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Los Cabos Marathon

29 January, 2015

Los Cabos Marathon

The rush to a new golfing Mecca

29 January 2015

Although I used to do some running as a complimentary activity, during 2014 I became a more serious “runner” having completed five races including the 42km Buenos Aires Marathon. Although this trip to Mexico was not a race, it was just as demanding.

We were invited to attend this Familiarisation (FAM) Trip last November. We’re a Golf Tour Operator based in Argentina, called WeGolf, and we thought it would be a great opportunity to meet a new destination where we believed golfers from all over the world might enjoy golf programs in the future. On December 2nd everything was set and we departed from Buenos Aires to Los Cabos via Mexico City, arriving there on December 3rd at noon. A lot of planning was done in the previous two weeks, as we wanted to take advantage of every minute, to ensure we came away with a comprehensive picture of what Los Cabos can offer as a golfing destination.

The FAM trip was scheduled to start with a cocktail party and a welcome reception, but there was some time between my arrival and this gathering, so I decided a round of golf on a course not included on the itinerary was the best way to spend the afternoon, instead of laying by a swimming pool or on the beach. So I arranged a round at Club Campestre San Jose and I played the 18 holes in just two and a half hours.

Club Campestre San José – December 3rd 2014

The best way to play a course is not to do it after a long haul plus another two-hour flight, but it was my only option to play San José and I thought it was worthwhile to make the effort. We landed at 12pm and went straight to the course, a quick shower and directly out to play on my own. Two and a half hours was enough to complete the round including a big Club Sandwich at the half way bar located in the clubhouse.

San José has Seashore Paspalum tee to green and believe me it was kept in pristine shape with greens rolling at a speed akin to Dwarf Bermuda. Although you have a sea views from every spot of the course, it is not near the coast. The piece of land is a typical one from this part of México and architect Jack Nicklaus did a fantastic job around greens, where precision is needed. Being on the wrong side will raise serious chipping and putting difficulties. It is not an impossible course to score on though. It is tough but fair and from the tees you sometimes need to be clever and sometimes brave to take your chance with heroic carries.

Some holes are really strong. The uphill short par four 5th hole has a very tough green, if short you may end 40 yards away from the pin. The par three 6th is the signature hole and the island green par five 7th is maybe the best hole on the course. The par three 15th is one of the highlights on the back nine and the par five 17th is not reachable in two and the approach shot is very demanding. The home hole has a split fairway and if you go on the left side, the carry from the tips is almost 270 yards.

San José is great layout and the club provide extremely high quality of service. Being close to the airport, this course maybe the best option for arrival and departure days. Do not miss the chance to experience a course kept as immaculately as the private layouts in Florida.

Immediately after I finished the round, we were taken back to Secrets Hotel before the real “Marathon” started. After a quick freshen up, we whisked off to the welcome party for drinks, followed by dinner in the hotel’s fabulous Italian restaurant. A long day had ended but it was the beginning of the discovery of a fantastic golfing holiday destination.

Puerto Los Cabos Golf Club – December 4th 2014

We got up 6.30am and at 7.30am we were off for the first round of the II Copa Los Cabos, a fun golf tournament for all the Tour Operators attending the trip. The round at Puerto Los Cabos was the first “official” round of golf of this FAM Trip. Although we were playing a fun tournament of four rounds, the most important part of the trip was to experience the courses in order to be able to advise potential customers what to expect of a trip to the delightful Los Cabos.

It was a great beginning to play a course which has nine holes by Greg Norman and another nine by Jack Nicklaus. In the future the club expects to have 18 holes from each designer, but I really loved the experience of playing a course designed by two of my boyhood heroes. I need to add that the transition from one half to the other is so smooth that, if you are very focused on the game, you do not feel that you have changed the designer in the middle of the layout.

The Norman front nine starts with an uphill short par four where the second shot is tough to hold the ball on the green. 2nd and 3rd (par three and four) are downhill and you get the first nice views of the sea. 4th is nothing special but the 5th is a strong dogleg to the right short par four with a blind tee shot where long hitters will get home with the driver. And then 6 and 7 are two of the most spectacular holes on the property: 6th is a downhill 200-yard par three with fabulous views of the sea and Cabo San José, while 7 is a downhill par five towards the ocean, although it is not by the shoreline. The last two holes on the front nine are a pair of uphill par fours where the tee shots are very demanding, especially the 8th. The back nine starts with a very uphill three-shot par five, which is a typical hole you might see in Sotogrande. 11th is a short and tricky par three with a huge green (I made a 50 footer for birdie) and 12 is a long downhill par five only reachable for very long hitters. 13th is a nice short par four with a tough approach shot and 14, in my opinion, is the best hole on the course: A mid-length par five dogleg to the right with serious trouble on the right for the tee shot, while the second shot is to a green that ends on the beach – it’s really breathtaking. If you lay up, then the view for your approach is maybe the best on the course. 15th is by the ocean and it’s a very nice short par three, then 16-17-18 are three very strategic par fours, where the tee shot at 18th is maybe the most demanding drive of them all.

Altogether, it is a course I would always want to play. It’s well maintained, greens rolled pretty fast, there’s variety in design, the comfort stations after every four holes give you the chance of some tequila, tacos, Bloody Mary and a lot more. The course suffered after Hurricane Odile crashed through on 15.09.2014, but two months later Puerto Los Cabos was almost perfect, with only the clubhouse requiring more time to complete the repairs. It’s a very well operated course, which was a pleasure to play, but if you are not used to playing on paspalum grass, remember it is sticky and you need to be very sharp with your sort game.

After the round we headed back to the Hotel to enjoy some time off around the pool, which is just 100 metres from the beach, with some fantastic views of the course. Later in the afternoon the group was invited to do a Site Inspection at Club Campestre (which I had played the previous day) during the twilight and the scenery was simply fantastic. After that, a presentation by the Tourism Board at Art & Wine, a fabulous dinner, a walk along Cabo San José and back to the hotel after a very long day.

Cabo del Sol (Ocean) – December 5th 2014

Before the round, after leaving the hotel again at 7.30am and having packed and checked out, as we were changing our lodging to Sheraton at Cabo San Lucas, we were headed to Palmilla Hotel to do a site inspection and check out the courses, which were closed due to the damage caused by the hurricane. Storm damage also hit the renowned Cabo Real Golf Course (RTJ Jr), which at least we could walk and hit some putts on 18th green. It’s a real shame as it looked to be a great course, but damage to the irrigation system was so severe that course had to be closed for over three months.

Then finally we were headed to Cabo del Sol, the Ocean was the most famous course we were going to play, so everyone was pretty excited about the experience at this 36-hole facility. It was a complete day spent at the golf club, but unfortunately we couldn’t play the Desert course (a masterpiece by Tom Weiskopf), but we were lucky to get a guided tour it and it really looks like a must-play.

Esteban Toledo then did a clinic, which not only showed his very high golf skills but also he explained the fitting work he does and how life on Tour goes along for a guy who lost to Tiger Woods twice. This was a very nice touch from the FAM Trip organisers ahead of the shotgun start (4th hole for me) on the Ocean course.

Another nice detail is that we played with three holes with Esteban, which was a memorable experience to see him hit the ball on the course and to see how he prepares for every shot – an unforgettable moment for all of us.

The 1st is an easy starting hole where placing the tee shot is the clue. 2 is a very nice three-shot par five and 3 is a reachable par four, so three good chances of getting quickly under par. At the 4th there’s another good chance for a birdie – a very nice downhill par five with an “island” green surrounded by a sand waste bunker. The 5th gets close to the ocean with the green just by the water and it’s one of the toughest holes on the course, which is followed by two very nice par threes by the ocean. You then move inland from 8 to 15, but this does not mean the holes are inferior.

No.9 is a great par four, uphill for the tee shot and then downhill. 11, a reachable par four with a dual fairway – an easier line on the right and the one on the left, where you need a 250-yard carry, but you can reach the green with the tee shot (I did!). 12 is a very good short par five where you have severe punishment on both sides of the green if you decide to go for it in two. 13 is the toughest par three, downhill and with a stream on the left side before 14, which has the toughest tee shot in the course. 15 is the last hole before returning to the ocean and it’s a downhill reachable par five with a very severely sloped green.

Then you reach the final three holes by the ocean and all three are amazing. Starting with the downhill par four 16th where very long hitters could get home with the tee shot (not me though!) and where the green is just by the ocean providing a very scenic backdrop. The last par three on the course crosses ocean and sand, needing a forced carry of almost 190 yards to a green that’s tough to hold. The final hole needs a precise tee shot ahead of a decent approach to the final green which is set by the sea.

The Ocean is an excellently shaped course with bright paspalum grass in pristine shape and very true and fast rolling greens coupled with some of the destination’s most lovely views. It’s also a very tough course from the tips with some long carries across desert, water and sand. Nicely shaped greens demand precise approach shots and there are scenic views all the way. Service is at very high level, which leaves you wanting to play the course again immediately after finishing the round. It’s certainly one of the best courses I’ve been lucky enough to play and it’s a must play for anyone travelling here to play golf. It is one of the many great courses Los Cabos has to offer and one of the main reasons to visit is to enjoy this Jack Nicklaus layout, which uses a great piece of land and is one of the best courses in the world.

After the round we enjoyed a fantastic early dinner at the clubhouse, where we were able to see the sunset, which gave us one of the nicest moments of the trip. Los Cabos is not only for golf, it is scenically beautiful has an excellent climate and honest, top class hospitality.

After dinner, we headed to Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Hotel and Spa, a fabulous hotel in the other part of the destination, near Cabo San Lucas and very close to the Quivira golf course, which we were scheduled to play the following day. We enjoyed some drinks with the hotel executives and our very kind host, Nubia Saravia, from Turismo Los Cabos at a hotel which shows luxury at the very highest end.

Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons (Kiss band leaders) were also staying at our hotel, and so, as a would-be rocker, I fulfilled my dream of getting a very nice picture. It was a lovely touch in between a lot of golf and business networking.

Quivira Golf Club – December 6th 2014

Once again it was a very early wakeup call and then a transfer to Quivira. Jack Nicklaus officially opened the course a couple of days before we played it and I later found out that he also stayed at the same hotel as us, the Secrets. We were unlucky not to meet him, but at least we played his course. I’ve been lucky enough to have met him twice and every minute spent with Nicklaus was a treasure I’ll keep with me as a golfer forever.

Arrival Quivira confirmed what we had been told before – this piece of land is something really spectacular. It has dunes, level changes, ocean, carries across cliffs, mountains, desert, sun and views of the new Tiger Woods course at Diamante (El Cardonal). It is not only spectacular, but also very well designed and with TE Platinum Paspalum Grass tee to green, it should therefore always be in pristine shape.

We enjoyed a welcome breakfast at the driving range, which was sensational. Warming up and having first-class food and drinks at the same time doesn’t happen too often and the putting green is surrounded by delightful nice landscaping, which makes it very photogenic. It wasn’t even 8.30am and I was already totally satisfied with the experience. Soon it was the Los Cabos Tournament for TTOO and it was another shotgun start, for me on 17.

It’s easier to relate the course from the 1st hole: 1 and 2 (par four and three) are in the desert and are just two solid starting holes, but the reachable uphill par four 3rd is simply a great hole. The par five 4th goes downhill towards the ocean, with a tee box that can make it play 744 yards, with a water carry of 270! Then you move 1km up the hill to comfort station and the two most spectacular holes: the par four 5th is reachable and the dramatic 6th with a cliff all along left side. 7 is a nice par four with the Temple where they filmed Brad Pitt’s Troy movie just beside the tee.

8 is a very nice uphill par four before arriving at the second comfort station which is the highest spot on the course. 9 is a par three in the middle of the desert, with a very tough to read green. Then 10-13 are four of the most spectacular holes in the world: The downhill par five 10th where you see all of Tiger’s course, 11th a decent par four with a very tough approach shot. 12 is a dramatic double dogleg par five with the green towards the cliff and the short 13th has a carry over the water to a very small green. 14 is a peculiar 90° dogleg par four, before the very demanding par five at the 15th where the tee shot needs to be very accurate. The last three par fours head to the clubhouse and towards the ocean, with panoramic views of the city and the sea.

One last thing to add, there are three comfort stations, one at tee #5 (the most spectacular one, just on the cliff), one at tee #9 (over the dunes overlooking the ocean) and the last at tee #16, where tee shot has a drop of 40 metres to the fairway. All served drinks, tequila, nachos, fruit and a many other items which made Quivira an excellent full service experience.

There’s only one thing some golfers may not like at Quivira and that’s the distances from green to next tee are sometimes too long, in some cases over 500 meters. But few complain before hitting the next tee shot after enjoying tequila, nachos, quesadillas, fruit and much more in such delightful surroundings.

After the game we were shown the Casa Dorada Hotel, a very good option in Cabo San Lucas where family can enjoy very comfortable facilities and maybe the best beach shore for kids with an unbeatable location in downtown.

During night we enjoyed one of the best events of the year, “Sabor a Cabo”, which is a gastronomic show where you can taste all typical food and drink from this area of Mexico: Fajitas, barbecue, Mexican food, wine, tequila and a lot more are part of the event which we enjoyed enormously and included spending some more time with Kiss leaders who were given the key of the city after opening their second bar in the Marina area. To finish the day, the Chilean pop band “La Ley” gave a fantastic show. It was late, one more day of golf was ahead of us and I was in second position after a fantastic 71 (-1) round at Quivira and believe me I wanted to win!

Cabo San Lucas Country Club – December 7th 2014

6.30am wake up call, the body was already showing the effect of four very intense days, but there was more to come. We arrived at the club and after being introduced to the local Pro and Manager and we were ready to go after a short warm up session. I was tied for second but my game was on fire although I putted poorly for all four rounds. After 15 holes I was 7 points clear from the second and although I made a terrible double bogey on 18, 74 gross and 36 points was enough to win and add a little more happiness to an already incredible few days.

Cabo San Lucasis the less scenic of all the courses we played, with very little level changes, but this does not mean it is a bad golf course. It is just a bit more ordinary, but there are big challenges with very narrow fairways and fast Bermuda greens. Some holes are great like par the par three 13th where I found my last challenge when my tee shot cleared the water by just a few inches and after a two-putt par the tournament was over. I have to say back-to-back par fives at 15-16, the par three 17th and the 18th are a fitting end to this decent course and a fabulous trip.

Lunch was served inside a tent on the practice tee and we were witnesses to the playoff for second place, which was a lot of fun after yet more drinks. Then it was the prize giving and all we had to say was thank you for being hosted by many kind people at an incredible golfing destination. The tournament was the excuse to take golf a little bit seriously, but not too much, as what was more important during the trip was to experience the courses, enjoy the company and share moments with fellow operators from other countries.

Before leaving the golf course, a picture of all of us together, smiling, shows how we enjoyed the trip and that new friendships were made.

Goodbye Los Cabos! I had a fantastic experience and really hope to come back with many golfers from Argentina. I have to congratulate everybody involved as the destination showed almost no trace of the terrible damage the hurricane had caused some months before.

By Javier Pintos
[email protected]


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