Note: This story was originally published in the April, 2001, issue of Golf Digest
Land and sea are not particularly compatible on the tip of Baja California, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez 1,100 miles south of Los Angeles. It's a geographic beauty and beast.
Look in one direction and you will see a panorama of pristine coastline. Look the other way and you will see harsh, dry desert scrub that ostensibly only snakes and lizards could love.
Unless you're a golf course developer.
The Los Cabos (cape) region of Mexico once was nothing more than fishing villages and arid wasteland. Then someone realized the scenic coastline, coupled with 350 days of sunshine each year, represented a vein of golf gold waiting to be mined. Dirt was moved, water imported and, presto! From desolation, a destination.
Today, Los Cabos can compete with any golf stop in terms of scenery, service and shot values. It features a cluster of world-class courses from which the Sea of Cortez (also known as the Gulf of California) is visible from nearly every hole.
And Jack Nicklaus' signature is on the majority of them. He has designed and built three impressive facilities here: Cabo del Sol, Palmilla (which features 27 holes) and Eldorado. Robert Trent Jones Jr. broke the Nicklaus monopoly, with a first-rate effort, Cabo Real.
Yet, for all the exceptional golf, it's hard to escape the fact that fishing remains the recreation of choice here. More ice chests and rods seem to emerge from baggage claim than do golf clubs. Los Cabos is among the best sites in the world for billfishing (sailfish, marlin and swordfish), with 40,000 catches said to be made in these waters each year.
For those making the trek, here are a few points to consider:
Bring either a passport or a copy of your birth certificate. After all, you're entering a foreign country.
Water in the better hotels is potable, though bottled water is in plentiful supply. So is tequila.
The currency of choice is the Mexican peso, though the U.S. dollar is acceptable.
Spanish is the native language, but English is spoken in the tourist centers.
Many major airlines from around the world fly into Los Cabos International Airport, which is 29 miles from the golf resorts that connect the towns of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. Taxis and rental cars are readily available.
Bring sunscreen. Although the average temperature is 78 degrees, the sun is brutal in the spring and summer months. It is not unusual to spend several days without seeing a cloud. The winter is the best time of year to visit. The heat in the summer can be stifling.