Story and photos by Timothy Scott
The Baja Peninsula of Mexico is known as the place where the desert meets the sea and on the Pacific side of Cabo San Lucas, the dramatic golf course Quivira looks down at the ocean and its spouting whales.
We walk down the steps to the black tees, snap a few photos, then quickly decide it would be a waste of golf balls to tee off from here. The flag is on a small green 310 yards away. On the right is a sheer rock wall. On the left is the ocean. There's no margin for error—the shot must be perfect in both distance and accuracy. We shuffle back up to the carts and move on to the blue tees. We can't see the green from this vantage point, but at least there's some chance of hitting a fairway on the first shot.
I'm playing—not very well—the downright wacky but never boring Quivira Golf Club, one of the latest to hit a destination already blessed by a wealth of great courses. This is one to beat them all though, in terms of both location and unusual challenges. Some tee boxes are perched precariously on the side of a vertical stone face that would make even an Acapulco cliff diver nervous. The the sea is almost never out of sight through the 18 holes. The numerous natural obstacles and scrub brush create a major challenge for even experienced players, but a well–placed shot is rewarded by very well-maintained fairways and greens. Those well-placed shots are not always easy to work out though on this Jack Nicklaus designed work of golf course art.
"This is starting to border on the ridiculous," my cartmate said when we realized our blind tee shots that landed right in the middle of the fairway would require a 250-yard blind shot again before we had any hope of seeing a flag. He consulted the course map and looked for a yardage marker. I sent a ball flying in the general direction and hoped for the best. He cursed his club selection when we found our balls. I spent too long watching the waves breaking on the shore and realized the rest of the foursome was waiting for me to try to get somewhere near the green.
Birth of a Golf Course and Village
There's no shortage of land here at Quivira. The cart ride between holes 4 and 5 is longer than some entire courses, climbing up a small mountain. The destination is certainly worth the time in transit, with holes 5 and 6 running right along cliffsides at the very tip of the Baja Peninsula. Jack Nicklaus has designed plenty of challenging and dramatic courses over the years, but this one may be his most ambitious yet.
The family behind the Pueblo Bonito hotels—of which there are three in the area—started buying up parcels here in the late 1990s. They had to build their own road to even get to what they had purchased. Over the years they acquired 1,850 acres and built two hotels, a few different housing developments, and finally the long-dreamed golf course after acquiring the last part in 2007.
Then just as Quivira was getting to the final stages, Hurricane Odile slammed into the area in September of 2015, literally blowing tons of sand onto newly planted fairways and greens. "We had 1,000 of our employees out on the course raking sand for three days," says Jose Luis Mogollong, Chief Development Officer for the area. "If they hadn't pulled together and gotten that done, we would have lost all the grass and had to spend millions to start over."
Now the course looks terrific and the well-trained staffers present a superlative experience. Many wealthy visitors probably stay at the Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Hotel, play a few rounds of golf, and dine at the clubhouse restaurant while looking out at the ocean. At some point the question comes up, "Wouldn't it be nice to live here?" Naturally the developers have got that covered. The company behind this massive project has built several stages of condos and free-standing houses on defined parcels—a small percentage of the total. The latest and most ambitious real estate development on this vast expanse of acreage is Coronado, with homes ranging from 7,500 to 13,000 square feet. With only 68 homes on 24 acres, it won't be a tight squeeze inside or out for any of these homeowners. Houses all have a view of the ocean and overlook golf course holes 1, 4, and 18.(Continued...)