When was the last time you were truly blown away by the scenery on a golf course?
For me, the answer is easy: when I played three rounds at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Quivira Golf Club in Cabo San Lucas, on Mexico's Baja California peninsula.
Advance research gave me a pretty good idea of why I ought to have been very excited to make the journey west and south from my Florida home, and the resort and course did not disappoint one bit.
I will talk about the Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Resort & Spa experience - particularly their brand-new Towers - in a near-future piece, but I was so stirred by the experience of playing Quivira that I had to tell you about it immediately.
The high notes
Nothing like it in the world. There aren't very many golf courses in the world that are completely unique and singularly memorable. Quivira is one of them. Nicklaus routed the course up, down and around a mini-mountain that slopes into the Pacific Ocean, and perched three holes - the short par-4 fifth and par threes sixth and 13th - directly on steep, rocky cliffs with almost impossibly blue surf crashing some 200 feet below.
Of these, my favorite is number 13, which requires a short iron or wedge to the smallest - around 3,000 square feet - putting surface Jack Nicklaus has ever designed. It does play slightly larger, as there are some containment slopes at the back that will tend to keep your ball from bounding over the green into oblivion. The granite boulders that comprise the cliffside look almost artificial - centuries of wind and sea spray have weathered them beautifully.
As a testament to the quality of Nicklaus' work at Quivira, the course is home to one of the most ridiculously cool single holes I have ever played, and it's not one of the cliffside trio. It is the long par-5 12th, which plunges and zigzags downhill toward the water's edge and a green that measures some 55 yards from front to back. The back tees measure 635 yards, but I actually managed to get my ball pin-high in two shots one day - that's how steeply downhill it plays. In short, it is a completely unique hole in the world of golf, and one you will never forget playing.
Even the quirks are charming. Remember the cliffhanging 5th and 6th holes I mentioned? Well from a pure-golf standpoint, they're not exactly the greatest holes you're ever going to play. In fact, they're kind of insane. But their insanity, combined with the otherworldly setting they occupy, makes them worth seeing for yourself. Just bring your sense of humor to the tee with you and budget a couple extra golf balls, especially if the wind is blowing.
It's also worth noting that the club's directors are aware of the controversial nature of these two holes, and they have been refining them (as well as a couple other features elsewhere on the course) in an effort to increase playability.
Not a golf course but a golf experience. Given that Cabo is a destination devoted to promoting complete serenity, Quivira goes right along with this ethos, which takes relaxation to an almost absurd extreme. In the spirit of the all-inclusive Pueblo Bonito resorts with which the course is associated, every golfer's green fee at Quivira includes food and beverages (alcoholic too) at four "comfort stations" throughout the property. The first, by the driving range, has snacks, fruit and refrigerated beverages, perfect for getting a little something to start off your day.
The movable feast continues with a cliffside comfort station just shy of the fifth tee that is, frankly, ridiculously scenic. There, more food, such as breakfast burritos in the morning or pulled pork sliders in the afternoon (the menu rotates daily).
Four holes later, another, still larger comfort station heaves into view, just off the eighth green. This is the most involved pit stop of the round, with a chef and barkeep at the ready to serve you a margarita, bloody mary, fish taco, cheeseburger slider and other tasty options. My favorite bite here was the shrimp quesadilla, to which I added some of the best salsa I've ever tasted. Beware: it's spicy, but it hurts so good.
The final comfort station, at the 16th tee, is similar to the one by the driving range: a final snack for the last three holes, all long par fours that tumble out of the hills and toward the Pacific (which can be seen from every single hole).
We made a deal. Finally, if you want to see Quivira for yourself (and you should - my hyperbole can only approximate it so much), the Golf Vacation Insider-exclusive package we put together with the folks from Pueblo Bonito is still available. Click here to check it out.
Black tees - 7,139 yards; Men: 74.1 Rating/142 Slope
Gold - 6,701; M: 72.0/137
Blue - 6,216; M: 69.4/131
White - 5,541; M: 67.0/120 W: 71.1/122
Red - 4,763; W: 66.5/113
Ski Symbol Rating: Black Diamond
Green fees: $360 (can be included in golf packages for substantially less)