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Review: Diamante Dunes Course, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Written by: Tony Korologos | Wednesday, September 25th, 2013
Categories: Course ReviewsGolf CoursesGolf LifestyleHOG World TourReviewsTiger WoodsTravel
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For close to 10 years I’ve been blogging about golf. One of the greatest benefits of this blog has been the opportunity to travel and visit some amazing places. There are a few very “special” places I’ve visited which are head and shoulders above the rest. Some of those special places include Black Mesa Golf Club, Ballyneal Golf Club, The Old Course, Kingsbarns and Sand Hollow.

Add another special place to the list.

Diamante - Dunes Course

Diamante – Dunes Course – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

On my last trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico I had the pleasure of playing the Diamante Dunes Course. Diamante Dunes opened in 2009 and quickly attained the ranking of #1 golf course in Mexico and #52 in the world. The Dunes course is the first course on the property at Diamante. The 2nd course is under construction right now, a Tiger Woods design.

Designed By Davis Love III

Speaking of design, I was intrigued and excited to learn that the course designer at the Dunes course was none other than Davis Love III. I’m not completely immersed in the golf architecture genre like some golf writers, so this is the first DLIII design I’ve heard of.

The course measures out at 7,300 yards from the tips, a.k.a. “Tee I.” Course rating from Tee I is 75.4 with a slope of 146. At sea level that’s as much golf course as any player on the planet needs. I played from a more reasonable tee, you guessed it, “Tee II.” In all there are five sets of tees, “Tee V” measuring out at 5,151 yards.

Location Location Location

Cabo San Lucas may have the best overall weather on the planet. The average temperature year-round is 78 degrees. There are 350 days of sunshine per year and very little rain. Perfect golf weather 24/7/365.

Diamante is located six miles from downtown Cabo and occupies 1.5 miles of beachfront property overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The area is comprised of fantastic pure white sand dunes and natural desert vegetation.

The Course

Diamante Dunes is routed through some of the most stunning topography I’ve ever seen. The beachside views along with the massive sand dunes provide a canvas which Davis Love III brilliantly painted with perfectly green grass, pure white sand and an occasional red or yellow accent from the native desert vegetation. In the distance are the deep blue waters of the Pacific Ocean along with the thunderous sound of waves pounding the shoreline.

Paspalum

That perfectly green grass I mentioned? Its a rare breed of grass which is salt and warm-weather resistant, perfect for a seaside course. The paspalum at Diamante is so perfect and trimmed to such precision, that it almost doesn’t seem real.

The strength of paspalum is astounding. In trying to pull up some blades to throw up into the wind for club selection, I almost fell over. The grass is so strong that it takes quite an effort to pull out some blades.

Tee

Tee shots at Diamante set up perfectly for not only great golf shots, but great photos. I spent more time shooting pictures than I did hitting my golf shots. Multiple teeing areas are located at different elevations and angles to provide a multitude of options from day to day or from handicap level to handicap level.

Golf pro Rodrigo about to let it fly... click to zoom

Golf pro Rodrigo about to let it fly… click to zoom

Tee shots at Diamante can be quite dramatic, featuring large elevation changes.

Fairway

The fairways at Diamante Dunes run through, over, between, or around massive sand dunes. What fun DLIII must have had envisioning hole routings and shots. The fairways are fairly wide and not terribly penal.

Par-5 14th Hole From The Tee - click to zoom

Par-5 14th Hole From The Tee – click to zoom

Errant shots which miss the fairways find the soft sand which is far more penal and difficult to navigate. Missing the fairways for the sand doesn’t mean a guaranteed bogey or worse, but making par or better from the sand is an accomplishment.

Green

The greens at Diamante may be the most perfect putting surfaces I’ve ever putted. I could not find one dry spot, one ball mark, one inconsistency. Putting on surfaces like this is almost a religious experience.

#2 Green - click to zoom

Diamante Dunes #2 Green – click to zoom

The green complexes at Diamante are brilliantly laid out, with rugged bunkering guarding them and natural sandy areas surrounding. The challenging undulations and slopes require solid putting for good scores, but are definitely fair.

Bunkers

Diamante Dunes is built on perhaps the world’s largest bunker. 1,500 acres of light beach sand line all the holes. Many of the natural bunkers are simply filled with the native sand.

Playing The Course

Playing the course is an amazing experience. From the sand dunes, routing, the sound of the ocean waves pounding the shore, to the perfectly manicured greens, this is a golf experience like no other.

I’m damn proud of my 86 as a two handicap. Hear me out. I almost never play well on media trips due to not knowing the course, focusing on photos, taking notes, being a little tired from the late nights schmoozing and probably having one to many adult beverages. This 86 was more special because of the conditions. I experienced Diamante during a full dose of Baja Peninsula winds. The sand was flying sideways as were the golf balls. Following the round I was cleaning sand out of places on my body I didn’t know existed. I managed that round in those conditions with one golf ball. ONE GOLF BALL.

Amenities

Diamante is a private facility. Members can enjoy one of the best golf courses in the world of course.

Diamante Clubhouse

Diamante Clubhouse

Along with golf the facility offers plush lodging, golf villas and estates, restaurants, spas, a 10 acre crystal lagoon, horseback riding and of course, 1.5 miles of beach to enjoy.

Relief Shacks

At a few strategic locations on the course there are what I will call “relief shacks.” In these shacks are all a golfer needs: restrooms, tequilla bottles, a bar, fully stocked fridge and snacks. Grab a tequila bottle and take it with you. When you reach the next shack, pull another full tequila bottle out and put your empty one in.

Relief Shack

Relief Shack

I particularly loved the hard boiled eggs, available in the shacks. The egg goes in a small plastic cup and there are salsas to dress the egg with. Those eggs saved my life. The tequila helped quite a bit too.  Much better than the aspirin.

My Favorite Holes

A friend and “golf journalist” (I consider myself a blogger, not necessarily a journalist) gave me grief for using the term “signature hole.” I suppose he’s right. The term is overused for sure. So I’ll post my “favorite” holes from Diamante.

Island in the Sand 16th

Hole #16 is a fantastic par-3, which is right next to the shore. The green is what I like to call an “island in the sand.” 16 is a prime example showing that a great par-3 need not be long.

Diamante Dunes 16 Green

Diamante Dunes 16 Green

From the back tees this par-3 is only 154 yards but a small group of dark green desert foliage guards the front, looking quite like gorse in St. Andrews. The green slopes front to back and has a large tier dissecting it perpendicular to the tee.

Par-5 17th

My next favorite hole comes up right after 16. The 17th is a fantastic par-5 which measures at 588 yards, uphill. The tee shot is challenging, with gorse-like bushes dictating that shots come up strategically short. Long hitters can take on the challenge of flying it over.

Diamante golf

Diamante Dunes 17th Hole – click to zoom

The approach to 17 is severely uphill to a large green with two levels. I happily hit my 3rd shot, a sand wedge, to the correct tier and left myself with a 15 footer for birdie. Unfortunately the bird did not drop, but the tap-in par was rewarding, especially as I looked out from the elevated green to miles of virgin Mexico shoreline. That was a “stop and soak it in” moment. I stood there and took some deep breaths. I can still smell the ocean.

In the video below, I pan from the 16th green through the 17th tee.  You can hear how windy it was that day, which also makes the video quality a little rough because of the sand flying through the air.

Critiques

As I played golf on this fantastic layout I was saddened a bit. The serenity, purity and remoteness of these golf holes in the dunes will soon be tarnished by residences. Lots are already being excavated for course-side estates. In a way I feel even more privileged to have played the course in its original pure form with no real estate development.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against high end golf real estate per se. If I could sell about 12 million more ads this year on this blog, I’d happily be one of the first to call Diamante home. I’ll take the lot between 16 green and 17 tee please.

Conclusion

Though it is private, Diamante can be experienced if you’re not a member. There are ways to get on. If you can swing it (so to speak) when you’re in Cabo next time, do it.

Bring your A game and bring your camera.  I’d bring more than one golf ball, just in case.

Related Links

Diamante Website

Diamante photo gallery


Golf Course Review: Cabo del Sol – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Written by: Tony Korologos | Monday, August 5th, 2013
Categories: Course ReviewsGolf CoursesGolf LifeGolf LifestyleHOG World TourReviewsTravel
Tags:

For the millionth time I must say I have one of the coolest gigs in the world. To be able to travel to fantastic golf vacation destinations like Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for the purpose of reviewing world class golf courses, is a privilege I don’t take lightly.

Cabo del Sol Ocean Course - Los Cabos

Cabo del Sol Ocean Course – Los Cabos – click for more

On my recent Hooked On Golf Blog World Tour stop to Cabo, I had the pleasure of playing Cabo del Sol, a Jack Nicklaus signature design course built in 1994. The course is ranked by many top publications in the top 100 in the world, as well as ranked #1 in Mexico.

Location

Part of what makes Cabo del Sol and the other golf courses in Cabo so great is the location. Los Cabos is located about 1,000 miles south of Los Angeles on the Baja California peninsula. That’s barely a 2.5 hour flight from Denver.

The weather in Cabo is fantastic all year, averaging 78 degrees. There are 350 sunny days per year, meaning one could take 10 days break from golfing per year for other activities, like going to a spa.

Design

Jack Nicklaus had some fantastic real estate to work with when designing Cabo del Sol. Nearly half of the course’s 7,091 yards are on the ocean in the form of holes 5, 6, 7, 8, 16, 17 and 18. Can you say “Pebble South?” Jack Nicklaus himself said about the course, “the best piece of golf property I’ve ever seen.”

There are five sets of tees at Cabo del Sol.  The longest playing set of tees (Black), measures at 7,091 yards.  Slope from the back tees is 145 with a course rating of 74.4.  In other words, the course is plenty of challenge even for scratch players or pros.

One of the most dramatic parts of the course is the stretch from hole five green through hole eight tee.  Hole five is ranked the toughest on the course, a 490 yard par-4.  From there holes six (pictured above) and seven are back-to-back par-3’s on the sea.  Absolutely fantastic stretch of golf.

cabo golf

Carve this tee shot left to right. Try not to let the Sea of Cortez distract you!

Tee

Teeing areas at Cabo del Sol are typical of desert target style courses. The tees are mini islands in the desert, framed by finely manicured desert foliage and large cacti.

Many tee shots require some forced carries but nothing crazy. They’re completely manageable. Movement of the ball in both directions can help the player navigate the course from the tee and many tee shots tempt the player to hit driver when perhaps a more conservative play may be a better idea.

Fairway

Cabo del Sol’s fairways are much wider than they appear from the tee. The landing areas are spacious. Missing the wide fairways is possible though, and penal. Native desert areas are often the last resting place for a chance at par.

cabo pirate ship

Looking at the fairway and the Sea of Cortez as a pirate ship passes by in the background. Where else does this happen?

Hitting approaches from the fairways can be a challenge. Stances can be slightly uneven, influencing shot lines which may be opposite what may be optimal.

Green

Approaching the greens at Cabo del Sol is challenging, Nicklaus style. Jack’s bunker complexes and design angles make approach shots the most critical shot on most of the holes. Proper approaches are the key to making par or birdie here.

cabo san lucas golf

Not a bad green complex, if you like tremendous scenery. Click to zoom.

The greens at Cabo del Sol are quite fun to putt. They’re large, with some very tasteful and fair undulations. Good reads and properly executed putts won’t produce any unwanted surprises. They’ll produce birdies and pars.

golf tacos

Make your own tacos! Brilliant – click to zoom

Tacos

One of the highlights of my ENTIRE trip to Cabo was the taco stand at Cabo del Sol. The course is world famous for their tacos, to such an extent that sometimes the tacos get more press than the golf. Please note that I dedicated only one paragraph to the tacos…

Facilities

The practice area is very well maintained with high quality range balls and cleaning stations. I was happy to hit the range before my round. The back was not happy. But after a few swings and loosening up in the warm Cabo weather, my back was back…so to speak.

There’s a practice putting area right next to the 1st tee, surrounded by large cacti and beautiful desert foliage.

Cabo del Sol clubhouse

Clubhouse as seen from #1 tee. Click to zoom.

The 40,000 square foot clubhouse at Cabo del Sol is home to a well appointed and classy pro shop. The open air building also boasts fine dining, men’s and women’s lounges, lockers and meeting facilities.

People

Even better than the courses and the places I get to see on my golf press trips are the fantastic people who run them, like my new friend and director of golf at Cabo del Sol, Greg Tallman. I had a fantastic time playing my round with Greg. I’m still amazed by the driver “off the deck” shot. Brilliant…

The service at Cabo del Sol was impressive, as has been my experience with just about every course and resort in the area. On the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, customer service is as good as anywhere I’ve been.

Conclusion

Cabo del Sol deserves all the accolades and awards it has received. The golf experience at Cabo del Sol does not disappoint. The facility has no weaknesses. From course design to amenities to course conditioning, throw in one of the best locations on the planet, the golf experience is tough to beat.

Related Links

Hooked On Golf Blog Cabo del Sol photo gallery

Cabo del Sol website


Golf Course Review: Country Club de Bogota, Colombia

Written by: Tony Korologos | Friday, March 15th, 2013
Categories: Course ReviewsGolf CoursesGolf LifeHOG World TourReviewsTravel

In my previous life I made my living as a drummer in a rock and roll band.  I played 1000’s of shows all over the place.  I’ve picked up the tour gig with Hooked On Golf Blog.  For almost 10 years now I’ve been doing the “HOG World Tour,” the coolest golf tour anywhere.  From St. Andrews to TPC Sawgrass to Augusta, I’ve been there.  I can’t say how fun it has been.

I jumped at the chance to log the first HOG World Tour stop in South America.   I spent a whole week in Bogota, Colombia in concert with the Web.com Tour’s Colombia Championship.  While there I played two fine golf tracks: La Cima Club de Golf in the Andes Mountains, and Country Club de Bogota.  Today’s review is of the gem that is Country Club de Bogota.

Country Club De Bogota - click to see more

Country Club De Bogota – click to see more

Country Club de Bogota Overview

Country Club de Bogota is located in the heart of Bogota, a large city of 8,000,000 people.  The course is a 36 hole private club with great supporting facilities, restaurants, swimming pool etc.  The course is the home of the Web.com Tour’s Colombia Championship.

The layout of the course is what I’d call a traditional treelined parkland track.  The course is TIGHT.  A shot-maker’s course for sure.

Despite the tightness of the track, there is plenty of distance to go around.  The course sits between 8,600-9,000 feet above sea level.  The ball really flies.  If you struggle with your distance and want to see what it feels like to hit it really far, come to Bogota and play.  You’ll gain 1-2 clubs in distance.

Tee shots are tight! Click tozoom…

Tee

Tee shots are extremely important on this course.  As I found out in my round, driver is not necessarily the correct play off the tee on all the par-4’s and par-5’s.  The doglegs can be sharp and if one can’t work the tee shot a driver can go through the fairway.  This happened to me a couple of times.  Unless you are deadly accurate with the driver, a more strategic approach of irons, hybrids or fairway woods off many of the tees is likely the best plan.

The Andes Mountains overlook the course. Click to zoom

Fairway

If you’ve placed your tee shot in the fairway, a fairly tough task, the approaches aren’t extremely difficult.  There is no elevation change on the course to speak of, barring a couple of feet from tee to fairway or fairway to green.

There are many places where the overhanging trees on the fairway can force one to have to hit a curveball around them, or a punch shot under them.  Once again, a shot-maker’s course.

Greens at Country Club de Bogota are smooth and fast. click to zoom

Green

The greens at Country Club de Bogota are tour quality.  They hold shots perfectly, yet roll fast and true.  If you have any control over your approach shots, keep them below the hole.  Downhill putts on this track are very difficult.

The undulations of the greens are not extreme though there are a few with double tiers.  The speed of the greens makes two-putting difficult if putting from one tier to another.

I had a blast putting on these great surfaces.  I made four birdies once I got used to the speed.

Facilities

There’s a large practice facility a short walk from the 1st tee.

The clubhouse is very large and spacious with two restaurants, a swimming pool, locker rooms and banquet/tournament facilities.

Conclusion

Bogota, Colombia may not be the first place that comes to one’s mind when thinking of golf travel.  Perhaps that should change.  Golf in this region of the world is a blast.  With the temperate conditions and tons of rainfall each year, the courses are plush and healthy.  The altitude makes playing a blast.

10 Tee – click for more pictures

The conditioning of Country Club de Bogota is fantastic and the course is a very good test of one’s complete golf game, from tee to green.

Related Links

Review: La Cima Club de Golf, Colombia

Country Club de Bogota website

Country Club de Bogota photo gallery


La Cima Golf Course, Colombia – 10,000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains – Put this one on your golf bucket list

Written by: Tony Korologos | Tuesday, March 5th, 2013
Categories: Course ReviewsGolfGolf CoursesGolf LifeGolf LifestyleHOG World TourReviewsTravel

Get ready for a series of posts about Colombia, because I’ve been there for the last week and there’s a lot to tell. I didn’t have much time to actually write while in Bogota because I was too busy enjoying the fine landscape, golf, people and food.  Colombian women?  I’m a fan.

La Cima Club de Golf - Click to enlarge

La Cima Club de Golf – Click to enlarge

La Cima Club de Golf – Golf Bucket List

I can’t wait to express how special the golf experience I had at La Cima Club de Golf. This is one I’d definitely add to the golf bucket list.  La Cima is located in the Andes Mountains, about 45-60 minutes east of Bogota, Colombia. The golf course is set amongst Colombian potato farms and cattle ranches.  The track flows with the natural landscape.  It is part of the landscape.  Normally I mention the course designer in my reviews, but in this case I have no idea who it is. There wasn’t much earth moving involved in building this course, just flattening out a few teeing areas and shaping some greens. The rest was done by mother nature. I love tracks that flow with the landscape and are not artificially created.

La Cima Golf Course, Colombia – #1 Tee – Click to enlarge

La Cima sits at around 10,000 feet above sea level. The locals call golfing at La Cima “golfing above the clouds.” In the case of my round there I did just that. I golfed IN the clouds as well. The tee shot (pictured right) on the first hole was shot a little after 6:00am. To get the best golf above the clouds experience, get an early tee time. My tee shot disappeared into the clouds below the first tee, which is extremely elevated. I’m guessing the altitude of hole #1 tee to be around 9800 feet above sea level. The elevation change from the tee to the fairway his huge. The drop from the fairway to the green is even more severe. My best guess is that this hole drops some 300-400 feet in elevation from tee to green.  Nothing like hitting a 5-iron 240 yards to pin high.

Hole #2 starts just above the level of #1 green and turns right back around up the steep hill hole #1 came down. After climbing to fairway level one may unfortunately realize the air at this altitude is quite thin. Luckily for me I live at a fairly high altitude and didn’t have a problem. I’ve read many accounts of altitude sickness in the area so make sure you’re ready for some steep hills and thin air. There are NO golf carts.  I did find myself needing to take a few deep breaths, party because of the altitude and partly because the place is so severely hilly.

#6 Tee from about 9,950 feet above sea level – click to zoom

Tee

The tee shots at La Cima are quite dramatic. Many very large elevation changes make judging distance tough while the tightness of the tree lined fairways makes accuracy extremely important. On this course distance off the tee is not the most important and at this altitude, the ball flies very far so driver isn’t always the club to pull on par-4’s and par-5’s. In fact, quite often the hole design requires a much more conservative iron-off-the-tee approach for the best placement.

Fairway

The fairways at La Cima can be tight. If one manages to place a ball on the fairway there can be many challenging lies due to the hilly Andes mountain terrain. I’m right at home on this kind of track having learned golf on mountain courses. There is not a straight hole on the course. Most of the par-4’s and 5’s have some sort of dogleg and many of them feature double doglegs.

La Cima Club de Golf – 17 approach is very tight – click to enlarge

Just like the tee shots, in many cases conservative shot selections are best.  Some cases, like the par-5 17th hole, only one play will really work, safe.

Green

Approaching the greens is perhaps the most challenging part of golf above the clouds. The steep Colombian terrain all but guarantees that one side of the green will have a hill above and the other a large drop off. Missing the green to the side of the drop off is death. I know. I did it a few times. In fact, hitting a green in the wrong place can be just as penalizing as missing the green flat out. On two occasions I hit the green but the spin of the ball took it off the edge where it ran away some 20 yards down a slope. 20 yards combined with 30 feet of elevation makes for a tough ask. I managed to channel my inner Phil Mickelson on one great up-and-down by hitting a mega-flop shot. Unfortunately I failed on that same shot a few holes later, three times.  Having missed the green and run down a huge slope, one must get the ball on the green. If not, the ball will roll right back to your feet like it did for me, three times.  I’d channeled my inner me on that one.

Golf Colombia Bogota

Me on the 5th green at exactly 10,000 feet above sea level. Notice how nice the green is? Click to zoom…

The surfaces themselves were surprisingly good.  I was led to expect that they would be bumpy and slow.  Led to believe they’d be poorly taken care of.  In fact the putting surfaces were quite nice, rolled true and held shots like the best country clubs I’ve played.  I backed a gap wedge up about 20 feet on the 16th hole.

Conclusion

I can’t begin to express how special and fantastic playing at La Cima really is.  I kept telling my playing partner Daniel, a local, how great it was.  Hard to put into words, especially with my limited vocabulary, what the experience golfing in the Andes Mountains is like.

La Cima isn’t a country club.  Not a resort.  There are no golf carts.  No hotel.  No pool.  No condos.  No gourmet restaurant.  If that’s your fancy then fine, have fun with it.  For me it is about the golf and the experience.  I’ve played golf on some of the world’s most famous courses from all over the USA to St. Andrews.  This was an experience like no other.  I’ll always remember golf above the clouds and will do my best to get back to La Cima Club de Golf as soon as possible.

Related Links

La Cima website (Spanish)

La Cima Club de Golf photo gallery


Review: Salish Cliffs Golf Club, Shelton, Washington

Written by: Tony Korologos | Monday, September 24th, 2012
Categories: Course ReviewsGolf CoursesGolf LifeGolf LifestyleHOG World TourReviewsTravel
Tags:

On my recent Hooked On Golf Blog World Tour stop in Washington (state) and Vancouver, Canada, I had the chance to play a new course called Salish Cliffs. Salish Cliffs is located in Shelton, Washington, about 1.5 hours southwest of Seattle. The course opened in September 2011 as part of the Squaxin Island Tribe’s Little Creek Casino/Resort. I’ll be posting my golf travel review of Little Creek’s resort soon.

Salish Cliffs Golf Club

Salish Cliffs Golf Club #2 Tee – click for more

Salish Cliffs Golf Club Overview

Gene Bates is the course architect for Salish Cliffs.  I’ve played many Bates designs, and I can honestly say this is the best one I’ve played so far.  The previous Bates designs I’ve experienced don’t have the dense forest and interesting terrain that Salish does.  Bates did a fantastic job utilizing the terrain to make a fun, challenging and beautiful track. (more…)


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