From the moment Jack Nicklaus arrived on the scene in the early 1990s, Los Cabos has been in the midst of an unprecedented golfing boom. Four of its 18 courses were ranked among the World’s 100 Best Courses (U.S. excluded) by Golf Digest in 2018: Querencia, Quivira, The Dunes at Diamante, and the Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol. That’s an astonishing percentage, especially when you consider the first course didn’t open until 1987.
Courses in Los Cabos can be grouped into three basic categories: public, private, and playable with some restrictions or limitations. The Tom Fazio designed Chileno Bay Golf Club, for example, is playable for guests at Chileno Bay Resort; and the Fred Couples designed Twin Dolphin Golf Club is playable for guests at nearby Montage Los Cabos. Quivira, Nicklaus’ spectacular cliffside masterpiece, is accessible to guests at Pueblo Bonito’s four area resorts, and to owners at several neighboring developments. Diamante’s courses from both Davis Love III (The Dunes) and Tiger Woods (El Cardonal and the 12-hole Oasis Short Course) are playable for residents and resort guests at Diamante and the newly opened Nobu Hotel Los Cabos.
Two other highly acclaimed new courses, Rancho San Lucas and Costa Palmas Golf Club, are also playable with some restrictions. Guests at Solmar Hotels & Resorts’ seven local properties, for instance, are all eligible for tee times at the Greg Norman designed course at Rancho San Lucas, while those being pampered at Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos at Costa Palmas can try their luck with Robert Trent Jones Jr.’s challenging CPGC design.
Less complicated are Cabo Real, Cabo San Lucas Country Club, Club Campestre, Palmilla, Puerto Los Cabos and Vidanta. They’re all open to the public. So too is Cabo del Sol’s Desert Course, although that status may be modified to accommodate residential members and guests at the Park Hyatt Los Cabos when the hotel opens at Cabo del Sol in 2022. El Dorado and Querencia, by contrast, are private, members-only clubs. So too is the Cabo del Sol Ocean Course, at least at present, although guests at the nearby Four Seasons Resort and Residences, tentatively scheduled to open in 2023, are expected to have tee time access.
What all the local courses have in common is a stunning mix of terrains and the Pacific Ocean or Sea of Cortés views. Some holes hug the sandy coastline, some meander through the cactus-strewn desert, others climb into the foothills of the mountain range–the Sierra de la Laguna–that forms the spine of Baja California Sur between Los Cabos and La Paz.
Most of the newer layouts also boast luxe amenities and mid-course comfort stations offering cocktails and gourmet snacks. Our top pick, Quivira Golf Club has even opened a steakhouse adjacent to its pro shop, taking the traditional 19th hole concept to an entirely new level.
The Vidanta golf course in San José del Cabo is the oldest in Los Cabos; the granddaddy of them all. It’s modest in comparison to the championship-level layouts that followed, a 9-hole municipal course designed in 1987 by Mario Schjetnan, a prominent Mexico City based architect. Originally known as Punta Sur, the course was later taken over by the Mayan Palace resorts group and is currently managed by Mexican hospitality brand Vidanta. Despite its age, many locals and seasonal players still swear by the place, in large part because it’s the only budget-friendly course in the area. The 3,153-yard layout is generally flat, with narrow fairways, moderate bunkering and one major water hazard. The views are nice but not spectacular, with glimpses of the Sea of Cortés and the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range. Rentals and golf gear are available at the pro shop, and there is a small practice area available.
Recommended for Public Golf Courses because: In addition to being the oldest course in Los Cabos, Vidanta’s Punta Sur is also among the most budget-friendly.
Chris’s expert tip: Practice facilities, including a putting green and short game area, are available.
Yet another great Los Cabos course by Jack Nicklaus, Club Campestre opened in 2007 with a 7,055-yard layout tucked between downtown San José del Cabo and the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna. The sculpted fairways are covered with seashore paspalum, a tropical grass popular in Los Cabos because it’s disease resistant and requires a fraction of the upkeep (including fertilizers and herbicides) needed for more commonly used golf course grasses. Like most local Nicklaus designs, the course features abundant bunkering, dramatic elevation changes, and of course spectacular Sea of Cortés views. The teeth of the course, however, are found on the large, multi-tiered greens, which often make two-putts a challenging proposition.
Recommended for Public Golf Courses because: Yet another local Nicklaus design, Club Campestre is the best course in San José del Cabo.
Chris’s expert tip: Club Campestre boasts the lowest greens fees of the three Questro Group managed golf courses in Los Cabos.
Puerto Los Cabos opened in 2007 with an irresistible twist: the world’s only composite course from Jack “The Golden Bear” Nicklaus and Greg “The Great White Shark” Norman. Norman designed the nine-hole Mission Course, highlighted by its 213-yard 6th, a par-3 with an elevated tee box that looks down from the equivalent of a 10-story building to a bunker fringed green set against a backdrop of nearly 10 miles of jaw-droppingly beautiful coastline. Nicklaus, meanwhile, designed the challenging nine-hole Ocean Course. The plan had always been for each of these nines to be expanded into its own 18-hole course, a plan which came to partial fruition in 2018 when Nicklaus returned to design his second nine-hole layout. The new addition has been dubbed Nicklaus II, to differentiate it from Nicklaus I, as the original Ocean Course is now known. No dates have been announced as yet for Norman’s second nine, so as of this writing Puerto Los Cabos is operating much like Palmilla, in that visiting golfers can mix and match their favorite 18 from the 27 available holes.
Recommended for Public Golf Courses because: Puerto Los Cabos features dueling designs from major champions Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus. Norman designed nine holes, Nicklaus 18.
Chris’s expert tip: Tacos and burritos are among the menu items available at on-course comfort stations.
Palmilla was Jack Nicklaus’ first-course design in Los Cabos and his first of many in Latin America. Brought down at the behest of then prominent developer Don Koll, Nicklaus unveiled his 9-hole Mountain and Arroyo Courses in 1992, returning later in the decade to add another 9-hole Ocean Course. Thus, visiting golfers can now pick and choose their favorite 18 from the 27 available holes. The Ocean Course is the most singularly spectacular, with 600-feet of elevation changes within the first 6-holes and picturesque palm tree framed views of the Sea of Cortés. But all three nines offer challenging conditions and scenic views.
Recommended for Public Golf Courses because: Palmilla was the first Los Cabos and Latin American design by Jack Nicklaus, the man now heralded as the godfather of golf in the region.
Chris’s expert tip: Greens fees include 18-holes, meaning you can play your choice of two of the three nine-hole layouts.
The two greatest golfers in the history of the sport are also building large legacies in Los Cabos. Tiger Woods may have only designed two courses locally to Nicklaus’ six, but these include his first ever completed design, El Cardonal at Diamante, as well as a fun 12-hole short course at Diamante, The Oasis, that is the only par-3 layout of its kind in the region. It’s El Cardonal, however, Woods’ architectural debut, that has drawn the most interest and acclaim. The 7,363-yard course is routed through dunes, desert and arroyos, and was envisioned by its creator as the sort of “old California” course he grew up playing as a kid. “The site is incredible,” he noted when it opened in 2014, adding: “I set up the golf strategy to make golfers think and make choices. Regardless of your handicap, there are going to be different ways to play every hole. Angles of approach are going to be very important and will dictate the type of shots you should consider. I love this kind of golf.” So too will destination golfers.
Recommended for Public Golf Courses because: El Cardonal is the only 18-hole Tiger Woods designed course in Los Cabos.
Chris’s expert tip: Tee time access is restricted to guests at The Resort at Diamante and Nobu Hotel Los Cabos.
Twenty-five years after the opening of Cabo Real, acclaimed golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. returned in December 2019 to unveil his second Los Cabos design: Costa Palmas Golf Club. CPGC is significant for reasons beyond the fame of its creator. It’s the first course of consequence on the East Cape of Los Cabos – a picturesque stretch of coastline that extends over 70 miles from San José del Cabo to Los Barriles – and also heralds the arrival of the ultra-luxury Four Seasons brand in Baja California Sur. CPGC and Four Seasons Los Cabos Resort at Costa Palmas share space at the upscale Costa Palmas development in La Ribera, with guests at the latter granted tee time privileges at the former. The course itself is long (7,221-yards from the tips) and challenging, but a pleasure to play, with gorgeous scenery that ranges from breathtaking backdrops of the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range to the yacht-filled marina and Sea of Cortés beyond. Also pleasurable are the two on-course comfort food stations, Bouchie’s and Lucha Libra, whose gourmet food and drink offerings will wash away any lingering memories of errant tee shots or misjudged putts.
Recommended for Public Golf Courses because: Costa Palmas Golf Club is the only golf course located in the East Cape region of Los Cabos.
Chris’s expert tip: The Four Seasons has the best dining options in La Ribera by far, but there is one other local eatery worth checking out. That’s Taquería Pinches Tacos del Toro, which makes the best tacos al pastor for miles around.
Only recently opened in February 2020 as the centerpiece of an 834-acre resort and residential community, the Greg Norman designed Rancho San Lucas course has already garnered plaudits aplenty, including an Editor’s Choice award from Golf Digest. “Rancho San Lucas is the most spectacular piece of oceanfront property I’ve seen in a long time. So to have the opportunity to build a course on this site was truly once-in-a-lifetime,” said Norman. “My goal was to keep it as natural as possible, using my ‘least-disturbance’ approach, while showcasing the property’s three unique ecosystems: the ocean, the sand dunes and the arroyos.” Set along the Pacific Coast north of Cabo San Lucas, the 7,210-yard layout weaves gracefully through all three ecosystems, with signature touches like British Isles style bunkering and ocean views on all 18 holes. The most memorable backdrops, however, may be those at the 161-yard 17th, a par-3 that features an island green reminiscent of TPC Sawgrass. Comfort food stations provide food and drink refreshments throughout the round.
Recommended for Public Golf Courses because: Rancho San Lucas is not only the newest golf course in Los Cabos, but one of the best.
Chris’s expert tip: Stay and Play packages are available at the Grand Solmar Rancho San Lucas Resort.
Cabo Real is one of a trio of layouts managed by Questro Golf (Club Campestre and Puerto Los Cabos are the other two), a grouping which allows visitors to buy multiple-round passes good at any of the three courses. Cabo Real was the first of the trio to open, premiering in 1994 with a design from Robert Trent Jones Jr., the man who also designed the recently opened Costa Palmas Golf Club for Four Seasons on the Los Cabos municipality’s still lightly developed East Cape. Cabo Real has plenty of pedigree: it’s the only local course, for example, to have hosted two PGA Senior Grand Slam events. In fact, the site of whales breaching near a green during the 1996 tournament helped to catapult Los Cabos into the consciousness of golfers around the globe. The original design layout has been flipped in recent years, reversing the front and back nines.
Recommended for Public Golf Courses because: This course was made famous during a PGA Senior Grand Slam event in 1996 when whales could be seen breaching just offshore.
Chris’s expert tip: Visit questrogolf.com for promotions and multi-round pass options. Discounted two-, three- and five-round passes are currently available, and expire 14 days after the first round has been played.
Davis Love III’s links-style Dunes Course at Diamante was a revelation when it opened in 2009. It’s currently rated as the best course in México by Golf Digest, and was ranked as the 36th best course in the world by Golf Magazine in 2019. To play this challenging and lavishly-praised 7,300-yard loop, you must be staying at a Diamante hosted resort (The Resort at Diamante or Nobu Hotel Los Cabos), or express interest in full or fractional ownership options at Diamante. The latter offer a great opportunity for those who would like to spend a month or two every year with access to one of the world’s best courses. In addition to Love’s masterful links course, Diamante also hosts two Tiger Woods-designed courses, with a third reportedly in the works.
Recommended for Public Golf Courses because: Diamante has been ranked as one of the 100 best courses in the world by both Golf Digest and Golf Magazine.
Chris’s expert tip: The new Nobu Hotel Los Cabos not only boasts the best restaurant in Los Cabos, but guest access to tee it up at the nearby Dunes Course.
Quivira is a legendary golfer and designer Jack Nicklaus’ sixth Los Cabos layout, and his second masterpiece. “Our team worked with the canvas Mother Nature provided,” Nicklaus said, “to create one of the most spectacular courses in the world.” Set on the Pacific Coast north of Cabo San Lucas, this 7,085-yard course is breathtaking in every respect, with 18 holes winding magnificently along sheer cliffs, and through desert foothills and windswept dunes. Seven holes hug the coast, and ocean views are available from all 18 fairways (keep your eyes peeled for roadrunners and seasonal glimpses of migrating whales). In addition to stunning scenery, there are four mid-course comfort stations serving up cocktails and tasty treats, while more filling fare is available pre or post-round at the onsite steakhouse. The course is accessible to guests at all four local Pueblo Bonito resorts – Blanco, Rosé, Pacifica and Sunset Beach – as well as the luxury residential developments Quivira, Copala, Montecristo Estates and Novaispania. A second Quivira course from Nicklaus is in development.
Recommended for Public Golf Courses because: This is the most spectacular golf course in Los Cabos.
Chris’s expert tip: Make sure to visit the practice area, which is not only flawlessly maintained, but offers its own picturesque ocean views.