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|Cabo Real's No. 14 has you shooting toward the ocean. And to avoid that giant Robert Trent Jones bunker. (Chris Baldwin/WorldGolf.com)|
Life is easy if you're on a golf trip in the picturesque seaside resort area of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. But if you're tired of taking it so easy, book at tee time at Cabo Real Golf Course. This Robert Trent Jones Jr. design will shake the vacation daze right out of you.
CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico - It's easy to eat, sleep and drink your way through a golf vacation in this picturesque seaside corridor. A few days in Cabo and you start to feel like a trust-fund kid, certain someone is always going to make things easy for you, smooth over any troubles.
The toughest tough guy is liable to catch himself ordering a pina colada from the swim-up pool bar.
About this time you might be tempted to slip one of the happily helpful local workers 50 pesos to slap you across the face. No need. Just book a round at Cabo Real Golf Course instead.
This place will remind you what it takes to be a man. A mighty man's man.
Sure, you have to get past the romance-novel stone courtyard, flower-filled and surrounded by quaint yellow buildings, and the small army of staffers seemingly toiling just for you.
But beyond these creature comforts lies a Robert Trent Jones Jr. torture chamber ... err, golf course that will shake the vacation daze right out of you. Golfers with heart conditions - or double-bogey afflictions - should think twice about entering.
Cabo Real's front nine has long been recognized as the toughest in the region, but that reputation does it faint justice. With its desert-shrunken fairways, uphill climbs and Frankensteinian bunkers, this is one of the toughest front nines anywhere.
The only question is why the USGA hasn't been here for a consult. It could pick up some tips in the diabolical department.
"The front nine has some sting to it," said Federico Vaughan, director of golf for prominent Cabo real estate/golf firm Grupo Questro, as jovial as could be. Picture a man smiling at your funeral.
Cabo Real's No. 3 illustrates the torment. This 493-yard par 5 has you shooting uphill while trying to curve your ball around a turn with colorful desert bushes - and three ominous, supersized pot bunkers - en route to a green on a severely steep hill of its own. Land short on the sides of Cabo Real's slim hill greens and you'll struggle to get the proper footing to take a shot, let alone execute it. This course literally knocks you off-balance.
In other words, it's about the last place you want to play early one morning after a late night of tequila shots, as Los Angeles vacationer Ashley Salisbury did.
"It was a long night, I've never been to Cabo before, I'm the only girl in the group," Salisbury said. "And I don't have money to get back to the course where everyone else is playing. So I'm going to play here. I heard the back nine is nice."
The back nine is stunningly nice, in terms of scenery. The 14th is a go-for-it par 4 with the ocean behind the green. No. 15 is a par 3 that looks longer than its 168 yards because you're shooting over the beach to get to the green.
That's right - a forced beach clear.
No wonder you can hear the surf crashing at Cabo Real. It almost becomes a Zen golf thing.
Not that's much easier than front nine, as shooting up the skinny dogleg hill on No. 11 or down from the high, high tee on the 200-yard 12th makes clear. Cabo Real is a beast, wherever you are.
Some monsters you don't want to hide from. Cabo Real is a virtual must-play on any Los Cabos golfing excursion. Its toughness is matched by its scenic beauty and conditioning.
The flower beds below the eighth tee look like they were lifted from a famous public garden. This course is so well-choreographed, you half wonder if the staff planned the burst of birdsong you hear right after chipping one in for a rare birdie (an endangered species here).
It might fall a wow or two short of Cabo del Sol Ocean Course, but it's coin-flip close to determine whether Jones or Jack has built the best course in this high-end, big-name architect wonderland.
March 27, 2007
Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
Referred to by its hosts as a "hidden gem," the greens alone at Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo, Calif. make this a stone worth turning over. Located an hour northwest of L.A., it's a pleasing, quiet and generally engaging round that will appease players of all levels.
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