Diamante Cabo: Is the Dunes Course the Best Course in Mexico?
This post was originally published in January 2014. Quite a few things have changed since then, this has been updated in April 2022 to reflect those changes.
A few months ago when a client of mine asked me to come down to Los Cabos speak at a workshop they were hosting, you can imagine my response.
Eh. Cabo? December? By then it’s going to be cold and miserable in Portland, not so sure I want to miss that for great weather, beautiful scenery, and some golf.
Obviously I jumped at the chance to head down there, especially considering I’d never been to the area before.
Once confirmed, the first thing I did was look up what golf courses were in the area. There are a ton and if you’ve never been to Cabo before the selection can be a little overwhelming.
Update 2022: Yes, there are a lot of golf courses in Cabo. But these days many of them are private, and trying to get access to them can be tricky. Most of the private courses also have a resort relationship. So if you stay at a specific resort, you can get some access to the club.
In the case of Diamante, if you stay at Nobu, they can help you arrange a tee time.
First off, it’s worth noting that there are two Cabos (hence the name of the airport/region of Los Cabos).
San Jose del Cabo is north and on the Sea of Cortez. This is where we stayed and it’s sleepier and a little less of a “nightclub and free drinks” crowd.
Cabo San Lucas is probably what you think of when you think of Cabo. Parties, hotels on the beach, and lots of spring breakers.
The Diamante Cabo development is just a short drive up the Pacific from Cabo San Lucas, but feels like a world away.
Once you drive through the gates, you can tell you’re in for something special.
The first thing you notice off in the distance is a giant dune that runs from the top of the hill down the property parallel to the beach. The Dunes Course is built around this.
Established in 2009, Diamante, like many resort developments opened up at the exact wrong time – in the late 2000s.
Luckily however, after a couple of difficult years they came out of the recession and are thriving.
The Dunes Courses is ranked by Golf Magazine as the #98th best course in the world and Top 100 Courses has it as the #1 Course in Mexico.
El Cardonal is the 2nd course at Diamante Cabo and opened for play later in 2014. It’s notable for being Tiger Woods’ first solo design.
They’ve also added a par 3 course, spa, giant recreational lagoon, the Nobu resort, and more.
I knew I’d only get one round of golf in on this particular trip, so I really wanted to make it count. Being a private course, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to get on, but after a few emails and phone calls I was introduced to Dave Osborne, one of the partners on the property – and my host for the day.
Let’s start by saying the Dunes Course is unlike any I’ve ever played.
Not only for the unique dune features, but also for the hospitality.
Once you’re on the course, everything is included. So if you’re a member of one of their Residential Clubs or own property you get access to the courses as well as some of the best on-course food and drink I’ve ever seen.
Update 2022: I recently played the neighboring Quivira Golf Club – which is equally as over the top with unique dunes and food and drink.
Next, the driving range you can prepare for your round with a cerveza and some of their famous sliders from the slider bar.
Seriously, I know we’re in Mexico here but they had the best sliders I’ve ever had. Beef, Chorizo, Ahi, Mushroom – you name it, they’ve got it.
There were also stops after the 3rd, 6th, 11th, and 14th holes to fill you up with beer, bloody marys, margaritas, tamales, or any number of other snacks. I like to think of it as kind of all-inclusive round of golf – which I hope more people adopt the idea of.
Either way, it makes you feel as though they really care about their members and makes the course that much more enjoyable to play.
After hitting some balls and meeting my host it was time to hit the course – a proposition I couldn’t have been more excited about.
Just the Facts
- Designer: Davis Love III
- Built in: 2009
- Rank: #98 Course in the World (Golf.com, 2022) and #1 in Mexico (Golf Digest and Top 100 Golf Courses)
- Location: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
- Fees: Private
Diamante Dunes Course: Hole by Hole
The Dunes Course at Diamante is a bit of a tale of 2 nines. They go together great, but the front is a bit more target golf playing over 700 yards shorter than the back. The back also brings you closer to the ocean and has some better views.
Personally I think these two nines were a great way to show my strengths and my weaknesses. I shot a 39 on the front, followed by a 50 on the back. Granted they are par 35 and 37 respectively, but length is not necessarily my strong suit.
Note: Distances are from the iii tees which is what we played.
Hole 1 (Par 5, 476 yards)
When you step out to the first tee, located just outside the clubhouse, it looks long. In actuality, at 534 yards, it isn’t too unbearable, but the sum of it’s parts certainly are at 7300 yards.
We opted for the more manageable iii tees, measuring in at 6,349 – but occasionally stepped back a tee box just to have a more fun elevated shot 🙂
The first hole is a pretty benign Par 5 at 476 yards from our tees. I found this to be a great starting hole as it inspired confidence and gave you a legit birdie shot right off the bat. Avoid the trees on the left, but if you’re over there, don’t fret too much as the caddies are some of the best I’ve seen at finding balls.
Hole 2 (Par 3, 201 yards)
The first par 3 and also the first look at some really unique holes to be found at Diamante.
It was fun to play this course when I did, as I’ve played a number of links courses lately that could all be considered among the best in North America (Whistling Straits, Pacific Dunes, Arcadia Bluffs, and Diamante).
Diamante was the most different compared to those due to it’s warmer climate and more pronounced Dune.
The second was a really fun par 3 with a cool sandy backdrop. There’s a ridge in front of the green that plays tricks on your eye a bit. The green is much bigger than it looks, and is also farther away than you might think. Consider adding a club to whatever it looks like to you.
Hole 3 (Par 4, 341 yards)
A fun mid length par 4 that has you teeing off down into a canyon between two ridges of dunes. Find the fairway and then add an extra club on your uphill approach shot. If you don’t quite get it there, you could very well see you’re ball come tumbling back down to the base of the hill.
This kind of reminded me of #7 at Old Macdonald . Very steep approach and a big penalty if you don’t bring enough club to the table.
Hole 4 (Par 4, 291 yards)
A short par 4 (my favorite kind of hole) – and fittingly, this may have been my favorite hole on the course due to the sheer number of options you have – big risk/reward decision here.
You can go the safe play and lay up to the right of the elevated green, or you can bomb it to the left and hope for the best. You have some room short and right, but there’s also a few bunches of rough that could really hurt you even if you hit a good drive.
I told Dave I was debating and see said the exact same thing every single person who I’ve played a top course with has told me on similar holes:
“You didn’t come all the way out here to layup did you?!”
I most certainly did not.
I nailed my drive, leaving it about 3 yards off the green. Talk about a fun experience.
I left that hole feeling giddy – even if I did 3 putt for par. It’s experiences like this that make justify my goal of playing so many top courses.
Hole 5 (Par 4, 140 yards)
I didn’t think about it so much at the time, but after reviewing both rounds there are a few holes at Diamante that found similar to Old Macdonald at Bandon. I found the par 3 #5 here to be similar to #5 there.
Similar distance, ocean in the background, big undulating green. The green at Diamante isn’t quite as big, or quite as wild as the one at Old Mac, but it’s definitely an entertaining hole.
Hole 6 (Par 5, 438 yards)
Another unique tee shot.
#6 is a short Par 5 that can very tremendously depending on how the winds are blowing. I got lucky in that they were pretty benign the day we played, so even with a tee shot left of the fairway and in the rough I was able to get on in 3 and par.
What’s cool about this, is you get to decide how much you want to get after it. Wanna take a shot at the green in two? Then go for more on the drive and hope for the best.
There’s also a big sand dune that bowls around the green, making for a pretty cool effect when you’re walking uphill on the fairway after the approach.
Hole 7 (Par 3, 223 yards)
A looooong par 3. No I mean, looooooooong. From the i tee, guess how far it is?
We still didn’t have an easy shot at 223 yards – but it just goes to show how much of an impact the wind and being downhill can have on your round.
Dave and I hit identical shots. I had a hybrid that it the back of the lefthand side of the green, it caught a ridge and rolled right to about 20 feet of the hole.
He got closer than I did and birdied it – I 3 putted for one of the most frustrating bogeys I’d had in awhile.
Hole 8 (Par 4, 338 yards)
Another shortish Par 4. You have plenty of room here, so don’t be afraid to let it rip. We played this one back a tee box to add in a little extra elevation. Stay towards the right side of the fairway if you want to play the safe shot, or go left if you want to try and clear the bunkers and shorten the hole. I was far right on the fairway, and had a short wedge to the green.
The pin was on the right and a bit blind, but the green slopes from left to right, so aim for the center of the green and let it roll down.
Hole 9 (Par 4, 420 yards)
Easily the most difficult hole on the front 9, this thing is a beast of a par 4. It plays 420 from the iii tees, and has an uphill green to boot.
One interesting feature is the giant 200 year old cactus on the right side of the fairway with balls lodged into it. Luckily one of them was not mine.
Hole 10 (Par 4, 492 yards)
To get the the 10th tee you pass back through the gorgeous clubhouse and then trek up a small hill where you’ll find the tee box.
This is quite possibly the longest par 4 I’ve ever played. It was 492 yards from the iii tees…568 from the tips. That would be a long PAR FIVE in my book.
That being said, it’s one of the most fun tee shots on the course. Downhill and downwind, you’ll have a shot to really rip some drives – just hope the wind is blowing in your favor.
It’s a bit of a trickier shot than it initially looks, theres bunkers on the right, and flying them will give you the best shot at the green, but do you really want to be in the fairway bunkers on a 500+ yard par 4?
Didn’t think so.
Hole 11 (Par 3, 165 yards)
This is a beautiful and fun par 3, and part of me wants to say it was my favorite on the course – then I look at all the other par 3s and it makes it a much more difficult decision.
Do your best to avoid the huge blowout bunker on the left, as its even deeper than it looks from the photos. I found myself right in the center of it, but had a decent out and two putt to save bogey on a green that isn’t exactly flat.
2022 Update: Since I played Diamante, the course has been rerouted in a few different spots. Holes 12 an 13 around the lake no longer exist. They’ve been shifted to make room for the Nobu resort which now resides on the property. However I’m leaving the hole recaps for anyone interested.
OLD Hole 12 (Par 5, 547 yards)
Personally I really enjoyed the 12th hole, however as with many new high end courses, it’s going through some changes. The current 12 and 13 will be no more (or at least no more on the Dunes Course), as instead of going left after 11, next year players will go right and head back and play two holes closer to the water.
I could see where the new ones would be, and while they definitely look like they could be amazing holes – the current 12 was fun in its own rite.
Downhill tee shot, playing dogleg left around a lake, make sure you get your drive out there as at 547 its a pretty beefy par 5. I can definitely begin to see how the back is 700 yards longer than the front.
OLD Hole 13 (Par 4, 351 yards)
A mid length par 4 that doglegs left around the lake. Keep your tee shot right for the best chance at the green and avoid do your best to stay out of the big bunker in front. You’ve got a bit of a backstop long right, so dont be afraid to use it.
Hole 14 (Par 5, 541 yards)
A really fun par 5 thats flanked by dunes on both sides of the fairway. This is a total risk reward hole that plays looooong. At 600 yards from the tips, into the wind, you better get ready to crank your drive – just dont miss the fairway or par is all put gone.
Keep to the right on the second shot if you want a view of the green, or go safer towards the left or middle of the fairway for a blind approach.
Really tricky green that slopes steeply right to left and has a huge false front. If you score par here, I’m impressed.
Hole 15 (Par 4, 338 yards)
The short par 4 15th begins the short journey out towards the ocean, and from the tee has one of the best views on the course.
You have more room on the right than you think, but pay close attention to the wind, if it’s in your face this hole will play much, much longer than it’s stated 338 yards from iii.
Hole 16 (Par 3, 120 yards)
We caught this par 3 at what had to be the absolute most beautiful time of day. The sun was on it’s way down, the ocean was staring us in the face, and this was certainly another hole where you just pinch yourself and say “Really? How did I get this lucky?”
Each of the 5 par 3s on the Dunes course is extremely unique, requiring you to use different clubs, and hit different shots on each one.
While 16 is the most flat, and the shortest at 120 from the iii tees, it’s also the one that will force you to contend with ocean breezes and a magnificent view – that let’s be honest, can be just as much of a hazard as anything on the course.
Update 2022: I’m pretty sure the finish has been shifted as well since I played. I’ll update this as I’m able to confirm what changes were specifically made.
Hole 17 (Par 5, 499 yards)
The tee at 17 is the closest you get to the water on the Dunes course, and it provides a spectacular backdrop any time of day.
Hole 17 is another really fun par 5 that usually plays downwind. If it’s in your favor, getting there in two is absolutely within reach, and in some cases may even be the better shot.
The hole is intimidating from the tee with a big waste area in front of you, and an elevated green in the distance, that is reminiscent of some of some of my favorites. Including the 12th on the Nicklaus at Pronghorn.
Don’t be afraid to go long on your approach, as you can trust that most balls will come back down – I tested this and it worked beautifully.
Hole 18 (Par 4, 426 yards)
The closing hole is anything but easy as you sit on the tee and look at a dogleg left that turns for days.
Even scarier is the arroyo (think river with no water, used during flooding) looming over to the left.
You’re inclination will be to aim right off the tee, where there’s plenty of room, but the farther right you go, the longer the hole gets.
It’s a big green, but not a whole lot of room left or right to miss, so be careful.
Playing Diamante is one of those once in a lifetime rounds. I mean how often do you get to play the #1 course in any given country?
There isn’t a bad hole on the golf course, and every single one forces you to play extremely fun shots. You’ll get to play one of the shortest par 4s out there and take a shot at the green (#4) while also playing one of the longest and just hanging on for dear life (#10).
If you do make it out, however, do yourself a favor:
Try the slider, try the tamales, have a margarita or a beer or two, but don’t go overboard. Why? Because you’ll want to remember every single second of this round.
It’s that good.
- It's links. With Cactus.
- Fantastic Hospitality
- Unique Dunes Features
- Extremely Fun Holes
- Not as Close to Cabo as Some
Gotta be the fun-est course of creative excellence in the world.
Love the Dunes course at Diamante
You have to go back and play the new Nicklaus course, Quivira. It’s just south of Diamante and it was spectacular. It looks to have more elevation change than Diamante and has ocean views from every hole with 13 or 14 of them being full, unadulterated views, not just a sliver or blue in the distance. The holes set into the cliffside are really fun and beautiful and the “comfort stations” offering drinks, tacos, sliders and a chance to kick back and enjoy the view are phenomenal. You have to stay at one of the pueblo bonito resorts or be a timeshare owner to play, but it’s very reasonably priced compared to others in the area. Golf magazine named it the best new international course for 2015!
Diamante is definitely a beautiful course. The bumpy railroad pylons kind of do your back in a little though.
My favourite courses down here however are a little less gimmicky. I would play Chileno Bay every day if I could, but failing that, Palmilla is still one of the most appealing courses in town.
Yeah heard Palmilla is really good as well!
If you like the idea of a links course in the desert, you need to play the Outlaw course at Desert Mountain. All 6 of their courses are fantastic, but Outlaw is a great desert links.