CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico -- To strike up the oft-discussed "Is golf dying?" debate in Cabo San Lucas isn't exactly playing to the room.
This winter destination on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula is living proof that those unabashed, high-end golf properties that live up to lofty expectations are thriving, thank you very much.
Not only have swag-filled golf course communities and resorts debuted recently (like Diamante and Quivira), cranes and pad sites are a common sight along the coastal highway between Los Cabos and Cabo San Lucas. The destination continues to seek new ways to raise the bar. One resort coming soon that we toured, Solaz (opening March, 2018), promises elevated luxury with such perks as butler service, private plunge pools, indoor/outdoor showers, total in-room digital connectivity and eye-catching modern style.
A corner suite at Solaz
At present, Los Cabos Tourism reports more than 5,000 rooms with 13 new resorts in the pipeline. An energy can be felt in a destination like Cabo that is by many measures en fuego. The feeling spills over into the long-standing properties that have helped solidify the area as an elite getaway for decades. The Sheraton Grand Los Cabos Hacienda Del Mar, our digs for the weekend, might not have the sleek, modern style that seems to be the rage at present, but instead features a more authentic, hacienda-style Mexican charm. The beachfront resort, open since the late-1990s, is complete with five pools, a not-so-subtle reminder that you've come for total relaxation. An evening Dia de Muertos celebration on our arrival day lit up the courtyard with festive colors and, yes, plenty of food and drink.
The Sheraton Grand is the natural stay-and-play choice for those taking on the golf course that really put Cabo on the map for bucket-list golfers: Cabo Del Sol. It's so convenient, in fact, that to get to my morning tee time, I skipped the shuttle and instead, strolled out my room and moseyed up the 8th and 9th holes of the Ocean, walking off the previous evening's tequila, steak and chocolates.
Golf at Cabo Del Sol
That old adage in golf, "bring a pale and shovel" may be no more apt than on the Ocean Course at Cabo Del Sol. On several holes, your swing doesn't have to miss by much to find yourself playing from the (actual) beach. The routing begins by heading up the hillside before tumbling back down to the beachfront green of the 5th, followed by back-to-back par 3s along the beach. Even more dramatic by some measures is the course's closing stretch. Nos. 15 and 16 tumble gradually towards the sea, until the stretch ends at an infinity green with nothing but big blue beyond. The par-3 17th is treacherous and delicate tee shot along the breezy coast that is invariably accompanied by a small gallery of beachgoers for added drama. The par-4 18th, meanwhile, presents a stiff finish along the shoreline with a likely sea breeze and glistening water for added effect.
At $370 per tee time in the peak season, the Ocean is one of the pricier rounds in North America, thanks to not only its ocean frontage but its class amenities and Top-100 prestige. It overshadows the Desert Course, added in 2001, which is a shame because it's a thrilling complement. Many holes on Desert play on the inland side of the main highway, and Weiskopf's effort showcases ocean views from tees and greens from a lofty perch and fairways carved out of impressive rock formations and desert vegetation. A member I paired up with on this morning remarked shot-for-shot he prefers the Desert to the Ocean, and he's hardly alone. Weiskopf is wont to give the people what they want: short par 4s. Two drivable shorties (one heads uphill while another one gently descends) make up the front nine. Risk-reward par 5s and downhill par 3s highlight the back. Conditions, services and amenities are similarly excellent to the Ocean (yet with a green fee over $100 less at around $230), and the clubhouse patio's margaritas will be just as delicious after either round.
Off-course at the Sheraton Grand and beyond
After golf, the party rolls along at the Sheraton Grand, where you can choose between the beach club bar, or summon waiters to you from the edge of the infinity pool, a lively scene from the early afternoon until dusk ... If you've had enough sun for the day following golf, set up a spa treatment at the Cactus Spa onsite ... Memorable fine dining under the stars beside the beach at De Cortez at the Sheraton shouldn't be missed, (seared scallops and a beet salad stole the show during our prix fix experience) ... For golfers who love a great, big breakfast buffet (and who among us doesn't?), save a little time in the morning here for cooked-to-order pancakes or omelettes to go along with an impressive spread of fruits, juices and more ... A lofty and breathtaking perspective of the Cabo coast can be enjoyed a few miles away at the restaurant Mona Lisa, whose white and modern decor oozes Cabo cool. Dress sharply and try to get there by sunset ... Cabo Adventures offer guided luxury sailing tours that sets sail from the heart of town and cruises past the famous Cabo arches before cruising along the coast and stopping off at a secluded beach. It comes with a class crew, not to mention onboard drinks and lunch (don't worry, they won't put you to work).