In recent years it has become more and more common that a “golf resort” will emphasize the golf above all. The runaway successes of properties like Bandon Dunes in Oregon or Nova Scotia’s Cabot Cape Breton are proof of this. As the saying goes, if you build it, they will come, and remote golf destinations have captured the attention of golfers in recent times. That is, however, only one type of resort course. There are still places for those who want their emphasis to be on the resort. That includes golfers, yes, but also those looking for more to fill their days than two rounds followed by a putting competition. Quivira Golf Club in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, is just such a place.
The course is available for use by residents of any of the five Pueblo Bonito resorts in the Los Cabos area, including adults-only Pacifica and family-friendly Sunset Beach. As a result, the options for any nongolfers in a group are plentiful. These include the award-winning Armonia Spa at Pacifica, and the plentiful swimming pools, bars, and restaurants at Sunset Beach, as well as the option to take a shuttle to Pueblo Bonito’s other local resorts and use one of the only swimming friendly beaches in Cabo. Depending on where you are staying, there are dining options for all tastes. The Market at Sunset Beach elevates the food court with a myriad of international options, while Frida has been given the AAA Four Diamond Award for excellence in cuisine for its unique presentation of Mexican cuisine.
The Quivira golf course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, is perched on the side of the Baja peninsula, just outside of Cabo, on a property that includes huge elevation changes and a routing that provides views of the Pacific Ocean on every hole. Playing Quivira is like queuing for a roller coaster at Disneyland, with the lead-in to the attraction a man-made wonderland themed around the Wild West or the Alps, far removed from the original but so huge in its scale and ambition that you cannot help but have fun. Quivira is similarly removed from the flat coastal links on the east coast of Scotland where the game started, but it isn’t any less enjoyable.
At the beachfront clubhouse, where a fleet of golf carts greets you, it is difficult to see anything but the first hole. (The clubhouse is yet another place where a nongolfer might pass their time, with a bar and restaurant looking out over the Pacific.) There are many golfers who would never think of taking a cart, but here it is not a question of preference. The opening holes, 1 to 5, play over fairly flat, desert ground with ample fairways. These fairways are dotted with huge cactuses, and the mountain, desert, and oceanfront trinity that makes Cabo such a popular destination is on full display.
The cart policy becomes clear as you leave the fifth green and embark on a five-minute drive almost entirely up steep gradients on the side of a mountain. The sixth hole at Quivira is the distillation of this course, the entire experience in miniature. A huge downhill drop makes it so the fairway is invisible from the tee, whilst only the thinnest slice of the green can be viewed. Standing with the Pacific crashing to your left and the entirety of the Baja peninsula to your right, the tee shot requires blind faith, and if we are being honest, a good slice of luck. Generally, tee shots find a channel that runs them down the hill, meaning the second shot is a difficult midrange pitch down a steep hill.
All that goes to say that like Quivira itself, the sixth hole is not quite what you would expect from a resort layout. Some may find it gimmicky, but the golfer unburdened by status or purity will have about as much fun as possible on the course. Couple that with the uninterrupted views of the Pacific as well as the beaches and cliffs that populate the shore, and it is hard to imagine the player who would not have a good time here.
Admittedly, holes like the sixth and courses like this are not what you might expect from a typical “resort course.” In many places, Quivira is challenging. Blind shots over rapidly changing terrain strike some as unfair, and the player with preconceived ideas of resort golf will be surprised. It requires the suspension of how one normally thinks about a resort course, be that the vast distances in between some holes or the fantastical design elements of some others. The fact remains, though, that this course is exemplary for those willing to embrace it for what it is.
If you do find yourself struggling on the course, however, you will be glad to know that Quivira also has the benefit of excellent amenities throughout. The aforementioned clubhouse is one, but on the course, there is a cliffside rest stop with food and drinks that has to rank as one of the most scenic halfway houses in the world. The score on the last hole starts to matter less perched above the Pacific Ocean on a clear blue day.