Golf’s glory days of the 1990s and early 2000s, when over 4,000 courses were built in the United States, are long gone. Over the last decade, over 800 golf courses have closed in the U.S., including nearly a dozen in San Diego, one of the industry’s hot beds.
But here in Los Cabos, Mexico, the golf business is booming. Three golf courses have opened in the last two years, including two in last few months, bringing the total number of courses to 18 in this once tiny fishing village on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula.
The latest to open, the Rancho San Lucas Golf Club, may just be Cabo’s greatest. A Greg Norman masterpiece design just 15 minutes from downtown Cabo San Lucas, Rancho San Lucas covers 7,200 yards of stunning coastline, wandering through massive windswept sand dunes, climbing through a cactus forest and finding its way back to the sea on the final nine holes.
Known as “The Shark” in his playing days, Norman began coming to Cabo 30 years ago from his native Australia to fish and dive, when just six weekly flights arrived here. Now, 550 weekly flights from 40 destinations land in Cabo, known these days for its vibrant nightlife and its championship golf courses. The designers read like a Who’s Who in the game of golf—Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Davis Love, Tom Fazio, Robert Trent Jones, Tom Weiskopf and Norman.
So how did this little fishing village become one of the top golf destinations in the world over the last 25 years?
“It starts with our location,” said Brian McCallen, a golf public relations representative for the Los Cabos Tourism Board. “We’re right at the spot where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean, at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, and we’re blessed with an extraordinary mountain-desert-ocean environment. That’s attracted some of the sport’s top designers and they’ve crafted some of the world’s finest courses.”
The boom doesn’t appear to be fading anytime soon.
“Quivira will build a second Jack Nicklaus Signature course adjacent to its gravity-defying clifftop layout,” McCallen said. “Diamante, already home to the top-rated Dunes Course and two courses by Tiger Woods, plans to add a third layout by Tiger, a part-time resident. And Greg Norman is designing a seaside course for Vidanta’s budding resort development on the East Cape. “
Norman began talking to Solmar Group Developer Francisco Bulnes nearly 20 years ago about carving a championship golf course out of Bulnes’ family’s 834-acre rolling desert property, located just 15 minutes from downtown Cabo San Lucas.
“I fell in love with this property from first sight without even getting down to the beach,” Norman said. “I knew I was going to be very fortunate to able to put my name on a golf course here because it has such a diverse ecosystem.”
The project was delayed several years due to the economic downturn in 2008. The hotel opened in 2018 and the golf course was christened in mid-February. Bulnes knew Norman had a reputation for designing tough courses all over the world, but he wanted just the opposite for visitors to Rancho San Lucas.
“This is the place where I chased jackrabbits as a kid,” Bulnes said. “I told Greg we needed to have a nice and enjoyable resort golf destination.”
Mission accomplished. Five sets of tees, wide landing areas, a limited amount of fairway bunkers and subtly-contoured medium sized greens, two full-service comfort stations and stunning ocean views on 14 holes all add up to a thoroughly enjoyable golfing experience. To top it off, the par-3 17th hole is the only island green in golf-rich Cabo.
“The challenge of this course is the beauty,” said Norman, a two-time British Open Champion and architect of 106 courses around the world. “It’s tough to get your mind off how beautiful it is and focus on the shot you have to hit.”
Golf may be the centerpiece of this 834-acre gated residential enclave, but it’s only part of the fun. Rancho San Lucas, one of seven Cabo resorts owned and operated by Solmar Hotel & Resorts, also features the luxurious Grand Solmar Hotel and the Residences at Rancho San Lucas, seven gourmet dining spots, an adults-only infinity pool, a massive saltwater lagoon, a kids’ pool with two waterslides, a seaside spa and 15 miles of jogging and biking trails.
Rooms at the Grand Solmar start at $191 plus tax, studios, one and two-bedroom suites all come with ocean views. The Mexican-themed suites include a full kitchen with marble counters, stainless-steal appliances, Murphy beds, private terraces, sitting areas and flat-screen satellite televisions. Two-bedroom penthouses at The Residences start at $682, terraces in each suite offers expansive ocean views. For those who want to stay awhile longer, luxury beachfront homes at The Villas and Norman Estates are available for purchase at $650,000 to $7 million.
Green fees are rather steep at $242, but hotel guests get up to a 20% discount and a cart and forecaddie are included. For more information, or to book a tee time at Rancho San Lucas Golf Club, visit https://ranchosanlucas.com/golf
To book a room at the Grand Solmar Hotel, visit https://grandsolmarranchosanlucas.solmar.com
For a room at The Residences at Rancho San Lucas, visit https://grandsolmartheresidences.solmar.com
Story by Dave McKibben