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 strings attached. 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, and in some cases as a bonus to those who’ve attended Diamante relevant timeshare presentations.
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 del Sol’s Desert Course, Cabo Real, Cabo San Lucas Country Club, Campestre, Palmilla, Puerto Los Cabos, and Vidanta. They’re all open to the public. El Dorado, Querencia and The Cove Club (formerly Cabo del Sol Ocean Course), by contrast, are private, members-only clubs.
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 like golf carts outfitted with GPS yardage displays, and mid-course comfort stations offering cocktails and snacks. Out top pick, Quivira Golf Club has even opened a steakhouse adjacent it’s a pro shop, taking the traditional 19th hole concept to an entirely new level.
The Vidanta 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. Originally known as Punta Sur, it was later taken over by the Mayan Palace resorts group and is currently managed by Mexican hospitality brand Vidanta. The service is a bit uninspiring, but plenty of locals and seasonal players 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 6,966-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 common in Los Cabos because it is disease resistant and requires a fraction of the upkeep (including fertilizers and herbicides) needed for more typical golf course grasses. Like most local Nicklaus designs the course features abundant bunkering, plus plenty of dramatic elevation changes, and of course spectacular Sea of Cortés views. The teeth of the course are found on the large, multi-tiered greens, which often make two-putts a challenging proposition.
Recommended for Public Golf Courses because: Yet another 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 golf courses in Los Cabos (Cabo Real and Puerto Los Cabos are the others), and is currently offering a Fore for 4 promo, with special rates for foursomes after 11 a.m.
The Cabo San Lucas Country Club was part of the first wave of the Los Cabos golf boom, although it was called Campo de Carlos when it opened back in 1994, as a collaborative design between Roy Dye and his son Matt. As of December 2018, renowned Mexican golf course architect Agustín Pizá also deserves a mention, after spearheading a massive facelift necessitated by Tropical Storm Lidia the year before. Pizá slightly shortened the back-nine while also widening its fairway corridors to enhance ocean views, but returning players will find the course still retains picturesque fairway framers like colorful bougainvillea, palo blanco trees and towering cardón, the largest species of cactus in the world. The Country Club course also remains the only local layout with views of Land’s End and its spectacular Arch, as well as the only place with an after-hours driving range.
Recommended for Public Golf Courses because: Affordable greens fees and spectacular views of Land’s End and El Arco distinguish this newly renovated layout.
Chris’s expert tip: Cabo San Lucas Country Club is situated on the grounds of the Los Cabos Golf Resort, with discounted greens fees and stay and play packages available for resort guests.
Cabo Real is one of a trio of layouts managed by Questro Golf (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’s currently designing the 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 host 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 U.S. 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 Questro Golf 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.
Don’t let the encouragingly wide fairways and expansive greens fool you: this inland layout, which opened in 2001, provides a challenging test for players of all skill levels. Weiskopf’s design takes skillful advantage of the existing terrain, snaking scenically through canyons, washes and arroyos without ever straying too far from magnificent ocean vistas. Water is a course factor on several holes due to man-made lakes and waterfalls, and players will also have to overcome uneven stances from elevation changes and abundant bunkering to post a low score. The rewards for these challenges are stunning views of the Sea of Cortés from seemingly every hole.
Recommended for Public Golf Courses because: Nicklaus’ Ocean Course gets all the press, but Weiskopf’s Desert loop also offers a challenging test for golfers, with plenty of scenic backdrops.
Chris’s expert tip: Cabo del Sol’s Desert Course has been rated as one of the 50 best courses in México and the Caribbean.
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.
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.
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 the 38th best course in the world by Golf Magazine. To play this challenging and lavishly-praised 7,300-yard loop, you must be staying at a Diamante hosted resort (The Resort at Diamante, Hard Rock or Nobu Los Cabos), or express interest in a timeshare or fractional ownership options at Diamante. The latter offers 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 in the works.
Recommended for Public Golf Courses because: Diamante is ranked as one of the 100 best courses in the world by both Golf Digest and Golf Magazine.
Chris’s expert tip: This is the only development associated with one of the world’s top 100 golf courses that offer fractional ownership opportunities.
Although only recently opened (February 2020) as the centerpiece of an 834-acre resort and residential community, and shuttered for two months during COVID-19 quarantine conditions, the Greg Norman designed RSL course has already garnered plaudits aplenty, including an Editor’s Choice award from Golf Digest. Set along the Pacific Coast north of Cabo San Lucas, the 7,210-yard layout winds from desert arroyos to windswept dunes, and features Open Championship style bunkers as well as five holes bordering the breathtaking Pacific (all 18 have ocean views). 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: Comprehensive safety protocols have been added in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, including sanitizing of all carts and equipment between rounds, mandatory masks for staff, and special Skooza golf scooters for single rider mobility.
Quivira is a legendary golfer and designer Jack Nicklaus’ sixth Los Cabos layout, and his second local 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 seasonal glimpses of migrating whales). In addition to stunning scenery, there are four mid-course comfort stations serving up cocktails and tasty treats (burritos, anyone?), 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: “Play More and Save More” vacation packages are available through the four Los Cabos based Pueblo Bonito resorts.
Meet Chris Sands
Chris Sands is the Cabo San Lucas local expert for the USA Today travel website 10 Best, co-writer of Fodor’s Los Cabos travel guidebook, and a contributor to numerous websites and… More About Chris