CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico - What perfect timing to play the 17th hole on the Dunes course at Diamante. My partner and I pulled up to the tee box just as the sun was setting on the horizon of the Pacific Ocean. These are the moments why golfers come to Cabo - to soak in the views and breezes of great holes on the water, whether that's on the Pacific Ocean or the Sea of Cortez.
The courses of Cabo rival Hawaii and the Dominican Republic for the sheer number and quality of the coastal holes right on the water. Unfortunately, the destination has lost a handful of them over the years to redevelopment, most recently on the famous Ocean course at Cabo del Sol, which has been rebranded this fall as The Cove Club. The routing's original 17th and 18th holes on the water are gone, making room for a private beach club and other projects.
Fortunately, there are still 15 great ones on the public courses anybody can play. With the openings of Rancho San Lucas by Greg Norman and Costa Palmas by Robert Trent Jones Jr. by 2020, more are on the way. I haven't ranked these holes in any particular order because they're all spectacular. I should know. I've bogeyed them all, at one point or another, over the past decade. Enjoy this week's version of The List.
No. 17 on the Dunes course at Diamante
Diamante Dunes - a World Top 100 course according to Golf Magazine - has been carved up several times in just a decade's time to make room for Nobu and Hard Rock resorts on the beach. This 175-yard par 3 shares the shores with these new properties that opened earlier this year.
No. 3 on the Ocean nine at Palmilla Golf Club
This beauty and beast is the only hole (out of 27) that touches the beach at Palmilla. Too bad golfers don't get to enjoy the scenery. At 458 yards, they'll probably be putting for bogey (or worse) on the course's No. 1 or No. 2 handicapped hole (depending on the routing combination they play).
No. 5 at Cabo Real Golf Club
Cabo Real lost its beachfront par 3 following this hole a few years ago in a land sale that forced a slight redesign of this par 4. Original architect, Robert Trent Jones Jr., returned to move the green left and closer to the beach. After that, the nines flipflopped, placing this fun 352 yarder in the heart of the front nine.
No. 7 on the Norman nine at Puerto Los Cabos
One of the longest holes in Mexico drops downhill, twisting its way 623 yards to the water. Five greenside bunkers cement its status as the No. 1 handicap on this nine.
No. 6 on the Nicklaus I nine at Puerto Los Cabos
Visually, there was a lot going on when I played this nice par 3 last December. My arrival interrupted guests of the adjacent Secrets resort doing morning yoga at the open-air studio on the beach to the right of the tee. After hitting the green, I drove past a couple in bathing suits lounging on their hotel patio. It's not easy making par with all the commotion.
No. 5 on the Nicklaus I nine at Puerto Los Cabos
I first played this hole on the Nicklaus I nine when it was a really confusing par 5 where a split fairway left players guessing what to do. Thankfully, some back tees have been eliminated, leaving a stout 451-yard par 4 that climaxes at the green on the beach.
No. 18 on The Cove Club at Cabo del Sol
Now that the two famous finishing holes on the water have been swallowed up by redevelopment, the old 16th hole is now the 18th, a par 4 that drops to a new green pushed closer to the beach.The 18th hole at The Cove Club at Cabo del Sol
No. 7 on The Cove Club at Cabo del Sol
The original 139-yard seventh hole (in the photo below) used to have tees so close to the water that storms washed them away from time to time. A new par-3 seventh hole playing almost the exact same yards (137 yards) has been rebuilt within the last year a bit farther inland to make room for a Park Hyatt hotel.
No. 6 on The Cove Club at Cabo del Sol
The 184-yard par 3, the first of back-to-back par 3s on The Cove Club at Cabo del Sol on the water, is no bargain. Misses left on the beach are deep in trouble below the rocky cliffs.
No. 5 on The Cove Club at Cabo del Sol
How come so many architects design the holes that lead to the beach as the No. 1 handicap? (It will happen at least five times on this list). This 490-yard monster par 4 at The Cove Club at Cabo del Sol drops off an elevated tee, bending right to reveal the seaside green.
No. 18 on Quivira
After two holes through cactus and over desert arroyos, the final hole at Quivira finishes in grand fashion on the beach. At 486 yards, potentially all into the wind, there was no need for Nicklaus to add any bunkers to defend this brutal par 4.
No. 13 on Quivira
This is perhaps the most thrilling shot at Quivira, a do-or-die swing that must carry the coastal chasm to hit and hold a tiny green 148 yards away.
No. 12 on Quivira
I love how this par 5 looks from its elevated perch (see the photo below). Unfortunately, the 635-yard double dogleg plays a little too difficult for most middling handicaps like me. It's so hard to judge the aiming points and the second shot is usually blind.
No. 6 on Quivira
Playing 180 yards downhill, this par 3 is as playable as it is beautiful. The hillside right of the green acts as a sideboard. Players who miss on that side often watch with glee as the ball bounces back onto the green.
No. 5 on Quivira
Golfers tend to love or hate this stunning par 4 of 310 yards. From the tee box golfers can see the green playing peak-a-boo on the edge of the cliffs. The trick is how do you get there? From the forward tees (288 yards), the green is reachable, especially downwind. There's risk everywhere, whether players lay up to the sliver of the topside fairway or try to land a drive on the fairway downslope that funnels onto the green.