Photo by Larry Lambrecht

Diamante Golf Club - Dunes Course

Mexico, Baja Peninsula, Cabo San Lucas
6.8 (4)
Course Opened: 2009

The project that put the Diamante development on golf’s international radar, the Dunes Course was designed by Paul Cowley in association with Davis Love III and opened in 2009. Diamante is situated very close to the popular resort town of Cabo San Lucas, but unusual for the area in that the golf is located on the Pacific Ocean side of the Baja Peninsula, as opposed to most other courses that look out toward the Sea of Cortez. Additionally, there are more pristine beach and ocean views here, at least until the development is built out.

Interestingly, the Dunes Course achieved worldwide acclaim almost the moment it opened, yet within a few short years had undergone structural change. The original 11th and 12th holes are no more, and the 10th has been altered significantly because of a problematic home site situated too close to the original green. There are also plans afoot to build a new par three between the 9th and 10th holes, as well as to extend the 4th into a neighboring dune and remove the current par three 5th.

What these changes highlight are issues with the original routing, as well as the developmental balance between fitting home sites around the best golf areas. There is certainly an argument to make that the Dunes Course has improved in recent times, but a clear counterview suggests some of the golf has been compromised. This will likely increase down the track, as more of the coastal real estate is sold and built upon.

Beyond the beautiful views that many courses in Cabo are blessed with, what makes Diamante Dunes different is the use of the pristine white sand hills that run adjacent to the region’s untouched beaches. The sheer size of these apparently mobile dunes is impressive, as are some of the longer back nine holes that skirt around them. The most obvious highpoints are the par five 12th and 14th holes, each with charming green sites pushed into dune swales. The tumbling par four 15th is also excellent, and is the hole in Cabo that most successfully marries coastal proximity with high-quality strategic design. Here, a broad fairway and skilfully crafted green site present golfers with a range of drive and approach shot options. The next is a gorgeous short hole that enjoys an uninterrupted ocean backdrop.

On the front nine the strong par three 2nd and mid-length 4th standout for their use of the duneland and for some fine softer undulations. The high/low options available when playing the 4th are particularly impressive, although apparently short-lived. The heavily bunkered 8th hole, with its broad fairway, is another that challenges golfers to think and plot their way rather than simply stepping up and blasting.

If anything, the knock on Diamante Dunes is that short of six or seven quality holes, the rest of the golf doesn’t reach any great architectural heights. There are some very pleasant green settings but a few too many tucked into saddles or with noticeable backstops or sideslopes to direct balls into agreeable areas. There are also a few places where the elevation changes seem a little abrupt. These small points aside, the Dunes property is good for golf and the views are exceptional. The back nine is arguably the best nine anywhere in the greater Cabo area.

Fresh off the success of the Dunes Course, the Diamante development added a second layout in 2014 called El Cardonal, the first in the world to be designed by golfing great Tiger Woods. Tiger’s course differs greatly from the Dunes in both style and setting. Built away from the region’s famous coastline, the course not only lacks the water views and absolute sea frontage of the Dunes but also the design sophistication. There are some odd holes here and ill-conceived bunkering concepts. A number of the par fours and fives have traps that are either too large or too frequently deployed. Furthermore, the natural arroyos on the site and some of the better golf undulations are only occasionally used in an interesting or strategic sense. Often this is because bunkers are placed beside them to force golfers to hit away. The width, variety and tactical intrigue on display at Bluejack National in Texas are sadly lacking across El Cardonal.

Fortunately for Diamante, while Tiger’s course disappoints on many levels, the Dunes Course more than compensates. Few who play here ever walk away disappointed.

 

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