Los Cabos, the numero uno golf destination in Mexico, raised the bar when one of the best-known legends in the sport, Jack Nicklaus, officially opened his roller-coaster, cliffhanging layout, Quivira, in December 2014.
Nicklaus Design has built more than 400 courses. Around 100 of these tracts have appeared in Top 100 lists worldwide. Arguably his most daring design to date, Quivira features the fewest bunkers and the smallest green. The front nine is par-34; the back nine is par-38.
The layout, ranging from 4,763 to 7,139 yards, starts at sea level, scales cliffs more than 92 yards above the surf, spans canyons and arroyos, meanders through dunes and desert and returns to the sea at the finish.
There’s never a dull moment at Quivira. For example, the 10-minute drive to the fifth follows a switchback route up the side of a mountain. The fairway, slanted below a dune on the right, traces the edge of sheer granite cliffs to the left as it tumbles downhill to a transition zone before dropping to a rock-walled, cliffhanging green 35 yards below the tee.
How to play the course: “In some places you can be aggressive and, in others, you have to be conservative. Only 1.8 per cent of people on average play the back tees. So 98.2 per cent of the play is on the forward tees. That’s the audience we designed the course for. Part of the fun is figuring how to play it for your game.”
Designer’s choice: “That’s like being asked to choose your favourite child, I like all the holes at Quivira. There are, however, three spectacular ocean holes—five, six and 13. It’s hard to pick one; much depends on how much fun you have playing it, or how badly it treats you.”
Incidentally, the green fee at Quivira includes unlimited snacks at comfort stations on the course and a driving range where visitors can also help themselves to tequila or cold cervezas.
Apart from dealing with the damages from a hurricane that blew more than a metre of sand onto the 15th and 18th greens a couple of months before the opening, Nicklaus says that stabilizing the dunes was his biggest challenge in creating the course, as they kept changing. “They were alive,” he recalls.
The “Golden Bear,” now in his mid-70s, is enjoying the golden age of his prestigious career, in which Quivira is a major milestone. In 2014, Golf magazine named it the best new international course and also heralded Nicklaus as architect of the year.
Nicklaus says he was thrilled to have the opportunity to carve a course out of such a prime piece of real estate and adds he will continue to make tweaks.
“Invariably, when I open up a golf course, I’ll make a few changes,” he says. After all, even an experienced course designer can’t fully anticipate its nuances until the grass has grown in after landscaping is complete. “You don’t really see it when it’s not totally grassed, or as the grass comes into play,” Nicklaus says of the playability and upkeep of new courses. “I want to make sure, any time I leave a golf course, I leave it playable, fun and maintainable.”
To play Quivira, you must be a member of the course or a resident or guest at one of four Pueblo Bonito Oceanfront Resorts and Spas in Los Cabos.
Getting there: WestJet flies to Los Cabos 14 times a week from Vancouver, Kelowna, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto.
Read more: The Best of Golf
Golf Insider: We-Ko-Pa Golf Club’s Saguaro Course Near Mesa, Arizona
The layout of We-Ko-Pa Golf Club’s Saguaro Course in Arizona is an exercise in restraint. Here, the course's co-designer Bill Coore talks about his creative process, We-Ko-Pa's gorgeous desert landscape, plus advice on how to play it.