Los Cabos’ Quivira: Pebble Beach in Mexico 0 47

Quivira Golf Club No 6

Nicklaus Tested by Beautiful, Severe Baja Terrain

“Have you ever walked the golf course,” I asked Quivira Golf Club Los Cabos’ director of golf, Antonio Reynante.

“My assistants and I tried it once, but we couldn’t get past Number 6,” the fit-looking 35-year-old former mini-tour player told me. “We had to call the shop to come out and take us back in golf carts.”

It wasn’t an indictment of his staff’s physical conditioning so much as a testament to architect Jack Nicklaus’ ability to design a golf course that starts at 30 feet above sea level and climbs to nearly 400.

Quivira Hole No 15 “I thought it was a very challenging yet spectacular piece of property,” Nicklaus said when the course opened in 2014.

“I hope most people will think it’s the most spectacular golf course and the best golf course they have ever seen. And yes, some other people will say, “You have got to be kidding.

That’s an honest appraisal. A cynic might say that Quivira is just a clown’s mouth or windmill away from goofy golf, but in my mind Nicklaus cast aside his usual highly engineered approach; instead, he let Quivira’s landscape dictate an appealing compromise between playability for the vacationing player, visual impact and sustainability.

The result is a track that Golf magazine named “Best New International Course” in 2014. In 2016, Golf Digest gave it the magazine’s Editor’s Choice award for best golf resort in Mexico or Central America.

The Challenge

Part of The Golden Bear’s solution to the challenging elevation changes at Quivira is the longest cart path I’ve ever ridden – 1,500 meters, or just shy of a mile – switch-backing its way 250 vertical feet along the flank of a massive dune-topped granite ridge rising above the ocean.

The ride is both exhilarating and relaxing, much like the first long ascent on an amusement park roller coaster. As you climb between Nos. 4 and 5, the views of the receding golf shop, beach, and the occasional humpback whale breaching well beyond the surf break are reasons enough to pat yourself on the back for choosing Cabo.

Quivira Golf Club Hole No 5Cresting the last switchback to the No. 5 tee box brings a truly vertigo-inducing view – the kind that snaps your senses to full alert, makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and announces in no uncertain terms that, yes, your golf vacation has finally begun.

To the left: the Pacific Ocean and a sheer drop of 280 feet. To the right: the ridge rising higher still. To the front: a narrow ribbon of grass leading to an unseen green dangling some 100 feet below the layup spot in the fairway. The putting surface itself is perched 125 feet above the surf.

It’s not often I’m thankful to see a “Cart paths only this hole” sign, but this was one of those times. The thought of our cart launching us a la “Thelma and Louise” into the ocean fleetingly crossed my mind.

Quivira No 6 holeThe Par 3 6th is no less spectacular. I’ll let the course description do the talking: “The tee shot must find and hold a long narrow green that drops off to a cavernous bunker and oblivion on the left.”

“Oblivion” would be the Pacific. From the back tee box, the putting surface is but a speck of green 180 yards away, sky blue above, ocean blue to the left, granite brown to the right.

Multiple Personalities

Quivira Golf Club No 13Once the course turns inland, the rest of Quivira’s holes range in personality from those you’d find on the sandy links courses of Scotland to those you’d find in Scottsdale or tucked in the folds of the hills and ravines of Northern California.

What you’ll likely not find elsewhere, though, are Quivira’s four staffed, on-course food and beverage stations, where complimentary beer, wine, tacos and other hand-held fare are freely offered. The halfway house, called the Oasis, features regional cuisine and a full tequila bar.

Pueblo Bonito Hotel and poolQuivira is part of the Pueblo Bonito family of resorts, which has three Cabo hotels, the Pacifica, an adult-oriented beach-side hotel, the Sunset Beach, a family-oriented hotel sited next to a 161,000-square-foot central food market, and the Greco-Roman-themed Rose Resort. For those seeking extra privacy, affiliated residential communities offer condos and freestanding ocean-view villas for rent.

If You Go

What: Quivira Golf Club Los Cabos, Pueblo Bonita Resort

Where: Cabo San Lucas, Baja Sur California, Mexico

When: Moderate temperatures year-round

How much: Greens fees, $227-$370, depending on season; $213 per round as part of a three-round stay-play package. Rooms start at $466 a night.

All the Pueblo Bonito properties in Cabo offer activities that include swimming with the dolphins, whale-watching, jet skiing and guided fishing trips. All offer a variety of spa treatments.

Getting to Cabo San Lucas is a snap, with easy connections through Phoenix. One wrinkle you should know about: For a reason no one I asked could explain, you can take golf balls in your carry-on baggage on the flight to Cabo but Mexican authorities will confiscate them before you board on your return.

 Dan Vukelich is the senior editor at ABQ Free Press, a former editor at Sun Country Golf magazine and editor of newmexicogolfnews.com. Reach him at dan@newmexicogolfnews.com.

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Phoenix’s West Valley Gets a Winner with Victory Club 1 68

Verrado Victory Golf Club

Rocky Foothills Now 7,258 Yards of Emerald Fairways

The Phoenix Metro just got another great new golf course — the Victory Course at Verrado Golf Club in the West Valley — that can be had for an introductory rate of $99, with a replay for $25.

This one’s a must-play for Spring Training fans flocking to the Valley of the Sun to see Cactus League baseball in a couple weeks. It’s off I-10, about 12 miles northwest of the Metro’s western-most Spring Training venue, Goodyear Ball Park, where the Cleveland Indians and the Cincinnati Reds train.

Designed by PGA Tour player Tom Lehman, the Victory Club was built on a former proving ground for Caterpillar heaviest and toughest earth-moving equipment.

Victory Club at VerradoLehman called his new layout “surreally beautiful.” He said the rugged rock environment dramatically contrasts against “immaculately maintained fairways and greens.”

In every way, he said, “We’ve truly used whatever the land has given us and left the terrain all natural, so it looks like the course has been built right into the land. In fact, I can’t think of another course in Arizona that is quite like it.”

The Victory Club is the first course to open in the West Valley since its sister course, Verrado, opened in 2002. Its opening coincides with Arizona’s peak golf season.

“Because Victory’s debut is so special, we wanted to do something special for our guests, too,” said Doug Foss, director of marketing for Verrado Golf club. “We know there has been a lot of anticipation about the course opening, and I think what people will find when they come and play it is that Tom Lehman has really added another true gem to the Arizona golf scene.”

The Victory Club is 32 due west of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, hard against the White Tanks Mountains.

To play Victory now for just $99, and get the replay, which the club is calling “the bounceback round,” for just $25, visit www.verradogolfclub.com or call (623) 388-3000.

Dan Vukelich, former editor of Sun Country Golf magazine, in Albuquerque, N.M., is the editor of ABQ Free Press, an alternative newspaper. He is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Golf Travel Writers Association. Reach him at dan@freeabq.com.

Mid-winter Update: Golf in Palm Springs 0 41

Desert Willow Golf Resort

Your Guide to Golf in the Coachella Valley

No longer Just for Geezers, Valley courses offer top conditions, strong value

Call this New Mexico Golf News’ long-overdue mid-winter golf update, with a quick overview of what’s new in a destination that has come a long way since Bing Crosby, Dinah Shore and other Hollywood swells first found respite there from Tinseltown.

It’s long overdue because of the months of work that have gone into my responsibilities as editor of ABQ Free Press, a cool alt weekly, which has wreaked havoc on my golf game.

So, when I had a chance recently to visit Palm Springs, I packed by golf bag and headed west. Frankly, I used to think Palm Springs golf was overrated and overpriced, but my recent return persuaded me otherwise.

What has been cheekily called “God’s Western Waiting Room” has a energetic vibe despite the presence of so many retirees. The Greater Palm Springs Convention Bureau’s site lists activities ranging from strenuous mountain hiking to zoos to auto performance schools and Jeep tours to architectural tours and tennis tournaments.

Palm Spring Convention Bureau logoIn short, it’s a happening place. In April there’s the Coachella Music and Arts Festival, where an actual polo ground is taken over by acts that include rock, indie, hip hop, and electronic dance music.

Here’s a wrap-up of a golf destination where the muni courses shine just as brightly as the resort courses.

Indian Wells Golf Resort, Indian Wells, Calif.

Indian Wells Golf ResortDamn, if this isn’t the prettiest golf property I’ve visited in a long while — and a municipal golf course, no less. Indian Wells Golf Resort has two courses, the Celebrity and Players Course. Both are heavily planted with desert plants and ornamental flowers.

Both courses have significant elevation changes across a parcel of land that once was nearly flat. The result is tee shot views that intimidate thanks to overhanging tree limbs that force a player to make a concrete choice on line rather than just grip-and-rip.

Mature trees, desert shrubs off the fairways and well-kept greens give the player everything he or she could want.

The Indian Wells clubhouse is a monument to Mid-Century Modernism, with Art Deco accents of metal inlaid on dark wood. The golf courses are managed by Troon Golf, the gold standard of golf-management companies. Prices during high season come in at $189 on weekdays and $199 on weekends.

And speaking of Modernism, Feb. 16-26 is “Modernism Week” in Palm Springs when 250 events are held to celebrate the design style of the late 1950s and 1960s when movie stars and other L.A. swells flocked to Palm  Springs to indulge themselves in “Space Age” home building using avantg garde designs that have held up to the test of time.

SilverRock Resort, La Quinta, Calif.

You should be so lucky if this muni were your muni. Tucked in the shadow of the Santa Rosa Mountains SilverRock Resort is a gem that can be had for $142 during high season.

Silver Rock Golf ResortWhen I mean tucked in the shadow, I mean right up against the mountain, where big-horn sheep amble about on the fringe of the golf course until — wham — one of them gets spooked and in an instant the entire herd clambers 150 feet straight up a 60-degree slope of rock and hardscrabble with the ease of effort that you or I would expend getting out a golf cart.

PGA West, La Quinta, Calif.

With so many public courses to choose from — the Norman, the Nicklaus and Pete Dye’s Stadium Course — it’s tough to go wrong with any of the public courses at PGA West.

PGA West Stadium CourseBut be forewarned: In designing the Stadium Course, Pete Dye has been especially diabolical in his hazard placement — with massive fairway bunkers and hidden hazards such as the deep bunker than forms a horseshoe around the back of the rear-canted green on the 363-yard 12th hole.

By contrast, Jack Nicklaus’s resort course at PGA is surprisingly forgiving, with more of a residential Scottsdale feel to it than the soul-crushing style of so many of the Golden Bear’s other designs.

Desert Willow Golf Resort, Palm Desert, Calif.

Let’s just say this pair of golf courses, Mountain View and Firecliff, are both a feast for the eyes and true bargains.

Desert Willow Golf ResortTrue to its name, Desert Willow is an aesthetically pleasing combination of lush fairways and native flora with the San Jacinto Mountains looming in the distance. The city, which was once a collection of sand dunes straddling wind-blown Interstate 10, has become a bustling winter home for golfers and tennis players from both coasts.

Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry have done a tremendous job melding aesthetics with playability at Desert Willow — a feat that has been recognized by repeat California “Top 10 You Can Play” awards. It seems that every time you turn a corner to the next hole of either the Mountain View or Firecliff courses, a fresh vista with mountains, desert flowers and cactus opens up. The scents that come with the native plants are as sweet as the golf.

Best of all, Desert willow is easy on the wallet, with most high season tee times available for between $129and $138. Mid-day tee times can be had for as little as $85, with plenty of time to finish.

Where to stay

There is no shortage of cheap lodging in the Coachella Valley, with choices ranging from low-rent chains to mid-range brands to an eclectic mix of boutique hotels and B&Bs that sprang up when Palm Springs first became a getaway for style-conscious gays from L.A.

Westin Mission HillsTwo throwbacks to the age of the 1950s full-service resorts are the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage and the Miramonte Resort & Spa in Indian Wells, the latter having the added advantage of practically being across the street from the Indian Wells Golf Resort.

The Westin has two golf courses, one designed by Pete Dye and the other a Gary Player signature course. Both are worthy resort-style courses easy on both the eye and the ego.

A beer joint

Beer Hunter Sports Bar La QuintaJust down the street from the Miramonte Resort is the aptly named Beer Hunter La Quinta Sports Bar & Grill, at the corner of the main drag, Hwy. 111 and Washington Street. Plenty of beer choices, beaucoup TV screens, plenty of friendly wait people and overall a nice, friendly vibe. You could go a long way along I-10 before you found a place this cozy.

Getting there

If you’re budget-conscious, you can fly into John Wayne International Airport in Orange County, Calif., but what you’ll save in airfare will be paid back in the likelihood of traffic frustration and increased travel time. I’ve done it both ways and my recommendation is to fly into Palm Springs with its quaint indoor-outdoor feel — something Phoenix’s Terminal 1 had into the early 1990s before traffic through Sky Harbor exploded.

Palm Springs AirportWhile your budget-conscious buddies are slogging it through L.A. traffic and winding through the mountains and descending into the Coachella Valley from the west, you’ll have already checked in, had a soak and probably will be well into your second margarita.

And in my book, that’s a good thing.

Dan Vukelich, former editor of Sun Country Golf magazine, in Albuquerque, N.M., is the editor of ABQ Free Press, an alternative newspaper. He is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Golf Travel Writers Association. Reach him at dan@freeabq.com.