One of the newer entries in the top-tier golf experiences available in Mexico is the Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Golf and Spa Resort. The Pacifica is located in Cabo San Lucas, home of whale watchers, sport fishermen and cruise ships (remember the Love Boat?). It’s designed to be an escape from the ordinary, and also an escape from the kiddies, as no one under 18 is allowed.
Perched alongside a pristine beach area only a couple of miles from the city center, The Pacifica is a destination that grabs you by the senses from the moment you step on to the property. The lobby is a stunner, a pristine wide-open space that is all cut flowers and an indoor fountain that mimics the Pacific Ocean beach in the distance. The rooms are just as impressive, with most having an ocean view. The private balcony on the Ocean View rooms are where you’ll want to begin and end your day, and as a taller-than-average person, I appreciated the king-size beds. After you drop off your bags, change into some swim gear and head down to the beach. It is a huge, pristine shore with plenty of activities if you feel like splashing around and shaded day beds loaded with comfy cushions if you want to just relax and soak up some sunshine. And while you are working on your tan don’t forget to have a one of their signature cocktails.
When you make your way to the golf course you’ll find it just as impressive as the hotel. Quivira Golf Club features a Jack Nicklaus design that has garnered multiple awards in its two short years.
“This is one of the great pieces of property in the world,” Nicklaus said. “We tried to create some excitement on the mountain and in the dunes, and I believe we’ve created a golf course that plays as spectacular as it looks. I’ve never seen any place that has three holes hanging out over the ocean like this golf course does. They are unbelievable. This is a diverse golf course with inland settings; its got desert, its got ocean, its got rocks. It has a little bit of everything.”
Created as an exclusive amenity for hotel guests and residents of the rental properties, the 7,139-yard par-72 track offers a rigorous test for the better player but also features five sets of tees so that players of all skill levels have an opportunity enjoy it. Situated beside the clubhouse at Quivira is a top-quality practice facility right alongside the beach. The pro shop is well stocked with everything you need in equipment, apparel and accessories. And for those that don’t like to travel with clubs, the rentals brand new full sets of TaylorMade clubs.
Some courses say they are oceanfront if there are a couple of waves visible and you can vaguely smell seawater. Not so with Quivira. Seventeen of the holes have a view of the Pacific, with many of the holes running alongside the beach. Many of the tee shots are downhill drives from promontories with stunning ocean views. The course is platinum paspalum grass from tee to green, and it is meticulously maintained. The greens were rolling at about an 11 on the stimpmeter, and the rough was high enough to present a challenge for a missed fairway, but since it’s a resort course, it was short enough to allow golfers to hit a shot and keep moving.
The course’s first four holes are appealing, but not necessarily spectacular. But the show starts with the almost one-mile ride up to the 5th tee, perched high atop the cliffs bordering the beach. There is a taco-and-tequila station on top of the hill, the first of the three luxurious rest stations on the course that offer a range of mouth-watering food and drink options. And if you don’t see something you like among the ceviche, shrimp tacos or braised pork sandwiches you can ask for what you like and they’ll have it waiting for you on the next station.
You might want to indulge in a little liquid courage before plying the difficult and controversial 5th, a 310-yard par four that requires two of the most intimidating blind shots most golfers will encounter. A hybrid or an iron to a narrow fairway is rewarded with an opportunity to try and hit a green that is invisible from the fairway. You basically aim at one of the whales swimming in the distance and swing away. My score over three days on that hole was 17 shots, if you include the ones that were in a glass with lime and salt. Love it or hate it, you’ll be talking about it for hours after the round.
If No. 5 is quirky then No. 6 is a classic beauty — a 180-yard par-3 carved out of the cliffs and overlooking the beach. In looks and difficulty, it is the match for anything you find at Pebble Beach. Another hole with story to tell is the massive 635-yard par-5 12th, which zig–zags downhill and finishes at the beach where the epic film “Troy” with Brad Pitt was filmed. You can still see some of the wooden stakes that formed the fortifications of the Trojan fortress, but if you get caught up in the sightseeing and miss the fairway, you’ll spend a lot more time on this hole than intended.
When you are done with your round you’ll need to wind down and recharge; take the opportunity to indulge yourself in the Pacifica Spa. Start with a steam, and sauna then a dip in the cold tubs. Follow that with a custom massage and a cup of herbal tea and you’ll be as relaxed as Fred Couples’ swing. The dining facilities are outstanding, featuring a wide variety of cuisines. Given the location, you’d be crazy not to try plenty of seafood and the variety of Mexican specialties on tap. And for tequila lovers, there are more options than you can shake a wedge at, including some rare options that will set your senses (and your wallet) on fire. You can finish the night with cocktails and cigars by an open fire or maybe a walk along the beach, depending on who you are with.
There are plenty of direct flights to Cabo San Lucas for those on the West Coast of the U.S., and East Coast travelers can get there with one stop. The best prices for flights are during the off-season, but even during the high season it’s resonably affordable. Nearby Cabo San Lucas is one of the best, most popular tourist destinations in North America. Whether you want to go whale and seal watching, shopping in the town center, or just lounging on the beach, there is something to fill your days. Be sure to stop by JJ’s Cigars, where they have an amazing selection of top-quality cigars kept in a huge walk-in humidor. And the nightlife is just as good, with dozens of bars and bars and clubs for cocktails, dancing, or whatever.
The Pacifica is a luxury facility and prices reflect that. However, the resort offers a truly exceptional experience that is worth every penny. The best way to go is an all-inclusive package that includes golf, lodging and meals. And if you want to go off-campus with the all-inclusive deal you will be given a wristband that extends your privileges to any of the Pueblo Bonito facilities in Puerto Vallarta. Have dinner at least one night at the Pueblo Bonito Los Cabos. You can catch a gentle breeze while noshing on steak carbon tacos and looking at sunset over the beautiful harbor. And for the frugal there are some great deals available during the shoulder seasons and for groups so smart shoppers can get paradise at a discount.
The Pacifica and Quivira Golf Club are one of the best new offerings I’ve seen for a long time. If you appreciate exceptional conditions on and off the course, this is the one for you.
Learn more at quiviragolfclub.com.
Kingston Heath: The Hype is Real
We touched ground late in the afternoon at Melbourne Airport and checked in very, very late at hotel Grand Hyatt. Don’t ask about our driving and navigating skills. It shouldn’t have taken us as long as we did. Even with GPS we failed miserably, but our dear friend had been so kind to arrange a room with a magnificent view on the 32nd floor for us.
The skyline in Melbourne was amazing, and what a vibrant, multicultural city Melbourne turned out to be when we later visited the streets to catch a late dinner. The next morning, we headed out to one of the finest golf courses that you can find Down Under: Kingston Heath. We had heard so many great things about this course, and to be honest we were a bit worried it almost was too hyped up. Luckily, there were no disappointments.
Here’s the thing about Kingston Heath. You’re driving in the middle of a suburb in Melbourne and then suddenly you see the sign, “Kingston Heath.” Very shortly after the turn, you’re at the club. This is very different than the other golf courses we’ve visited on this trip Down Under, where we’ve had to drive for several miles to get from the front gates to the club house.
Nevertheless, this course and its wonderful turf danced in front of us from the very first minute of our arrival. With a perfect sunrise and a very picture friendly magic morning mist, we walked out on the course and captured a few photos. Well, hundreds to be honest. The shapes and details are so pure and well defined.
Kingston Heath was designed by Dan Soutar back in 1925 with help and guidance from the legendary golf architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who added to its excellent bunkering system. Dr. MacKenzie’s only design suggestion was to change Soutar’s 15th hole from a 222-yard par-4 (with a blind tee shot) to a par-3. Today, this hole is considered to be one the best par-3 holes Down Under, and I can understand why.
I am normally not a big fan of flat courses, but I will make a rare exception for Kingston Heath. It’s a course that’s both fun and puts your strategic skills to a serious test. Our experience is that you need to plan your shots carefully, and never forget to stay out of its deep bunkers. They’re not easy.
Kingston Heath is not super long in distance, but it will still give you a tough test. You definitely need to be straight to earn a good score. If you are in Melbourne, this is the golf course I would recommend above all others.
Next up: Metropolitan. Stay tuned!
Barnbougle Lost Farm: 20 Holes of Pure Joy
Another early day in Tasmania, and we were exploring the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-design, Barnbougle Lost Farm. The course was completed in 2010, four years after the neighbor Barnbougle Dunes, resulting in much excitement in the world of golf upon opening.
Johan and I teed off at 10 a.m. to enjoy the course at our own pace in its full glory under clear blue skies. Barnbougle Lost Farm starts out quite easy, but it quickly turns into a true test of links golf. You will certainly need to bring some tactical and smart planning in order to get close to many of the pin positions.
The third hole is a prime example. With its sloping two-tiered green, it provides a fun challenge and makes you earn birdie — even if your tee and approach shots put you in a good position. This is one of the things I love about this course; it adds a welcome dimension to the game and something you probably don’t experience on most golf courses.
The 4th is an iconic signature hole called “Sals Point,” named after course owner Richard Sattler’s wife (she was hoping to build a summer home on the property before it was turned into a golf course). A strikingly beautiful par-3, this hole is short in distance but guarded with luring bunkers. When the prevailing northwesterly wind comes howling in from the ocean, the hole will leave you exposed and pulling out one of your long irons for the tee shot. We left No. 4 with two bogeys with a strong desire for revenge.
Later in the round, we notice our scorecard had a hole numbered “13A” just after the 13th. We then noticed there was also an “18A.” That’s because Barnbougle Lost Farm offers golfers 20 holes. The designers believed that 13A was “too good to leave out” of the main routing, and 18A acts as a final betting hole to help decide a winner if you’re left all square. And yes, we played both 13A and 18A.
I need to say I liked Lost Farm for many reasons; it feels fresh and has some quirky holes including the 5th and the breathtaking 4th. The fact that it balks tradition with 20 holes is something I love. It also feels like an (almost) flawless course, and you will find new things to enjoy every time you play it.
The big question after trying both courses at Barnbougle is which course I liked best. I would go for Barnbougle Dunes in front of Barnbougle Lost Farm, mostly because I felt it was more fun and offered a bigger variation on how to play the holes. Both courses are great, however, offering really fun golf. And as I wrote in the first part of this Barnbougle-story, this is a top destination to visit and something you definitely need to experience with your golf friends if you can. It’s a golfing heaven.
Next course up: Kingston Heath in Melbourne.
Barnbougle Dunes: World Class Golf
We arrived to Launceston Airport in Tasmania just before sunset. Located on the Northeast Coast of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, Barnbougle is almost as far from Sweden as it gets… yet it immediately felt like home when we arrived.
The drive from the airport was just over an hour, taking us through deep forests and rolling hills before we arrived to Barnbougle Golf Resort, which consists of two courses — The Dunes and Lost Farm — a lodge, two restaurants, a sports bar and a spa. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see much of the two courses on our arrival. I would like to add that both Johan and I were extremely excited about visiting this golf mecca. We later enjoyed a tasty dinner at the Barnbougle Lost Farm Restaurant before we called it a day.
The next day, we woke up early and got out to The Dunes Course as very first guests out. Well, to be quite honest, we weren’t actually the first out. There were a few locals — Wallabies, lots of them — already out on the course. The natural landscape at Barnbougle is fantastic and my cameras almost overheated with the photo opportunities. After two intense hours of recording videos and producing photos both from ground, we headed back to Lost Farm for a wonderful breakfast (and view). After our breakfast, it was time to try our luck.
Before describing our experience playing the courses, I would like to mention about Richard Sattler, a potato farmer and owner of Barnbougle. In the early 2000’s, Richard was introduced to U.S. golfing visionary Mike Keiser, who had heard about his amazing stretch of farmland in Tasmania and came down to visit. Mike convinced Richard that Barnbougle (which at that stage was a potato farm and still grows potatoes and raises cattle today) might be perfect for creating a top quality golf course.
After an introduction to well renowned golf architect Tom Doak and the formation of a partnership with former Australian golf pro and golf architect Mike Clayton, the development of the Barnbougle Dunes Course commenced.
Featuring large bunkers dotted between fun rolling fairways shaped from the coastal dunes, Barnbougle Dunes offers the golfer some tough challenges, in particular on the first nine. This is indeed a course that will entertain all kinds of golfers.
After our round, we looked back at some fantastic highlights such as playing the iconic 7th hole, a short par-3 called ”Tom’s Little Devil,” as well as the beautiful par-4 15th. We were just two big walking smiles sitting there in the restaurant to be honest. Lets also not forget one of the biggest (and deepest) bunkers I’ve seen at the 4th hole. The name of the bunker is “Jaws.” Good times!
As a small surprise for Johan, I had arranged a meeting after our round with Richard Sattler. Richard, ever the farmer, entered the car parking just in front of the clubhouse in a white pick-up van with a big smile un his face. We talked to Richard for almost 30 minutes. He is an extremely humble man and left such a warm impression on us. Richard explained the Barnbougle story: how it all began and the property today.
To me, this is a high-end golf destination offering something very unique with two world-class courses in Barnbougle Dunes and Barnbougle Lost Farm, both ranked in the top-100 greatest golf courses by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine (U.S.). With the courses located just next to each other, it’s probably one of the best golf resorts you can find down under and a golf resort that I would like bring my hardcore golfing friends to visit. Everything here is exceptional with the resort providing spacious rooms, comfy beds, good food and spectacular views.
Barnbougle Dunes is a real treat to play for any golfer and will leave you with a sweet golfing memory. Compared to the golf courses available on the more remote King Island, Barnbougle is accessible (given Tasmania is connected by better flight connections) and the hospitality and service at is much more refined.
The golf resort is one of the absolute best I’ve been to. I can also highly recommend playing Barnbougle Dunes; I had great fun and you can play it in many ways. Tomorrow, we will be playing and experiencing the other course at Barnbougle: Barnbougle Lost Farm, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course with 20 (!) holes.
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