By Jason Scott Deegan
Courtesy of WorldGolf
SAN JOSE DEL CABO, Mexico — The 27-hole Palmilla Golf Club hasn’t landed a top-100 ranking like the Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol.
Those who have played Palmilla — the first course by Jack Nicklaus in Latin America — know that it’s on par (or better) than almost anything in Mexico, even Cabo del Sol.
It’s got mountain golf, desert golf and seaside golf all wrapped into one pristinely manicured package. Palmilla only touches the Sea of Cortez for one hole — the par-4 third on the Ocean nine — compared to the seven seaside holes of the Ocean Course, but all that water comes with a hefty price tag.
"My impression (of Palmilla) is great," said Scott Weather, a golfer from San Diego who was getting ready to tee off at the course for a recent round. "I played Cabo del Sol (on my last trip to Los Cabos) and thought this was every bit as good.
"Plus, I consider this a great value. I remember it being fun, more open and less target golf than Cabo del Sol."
Palmilla Golf Club teams with the world-famous One&Only Palmilla, a luxury resort across the street, as a haven of highbrow living at the tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. The golf club opened in 1992, followed by the addition of the Ocean nine in 1997. Management by Arizona-based Troon Golf assures customers excellent service and spotless conditioning.
You’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite nine. The Ocean nine drops 600 feet in elevation during the first six holes with the third green perched on the beach. Although away from the shore, two fabulous par 3s are memorable. The sixth rests below beautiful casitas cut from the mountainside. The climb back up from the shore brings demanding golf at the short par-4 eighth and dramatic par-5 ninth.
The club’s "Amen Corner" comes at holes 4-6 on the Mountain nine. Water lurks off the tee and near the green of the par-5 fourth, creating the best risk-reward scenario on the course. I’ve made eagle and I’ve seen triples. The most daunting shot comes off the fifth tee, where a ribbon of a fairway is bound by canyons on either side. The approach leaps the canyon to a green below. Water runs up the left side of the par-3 sixth.
The Arroyo nine twists through desert settings and majestic cardon cacti. The celebrated stretch of holes 6-8 features a sweeping dogleg left at the par-4 sixth hole, a soul-stirring ocean vista from an elevated tee at the par-5 seventh and a knee-knocking par-3 eighth.
Palmilla Golf Club: The verdict
Palmilla Golf Club is one of the signature courses in the Troon Golf umbrella. It’s a world-class experience. I had one player rave about how fancy the yardage guide was. No detail here is left to chance. My favorite combination is Mountain-Ocean, but that is certainly up for debate.