Cabo del Sol (The Ocean Course)
Los Cabos, Mexico

Sixth hole, 190 yards; With a green complex that spectacularly seems to jut into the sea, Nicklaus Design wisely keep the other features low profile so as not to compete with nature. Though it does enjoy a classic Redan playing angle, the green is of the saddle variety and is a more receptive target than it first appears with its back a good two feet higher than the front, which helps keep balls on the green. The shoulder of the six foot deep bunker feeds well into the putting surface, meaning that the green slopes from left to right along that side.

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Constructed in 2011, Nicklaus Design pushed the sixth green complex even more onto a point, making the connection with the ocean even more intense than its predecessor. As seen above from the forward tee, Nicklaus Design employed short grass as a way to comfort the less accomplished player.

The back tees meanwhile present a far more fearsome prospect!

The back tees meanwhile present a far more fearsome prospect!

 

Seventh hole, 160 yards; Similar to how Alister MacKenzie must have felt at Cypress Point, Nicklaus had a strong desire to get the most out of the coastline and if that meant back to back par threes, then so be it. In the case of Cabo, the back to back par threes neatly accommodated the fact that under federal law, the Mexican people have a right to use the beaches and have unencumbered access. Most importantly from the golf design perspective, the seventh plays nothing at all like the sixth.

The prospect of playing over a beach is enough to overwhelm most fragile swings!

The prospect of playing over a beach is enough to overwhelm most fragile swings!

This aerial photo with low lighting shows the interior contours that all golfers confront. The tiger concentrates on finding the correct portion of the green.

This aerial photo with low lighting shows the interior contours that confront all golfers. The tiger concentrates on finding the correct portion of the green.

Eighth hole, 430 yards; Unlike standing on the sixth tee at Spyglass Hill, there is no regret about turning inland as a) this is a wonderful hole and b) the golfer knows that he returns to the sea later in the round. A broad arroyo cuts across the fairway on a diagonal, from high right to lower left. Dry 99% of the time, this arroyo is an amazing sight during one of the infrequentsevere weather events when water comes racing down the mountain, pushing boulders along as if they were mere pebbles.

Just eleven paces off the back of the seventh green, the elevated eighth tee enjoys a commanding position above the resort’s beach and its pounding surf.

After soaking up the views, the golfer turns ninety degrees and plays the eighth as it heads inland. Though the playing corridor is straight, it’s best played as a switchback hole with a draw just past the left hand bunker ¦

¦ leaving the optimal angle to play a fade into the kidney-shaped green.

This view from behind shows how the shape of the green places a premium on playing from the left side of the fairway. The active arroyo that cuts through the fairway feeds into the Sea of Cortez in the background.

Tenth hole, 435 yards; Alister MacKenzie was a proponent of giving the player a fearsome hazard to overcome while at the same time providing plenty of room to do so. Such is the case here. At fifty-two yards, this is one of the widest fairways on the course (not a bad thing as the golfer has just played two tough par fours) but the approach is one of the most visually intimidating on the course.

In a fine show of design restraint, Nicklaus Design left the tenth fairway wide and uncluttered.

Though its twenty yards shy of the green, the desert vegetation consisting of cardon cacti, cholla cacti, organ pipe cacti, and octotillo dominates the eye on the approach. Play is certainly long as there is plenty of short grass beyond. However, the green slopes from back to front, so a reward is given to the golfer who drops his ball over the native desert while still staying beneath the day’s hole location.

Eleventh hole, 350 yards; Alternate fairways rarely work, but this one does 25% of the time. By that, what is meant is that when two of the eight hole locations are used in the back right of the green, the golfer is definitely rewarded by playing down the right fairway. Otherwise, for the other six hole locations, the golfer is free to play the hole in the more conventional manner down the left fairway. The average stay at the Cabo del Sol resort is nearly five days so the golfer is likely to catch one of the two back right hole locations during his stay. The flag is clearly visible from the tee – the golfer just needs to be cognizant what a back right hole location signals.

A forty yard wide patch of desert runs on a direct line from the tee to the green, effectively creating a left and right fairway.

The deepest and steepest greenside bunker on the course eats into the right of the eleventh green. When back right hole locations are tucked behind it, golfers should play down the right fairway.

Twelfth hole, 515 yards; A maddening hole, golfers think they should be able to make something happen here at this modest length par five that plays straightaway.Unlike the other half par holes on the course, this one plays uphill and into the prevailing wind to an elevated green.

With eight bunkers left and right of the knob green, the golfer does well to conclude that the best way to play the twelfth is as a three shotter.

Thirteenth hole, 215 yards; Hopefully, good things have happened to the golfer at the eleventh and twelfth as he now faces the single most uncompromising shot on the course. On the far side of an arroyo lies the green and not much other good news other than a small bailout area to the right and a pair of mercy bunkers along the left of the green. High demand holes like this one played one after another can wear out/beat down any golfer. Such is not the case at Cabo as thisterror of a one shotter is sandwiched between two potentially reachable par fives and a medium length par four. Course critics whom first came here in 1994 were pleasantly surprised as they weren’t accustomed to seeing such give and take from Nicklaus Design. Indeed, history has now shown that The Ocean Course marked a significant turning point away from penal designs for Nicklaus.

The long downhill thirteenth is a particularly fine time to put a great swing on the ball as…

… the consequences for a miss are severe. The prevailing wind blows right to left and into the golfer, adding to the hole’s exacting challenge.

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