At the tip of the Baja Peninsula in Los Cabos, Mexico, Nicklaus will cut the ribbon on October 28 at Quivira Golf Club, his epic, long-awaited layout 10 minutes from downtown Cabo San Lucas. On December 15, Woods will unveil his first completed 18, El Cardonal at Diamante—less than three miles as the crow flies from Quivira.
Nicklaus has become a most prolific architect. A case can be made that the Golden Bear’s accomplishments as a designer may one day rival or surpass his achievements as a player: To date, he has been involved in the design of 290 courses open for play worldwide (his firm has built another 90). Quivira, Jack’s sixth course in Los Cabos, is Nicklaus Design’s 23rd in Mexico.
Judging from his handiwork at Quivira, Nicklaus is not afraid at age 74 to let his creative juices flow. This may be the most daring, eclectic course he has ever built. Certainly it has the fewest bunkers and the smallest green (at No. 13) of any course on his resume. The heart-stopping front nine is par 34, the equally dramatic back nine is par 38—another departure from the usual.
Remember those fantasy golf calendars with implausible holes airbrushed onto sheer cliffs? Quivira has a few of those. The routing is a bit torturous in places, but the payoff is worth it. All 18 holes feature panoramic views of the Pacific.
The first three holes on the 7,328-yard layout head away from the sea before reversing direction at the 4th, an S-shaped par five bounded by a dry creek bed and a vast sandy wasteland. The 10-minute drive to the 5th hole—which crosses arroyo-spanning bridges and traces a switchback route up the side of a mountain—requires a sure hand at the wheel. At more than 275 feet above sea level, the tee at the short par-four 5th is a vertigo-inducing perch; at well under 300 yards from the regular tees, this downhill hole can be driven, but it’s “adios” if you miss the rock-walled, cliff-hanging green.
Carved into the base of a huge dune and framed by stippled hills, Quivira’s par-three 6th, faced into the prevailing wind, is a dazzling one-shotter. The long narrow green, propped on bluffs high above the roiling sea and a deserted beach, drops to oblivion on the left.
The tee boxes at the par-four 7th are set near the historic lighthouse at Land’s End, the oldest standing structure in Cabo San Lucas. Behind the bunkerless green of the colossal, double-dogleg par-five 12th, is a sharpened pole fence, a remnant from the movie set of Troy, a swords-and-sandals epic.
The petite par-three 13th has its own stage set to die for. Atop a massive pinnacle of fissured granite rising 150 feet from sand and surf sits a tiny, wafer-like green. There’s a bail-out area to the left, but the hole, 144 yards from the tips, asks for a do-or-die shot over a yawning abyss.
Quivira’s last three holes, all par fours, are magnificent. Sixteen and 17 plunge down a mountain while 18 returns to the sea, its sizable green, bisected by a deep trough, set on the beach.
Asked how Quivira will impact his legacy, Nicklaus says, “I think some people will say it’s the most spectacular golf course and the best golf course they have ever seen and others will say, ‘You have got to be kidding.’ I don’t think there will be a lot of middle ground.”