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.
Date: October 27, 2019