miss that green or don’t get on the correct level, you’ll need to pull something out of a hat to make par.
The 10th hole is arguably a par 5, but it’s a par 4 on the card. The hole has no bunkers, but plays to a fairway the size of an aircraft carrier and goes uphill to a green 500 yards away. With the prevailing wind not really assisting, I hit a driver and 1 iron and just came up short. To the average golfer, this hole is not fair. The 11th is a world class par 3 playing uphill to a two tier green, similar to the likes of Ballybunion. You can already tell from this review that elements from around the world were nicely incorporated (if you can spot them), but NOT copied. I can’t stand golf courses which copy holes from around the world. Davis Love leveraged his international experience superbly at this venue and it certainly does not feel fake or forced to mirror the giants in Scotland. To the right of the 11th green is a sea of undeveloped sand which looks like the gates to heaven. It’s vast, untouched nature takes your breath away and is Diamante’s best kept secret.
The biggest news at this venue is what to do with the 12th and 13th. They are on a stretch of land which is wide open and doesn’t offer much in terms of excitement. 12 is a par 5 that plays down a slight hill, and 13 turns right around and comes right back up again. There’s a water feature in between the fairways, but the holes are pretty bland and forgettable. The club has decided that these holes will be taken out of commission in the near future and they will route 12 and 13 over the undeveloped land on the other side of the par 3 11th, which should be impressive beyond all levels of the imagination. Seeing that piece of land is a sight I will never forget. The 14th and 15th bring you back towards the Sea and gear you up for a strong finish. The 16th is a short signature par 3 playing straight towards the water and truly remarkable. You really feel like you’re sitting at the edge of the world just standing on that green. As always, the wind blows at you all day and club selection to this small target warrants the 6 man discussion on the tee box. From the 15th and 16th holes, you get a front row seat of Tiger’s course and how the land is being shaped. You can see where he has the fairways routed and we can only hope that it’s a success for him. The 17th is a par 5 which heads back towards the clubhouse. It’s all about the second shot here. The green sits up on a heavily guarded bluff 25 feet above the fairway and is as tempting as an ice-cream on a hot day. Shall I go for it and eat the Cornetto? Or lay up and settle for the boring ham sandwich? Let’s just say that I like ice-cream and my 3 iron was given the full treatment. It’s a really impressive hole and it’s all there in front of you. By laying up, I witnessed my fellow players struggling with judging the wedge shot and the green almost plays away from you which only adds to the difficulty. Top marks.
The 18th is a cape style hole which dog-legs right to left and requires you to carry over a ravine onto a small landing area (you can’t see much from the tee but there’s ample fairway once you get there). The danger is all below you to the left, so don’t get quick hands! The green plays downhill and to the left and with the wind blowing in your face, nobody had less than a 5 iron into this final target. A running theme on the Dunes course is that it’s demanding, punishing, rewarding and overflowing with outstanding design variety. It was our favourite course on the trip and we certainly would play it again at a moment’s notice. It’s a course you really want to play well on as you can tell it’s a world class venue, most notably as it recently hosted the World Club Championships. There are some golf courses worth the extra effort to find, and Diamante (Dunes) is on the short list.