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A beast lurks behind Cabo Real Golf Course's flowery romance

Chris BaldwinBy Chris Baldwin,
Cabo Real Golf Course - Ocean Green
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Cabo Real brings you up close and personal with the Pacific Ocean. (Chris Baldwin/GolfPublisher.com)

Robert Trent Jones Jr.'s Cabo Real Golf Course will have you sweating bullets in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico - The courtyard could be something straight out of a cheesy Jackie Collins novel.

It's low-lying pretty yellow buildings, a burbling fountain, flowers, palm trees and even a little outdoor café hidden to the side under a thatch hut. Trendy espresso anyone? This is the nice side of Cabo Real Golf Course.

Want to see the mean side? Head to the first tee.

Cabo Real is the course that puts the tough into this idyllic stretch of Mexican coastline that hugs luxury resorts as snuggly as the Pacific. It's Robert Trent Jones II at his most fearsome - and his best. It's a course that takes you nearly to the edge of the surf and gives you views of bikini-clad hotties lounging on the pool deck of one of the world's most exclusive resorts.

In other words, it's everything you hope a Cabo golf course will be - if you knew what to hope for.

"It's a little different," first-time Cabo Real player Ashley Salisbury said.

Cabo Real's a course built and run for globetrotters. It caters to people like its own director of golf/real estate, Federico Vaughan, the kind of guy who jets away to Vegas for a weekend while his Blackberry never stops buzzing.

You don't have to travel the world to appreciate Cabo Real. But chances are, you'll love it even more if you do.

That way, you know how rare a place like this is. At Cabo Real, they don't just send you out onto the course to get caught up in tees traffic jammed with foursomes if you're a single or a twosome. Instead, the starter looks to find the best spot to produce a nice-paced round for you, suggests something crazy like starting on No. 12. Then a marshal drives you out to the tee so you're not trying to decipher one of those back-of-the-scorecard course maps while wishing for your TomTom.

Nope, Cabo Real isn't bound by convention. Or worried about giving golfers a litany of stupid rules.

Your time's valuable. You're paying big bucks ($280). They'll actually work to treat you right.

Call it golf's version of pleasure and pain. For while the Cabo Real staff's trying to help you, Jones II does everything he can to leave you dead and buried on the front nine. In fact, if your scorecard still has life at the turn, you need to give a private prayer of thanks to the Golf Gods.

And hope Tiger Woods hears you.

"The front nine has some sting to it," Vaughan said. Which is like saying it's probably not a good idea to mess with the tigers at the San Francisco zoo.

Cabo Real's front nine is narrow, often uphill, dogleg heavy, usually stiflingly hot and full of desert. Cabo is one of the only places on the planet where you have both desert and the ocean. Midway through Cabo Real's front nine, you may think the desert's swallowed you up whole.

Holes like the 493-yard par-5 third - an uphill dogleg with its green on a mad scientist slope - will give you an idea of what it's like to shoot through a minefield.

Survive Cabo Real's front nine and you have a blast on the back.

The back nine is even showier, more over the top than the front, but this theater brings great scenes along with the tough shots. There's a par 3 (No. 15) where you need to clear the beach. Yep, some sap could be strolling in the sand below watching the same rolling surf you are - and end up getting whacked in the head with an errant Pro V1.

You might also see tourists going by on horseback on that same so-close beach.

Once you're on the green at 15, you're looking right across at the pool deck of an exclusive $800 per night Cabo resort (not affiliated with the course). Suddenly, the scenery isn't just that striking blue water. It's thongs too. And here's a little newsflash: Not everyone in Cabo feels the need for the bikini top.

Yes, you'll be taking extra time to line up this putt.

On Cabo Real's backside, the good looks keep coming with the cooler ocean breezes. There's the go-for-it par 4 that almost literally ends at the Pacific (No. 14). There's a towering tee that lets you send your ball sailing into the bright blue sky toward the direction of the blue ocean (No. 12).

Forget that courtyard. You might fall in love with the course.

The Verdict on Cabo Real Golf Course

There aren't that many golf courses in Cabo. The ones they do have are almost all high end with ocean looks designed by celebrity golf architects. Golfing in Cabo's like shopping at Louis Vuitton.

Everything's outrageously expensive and top of the line.

Well, Cabo Real's among the very best of the very rich best, one of the top two courses in Cabo along with Jack Nicklaus' Cabo del Sol Ocean Course. These are your must plays if you're staying anywhere along the 19-mile corridor that stretches between the very different towns of Cabo San Lucas (party central) and San Jose del Cabo (more traditional Mexican community) that make up Cabo.

Cabo del Sol Ocean's the more well known of the two courses. Cabo Real is the tougher of the two.

Robert Trent Jones II (a last-minute replacement) uses the ocean to maximum effect at Cabo Real, but his real achievement is making sure the non-Pacific holes are memorable too. OK, sometimes that memory is a kick in the butt.

It's Cabo though. Finding good times isn't a problem. No, this isn't a spot where Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson would frolic during their Cabo trip.

It's a great place to sweat a little on yours, though.

More photos

Cabo Real Golf Course - No. 14Cabo Real Golf Course - Outdoor CafeCabo Real Golf Course - 12th Tee

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.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Cabo real

    Charlie vasbinder wrote on: Nov 20, 2012

    Club campestre and puerto Los cabos make this course look stupid. Don't even waste your time playing this course. It was dried out and in horrible shape. Take an extra ten minutes and go to puerto Los cabos or clb campestre. Those courses are gems