Secession Golf Club

Secession Golf Club

Secession Golf Club in Beaufort, South Carolina

Playing golf at Kevin’s beloved Secession Golf Club in Beaufort, South Carolina was a perfect break from intense work on the new Terroir. While the massive presses were running – printing the pages, we were enjoying the walking-only course at Secession.

Secession is most assuredly one of the greatest golf experiences in the Lowcountry, if not all of America. A very unique aspect is that the club takes its name from the small town of Beaufort being where the original Articles of Secession from the Union were drafted in 1860.

I had the pleasure and privilege of playing Secession not once, but four times in six days. We were joined on our first round with friends from Texas, Tad Nelson and his partner Kristinna Berkland. We had great fun and some fantastic dinners with them for a few days. The final round, when it was just the two of us and we were first off that day, was the most enthralling.

Kevin and Taba at 17th hole

Two chairs are a memorial to Secession members who died in 9/11

Scrumptious salmon dish

Enchanting presence of the wild life

Starting with the giant grey heron, identified by its white head and black eye stripes that extend to slender, black feathers, standing so still on the first tee, we got a fascinating glimpse of wildlife that inhabit the tidal marshes. To make sure I knew exactly what kind of bird I was looking at, it took flight — long neck retracted in an S-shape, and skinny legs extended straight behind — it was a grey heron, no doubt!

It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I actually captured this miraculous moment. Over our several rounds, I marveled at the big group of basking turtles at the edge of the pond on the 7th hole. Here and there, the resident gators came up onto the banks of ponds, like those on the eighteenth hole.

A giant grey heron in flight over the marshes at Secession

Gators at 18th hole

Aerial view of the Secession Golf Course 

Peaceful landscapes of tidal inlets and marsh land

But it was a solitary live oak that imprinted itself as a majestic symbol of the whole Secession environment of tidal inlets and marsh land. Just gazing at this tree allows all the busyness of life to dissolve.

However, it is the magical sunrise that greeted us on our way to play our final round that may leave the longest lasting impression. It is this sort of vision that enables us to realize why the French artists of the late 19th century strove to capture the light. In doing so, they showed us how our lives are composed of countless fleeting moments.

And so, as I often say, travel is transformational…

Welcome to My Desert

Welcome to My Desert

“Welcome to My Desert”

Although I don’t live anywhere near the Phoenix Convention Center, I want to welcome all the GHS leadership and members to Arizona!

This has been my home since 2006 when I moved to Troon Village, in what is known as north Scottsdale. My Scottish friends always raise an eyebrow when I say I live at Troon. Thirty-five years ago when developer Jerry Nelson hired Tom Weiskopf to design the course at Troon Country Club, he named the whole project Troon, as a tribute to Tom’s Open Championship win at Royal Troon in 1973.

It’s been a great privilege to be part of this golf community. And it is also a great privilege to be part of the Golf Heritage Society travel team — except this time I don’t have that far to go!

2024 GCSAA Show 

GHS exhibits for the 3rd time

My first experience being part of the GCSAA Show was in 2022 at San Diego. It was quite a thrill to be among all the major exhibitors like Toro, and of course the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) who are strategic partners with the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America to put on this extraordinary Conference and Trade Show. I wrote a story about it — Ship Ahoy! — you can find it here.

It’s exciting for me and the other GHS board members who got to be entrenched with thousands of other passionate golfers, and especially the ones who take care of the turf on which we play the game we all love so much.

Some GHSers at our booth in 2024: Deb Haueisen, Ben Ellis, Glenn Haueisen, and Mel Lucas

The GCSAA was established in1926 and Donald Ross was one of the original founders. The more than 19,000 members from the United States and 78 countries are the men and women who manage and maintain the game’s most valuable resource — the golf course. Their mission is to advance their profession and improve communities through the enjoyment, growth and vitality of the game of golf.

That’s why members of GHS resonate so much with these golf enthusiasts, since we, too, seek to promote an appreciation of the history and traditions of golf, played on the largest golfing landscapes the world over, that are maintained by our golf brethren.

This 2024 iteration of the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show was like no other, as it was billed as, and delivered on, bringing interactive experiences .

The agenda included many educational sessions for the 10,000 + golf industry attendees plus the awesome session that I got to attend called “Ladies Leading Turf” with three exceptional women who told their inspirational stories to a standing-room only crowd.

Taba with Forrest Richardson

Ladies Leading Turf Session

Jan Bel Jan with Amy Bockerstette

A golf course – a story to be unfolded…

Since I don’t drive at night anymore, I was not able to hang out for fun dinners but I did get to experience one great event hosted by ASGCA Past President, Forrest Richardson, called ”Taco Social” — since he had a 3-5pm option. Lucky me.

I got to eat great food, meet Forrest’s wife Valerie and drink Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc! What a fun event in a spectacular setting! Forrest is a golf course architect and among the many courses he has created he also re-designed Mountain Shadows in Paradise Valley. It is one of the best short courses I have played anywhere in the world. Forrest has designed courses from Utah to Sweden to India. Part of his design philosophy that I really like is:

“A golf course is a story to be unfolded. For the greatest enjoyment there should be anticipation, intrigue, the occasional chase scene and even a pinch of humor.”

I hope everyone comes away with a sense of accomplishment, especially if some new members decided to join GHS as they have done at the other GCSAA Shows we have participated in!

This should give you more of a sense of Forrest Richardson’s sense of humor and style — check out this restored BMW 1959 Isetta car. Forrest said similar ones have sold for as much as $200,000 at the Barrett-Jackson auctions that take place here in Scottsdale.

 

Taba with the Forrest Richardson 1959 BMW car

The Velvet Strand

The Velvet Strand

The Velvet Strand

by Taba Dale

What choice do you have if you are a wave?
You are pushed, you are pulled
By the tide, by the moon

You can’t ever resist a rock in your way
You are compelled, repelled
Never long, always soon

You’ll eventually be awash on another shore
Without a care where you land
It could be The Velvet Strand

You’ll be carrying little creatures from near and afar
You’re a wave after all
Fáilte Ireland, says the sand

The Winged Ventriloquist

The Winged Ventriloquist

There is no sign of even a ripple in the water or a coastline across the bay. I can only see as far as the low drystone wall built of dark grey Liscannor flags.

There is no wind. Not even a blade of grass moves.

The dunes of Lahinch out the dining room window are invisible. It is quiet and peaceful. Very welcome after a sudden, tragic bereavement that shattered life as we knew it.

There is an almost imperceptible lifting of the fog. Still no sign of the horizon where the bay and the Atlantic Ocean beyond meet the sky.

Without seeing them, I know the three miniature ponies in the field in front of our house will be grazing. Their long manes fall over their eyes like the fringe of Sacagawea’s deerskin dress.

The cows on the other side of the ancient hairy rock wall will appear later in the day. They always do. Like clockwork. Rain or shine.

The sweet smell of wild honeysuckle reminds me of my childhood. While walking to elementary school I used to pause and try to drink the nectar of the tiny tubular golden flowers.

But there is nothing more intoxicating than hearing the magical sound of the skylarks out on the golf course in Lahinch before darkness falls. They trill and whistle while suspended directly overhead. I crane my neck to spot them, but they, too, are invisible.

It is like the illusion of a ventriloquist — they project their constant stream of wondrous warbling birdsong while hovering hundreds of feet in the air or in flight.

A silent goodbye to all that is not seen and will never be seen again.

Haste Ye Back

Haste Ye Back

The Ayrshire Coast

No sooner did we disembark from the Stena Line ferry, we came to the first little hamlet. A minute later we saw the familiar sign: Haste Ye Back. No doubt about it — we’re in Scotland.

We rolled into Troon where we are staying at the refurbished Marine Hotel. Under new ownership, the landmark 19th century Ayrshire property features 89 guest rooms, a luxurious spa and fitness center, indoor pool, steam rooms and sauna. Our sumptuous room had views in three directions, including the fairways of Royal Troon and even the clubhouse, one prodigious 5-iron away.

For me, our accommodations ticked all the boxes. Dining in The Rabbit Restaurant with Gillian Black, Director of Sales and Marketing for the venerable hotel, which is now part of the Marine & Lawn Hotels & Resorts portfolio, was icing on the cake. Or maybe I should say it was the Salted Butterscotch Sauce on the Sticky Toffee Pudding, that we couldn’t resist.

Not only is the setting and menu exquisite, I love that you can also devour the facts about where so much of the outstanding food is from — like the Cumbrae Oysters, sourced from sustainable fishing boats and oyster farms just off the coast, and the Isle of Mull Cheddar, made by the Reade family using unpasteurized milk from cows fed on grass and whisky grains from the nearby Tobermory Distillery.

We had a lovely Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand to go with the Chicken Liver Parfait and Grilled Orkney Scallop starters. Gillian and Kevin both had the Grilled Middle White Pork Chop, Rainbow Chard & Rhubarb and I had the Roast Shetland Pollock, Capers Brown Butter and Herb Mash. Gillian was driving home to Glasgow, so only Diet Coke for her!

Before heading up to Prestwick, we popped into the Royal Troon Clubhouse so I could browse the selection in the pro shop. I did not leave empty-handed! Always fun to wear a Royal Troon item when home at Troon Country Club in Scottsdale, Arizona. I’m useless on the golf course, but I can hold my own in the “I’ve Been There” department.

Royal Troon will be hosting the 152nd Open in July 2024. I will often say a silent prayer for Tom Weiskopf, the winner of the 1973 Open at Troon, who had just passed away on August 20th. The course at Troon CC was designed by Tom Weiskopf — the first course he designed, with Jay Morrish, and it was named as a fitting tribute to his Open win at Royal Troon.

Interestingly, the first Tom Weiskopf-designed course I ever played was Loch Lomond Golf Club near Glasgow in Scotland. I still love that parkland course with stunning views of the loch. He certainly found his genius when his playing days were over. R.I.P. Tom.

Upon arriving at Prestwick, we were hoping for a few minutes with Ken Goodwin, the Secretary at the venerable club for over a decade. We wanted to get the latest intel on the re-creation of the original 12-hole course played in the first Open Championship in 1860. Thanks to a chance encounter with David Fleming, the Head Golf Professional, I learned the club just received the hot-off-the-press limited edition course guide of the historic layout. What a great souvenir to bring home with me!

When we caught up with Ken, with his characteristic Scottish humor, he said: “The original course was dangerous! Four holes intersected at one point. Old Tom obviously did not do a risk assessment!” Ken confirmed the demand to play the re-created original 12 holes for just a few short weeks in October “far outstrips the supply.”

Only members of Prestwick, Muirfield, the R&A and a small number of golf history enthusiasts will get the chance in October to play the 12-hole layout to commemorate 150th anniversary of the Open. They will all be walking in the footsteps of Open Champions — one being Young Tom whose score of 47 was recorded on his opening round in 1870. How did he do it? He started with playing the 578-yard first hole in three shots.

In the early days the golfers went around the 12 holes three times to determine the winner. Although he designed the course, Old Tom did not win the first time. That honor went to Willie Park, Sr. from Musselburgh, with a score of 174. However, Old Tom did win in 1861 and then went on to win three more times. He still holds the title of being the oldest golfer to win the Open in 1867.

We made one more stop at Dundonald Links before we crossed the country to St Andrews on the east coast. The course, designed by Kyle Philips, was always a treat to play. Now there is an outstanding clubhouse where there used to just be a fancy trailer. The reception area is very unique—full of fascinating books like: The Secret Life of Tartan, How a cloth Shaped a Nation by Vixy Rae.

Kyles’ best known course in Scotland is probably Kingsbarns in Fife. It is impossible not to like a course where you have had a hole-in-one as a couple of our clients have done recently (#8 and most recently #16). No hole-in-one for me but I had one of my best rounds ever (low 90s) with a caddie who was a student at Dundee University. I would have him be my caddie for life, except that job falls to Kevin!

We had a delicious lunch in The Canny Crow, on the second floor. Susie Sinclair Watson also showed us several of the well-appointed luxury golf lodges, ranging from 2-bedrooms to 6-bedrooms. Some very nice touches include the designated equipment room for storing golf clubs, and many of the lodges were clustered around a putting green for convenient practice. This is the ultimate in seclusion.

Of course being an art lover, I couldn’t help but notice the monumental sculpture of a wound ball made of corten steel. It is the perfect material for the marine atmosphere where the rust-like appearance resembles the rubber thread used in the ball-making of the early 1900s.

The St Andrews Experience

It’s always exhilarating to pull into the Auld Grey Toon and see the hallowed ground of the Old Course spread out with quiet dignity on your left. We had a set agenda that included meeting with the captains of both St Regulus Ladies Golf Club and The St Rule Club.

At St Reg’s both the incoming and outgoing captains are named Moira and Kevin and I got to meet them both! The current captain is Moira Hall and she greeted us upon our arrival at 9 Pilmour Links, a few steps from the Rusacks Hotel. We learned that even though St Regulus was founded in 1913, Moira Wilbraham, the vice-captain said, “When I took up golf 25 years ago women were not encouraged to play.”

“How is that possible, if your club was formed over 100 years ago?” I queried.

Moira clarified, “Men were not encouraged to play with women…not with their wives, anyway, as the men were out playing golf, to ahem, get away from the missus.”

Just a short time later, we were to meet with Janet Winter, captain of The St Rule Club. It was established at the end of 1896. From Janet we learned St Rule is not a club with just a golf section. They have a book club, gardening club, and in the winter months weekly meetings are held for Arts & Crafts and bridge. Their enviable location at 12 The Links has a stunning view of the Old Course and West Sands — the very beach where Chariots of Fire was filmed.

Our last meeting of the day was with Angela Howe, the Museum & Heritage Director of the World Golf Museum. She’s responsible for the running of the museum and oversees the management of the collections in the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. It’s a pretty big job, especially since the museum was completely re-imagined to introduce an exciting, interactive presentation of the golf heritage experience.

The exhibits are organized in a very compelling way exploring concepts like “Ball and Stick Games” and “Clubs and Societies.” There is a fascinating section called “Women to the Fore” and a special exhibit of Seve: His Life Through the Lens by David Cannon. It includes many of the most iconic photographs of Seve Ballesteros, like the jubilant scene when he won The Open in 1979, wearing his trademark navy blue V-neck sweater. David captured this intensely euphoric moment when Seve sunk the winning putt. The crowd would have been roaring and so was he. Seve was crowned Champion Golfer of the Year three times — 1979, 1984, 1988.

One of the best panels at the museum states:

Golf is Everywhere. It is staggering to learn that there are 40,000 golf courses spread around the world from remote islands to bustling cities. We are reminded that golf continues to flourish around the world and that it is a sport for life. And right here at the Home of Golf, the R&A aims to make golf more accessible, appealing and inclusive.

The World Golf Museum certainly reflects that goal.

This day was capped off with dinner at Rusacks with our clients who just arrived and checked into the hotel. We’ll be staying there ourselves the next night to have our own first-hand experience of yet another property in the Marine & Lawn portfolio.

When it was our turn, we checked into a magnificent suite — bottle of prosecco waiting — chilled to perfection. We consumed it pronto in dainty old-fashioned champagne glasses— admiring the view of the Old course.

I was delighted to find a selection of books in our sitting room including Roger McStravick’s: St Andrews in the Footsteps of Old Tom Morris. I’m privileged to own a copy that I keep in my golf library at home. Roger is a brilliant award-winning writer and he is currently the Editor of the British Golf Collectors’ Society journal — Through the Green. He contributes a “Letter from St Andrews” for the Golf Heritage Society’s quarterly journal called The Golf. It’s great to feel the connection, through Roger, to the Home of Golf on a regular basis.

On Sunday we played golf at Panmure Golf Club. I had heard many years ago that this is where Ben Hogan practiced in 1953 before he won the Open at Carnoustie. He only played in the Open once and never came back to the UK again. At the time, Hogan was the reigning Masters and U.S. Open Champion.

We learned from Scott Grant in the golf shop, while picking up our score cards and a course guide, that the pot bunker front right of the green on hole #6 was Hogan’s idea so it is named after him. However, it was the flat hole #17 where he practiced the most. He kept a mower and hand-cut the green himself.

As we made our way to the first tee, I was astonished to see a scallop, emblazoned in rich pink on a 4-foot high boulder. This shell is the emblem of Panmure Golf Club.

I found it very ironic that I am currently reading The Pilgrimage by the Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho. Written in 1987, full of enchantment and enlightenment, it is about his experiences as he walked the Road to Santiago de Compostela across northern Spain. On the cover of my copy is a scallop shell — the most well-known symbol associated with the Camino de Santiago. It is this shell that accompanies the pilgrims on their quest for self-knowledge and spiritual mastery they are seeking on the Road.

And here is a bright pink one on the rock at Panmure! How did this come to be? The story goes like this:

Maule & the Scallop Shell

The Coat of Arms of Guarin Le Jeune de Maule, was incorporated into the Panmure Family Crest. The Escallop was adopted by Panmure Golf Club with the gracious permission of the Earl of Dalhousie.

We are often asked by Members, Guests and Visitors alike why our Club uses a scallop shell as its emblem.

Maule is the family name of the Lords and Earls of Panmure. There are strong associations between the name and Angus with, for example, street names in Monifieth and Carnoustie. Carnoustie is twinned with the town of Maule.

Guarin Le Jeune de Maule came from France with the Normans and indeed may have fought at the Battle of Hastings (1066). His son Robert de Maule accompanied David I to Scotland when he succeeded to the throne in 1124. Sir Thomas Maule (1521 – 1600) was Ambassador to France and fought at the Battles of Hadden Rigg (1542) and Pinkie (1547). Patrick Maule (1585 – 1661) was a courtier to King James VI and Charles I. He was created Earl of Panmure and Lord Maule of Brechin and Navar in 1646 and was granted lands stretching from Fettercairn to the Tay Estuary, including all the land now taken up by Golf Courses.

James Maule, the 4th Earl (1658 – 1723), was a Jacobite who fought at Sheriffmuir, fled to the continent and thus lost the family estates. His nephew, General William Maule (1700-82) returned, became a loyal soldier, bought back the estates and recovered the Earldom. However, dying without children his estates were eventually divided between a cousin George Ramsay, the 8th Earl of Dalhousie (d.1787) and George’s second son, William. In 1782, William assumed the name Maule and was created Baron Panmure of Brechin and Navar, the 1st Lord Panmure.

The course is a traditional links. Now and then you see a train zooming by and other times you see cows grazing lazily. At Panmure, a couple of miles from Carnoustie Golf Club, you will find tall pine trees along with a very dunes-y landscape. It is the kind of course you could play every day.

For dinner we met up with clients at The Locker room at The Russell Hotel — a very intimate private space. All the names on the lockers are winners of the Open at St Andrews. Lots of good food and laughs. The room only seats 10 people.

Our only other round of golf in the St Andrews area was at Dumbarnie Links. I waited years to play this new course with very high expectations. They were met and then some. We started off with rain on the first hole but by the third we were putting the umbrellas away and could concentrate on enjoying the course. The layout, designed by Clive Clark, former Ryder Cup player-turned-developer and golf architect was fun, memorable, and challenging. Every hole engaged all your senses and at times it seemed like we were the only people on the course due to the clever routing and use of the generous amount of land.

Holing out the last putt on the 18th leaves you feeling like you want to come back. In a word — it is seductive.

I can’t think of anything that would make the whole experience more special except running into Clive himself! And lo, there he was with his lovely wife, Linda, as we were just ordering some lunch in the clubhouse. Now that was a thrill. They both said they remembered meeting me years ago at the Hideaway. Even if they didn’t, they insisted they did! That’s class.

“I have no doubt that Dumbarnie will soon come to stand along with Kingsbarns as the two courses (after the Old) that every serious St. Andrews pilgrim will want to play.” ~ George Peper, Links Magazine

Machrihanish, My Spiritual Golf Home

The time had finally come to make the pilgrimage to my spiritual golf home: Machrihanish Golf Club. The journey down the Kintyre Penninsula reminded me of the famous Paul McCartney song: The Long and Winding Road. It is said that he wrote the song at his farm in 1968 near Campbeltown, just a few miles from Machrihanish.

We arrived in darkness after a 6-hour drive. I was never happier to get into a cozy room and have a hot bath. We woke to the gorgeous view of the sea, pro shop and first tee — known the world over as the “Greatest Opening Hole in Golf.” Your drive has to carry the Atlantic Ocean, or at least a lot of beach if the tide is out. Exhilarating.

This is a pilgrimage of a different nature and like the Camino it is also filled with trials and tests. This is one of the most natural golf courses you will ever set eyes on. The 18-hole course we play today was laid out by Old Tom Morris. The club was founded in 1876 and Old Tom was brought in to extend the course to 18 holes in 1879. The course was modified in 1914 by J.H. Taylor and later by Sir Guy Campbell. The allure of the course has never been ruined. What will you find? Charm and mystery. At least I do.

“Specially designed by the Almighty for playing golf.” ~ Old Tom Morris

You like quirky, you say? Plenty of it here. Blind shots all over the place, rarely a flat lie, aiming posts to guide you on many fairways, and a bell to ring on a couple of holes to let the group behind know it is safe to send their ball to the green. All the holes have a name. I like Punchbowl. It’s just like it sounds. On the par-3 fourth hole you can see the majestic Paps of Jura (hills) that run the length of the island. Name of this hole? You guessed right, Jura.

We were thrilled to romp around Machrihanish two days in a row with splendid weather. And then to be able to have dinner in the new clubhouse was an absolute joy. When the original clubhouse burned down to the ground in December of 2018, I got an email from the club letting me know about the disaster. As a member (since 2003) I always followed the club news to keep track of all the goings on. But this disaster was absolutely devastating. Thankfully nobody was hurt. It is a marvel to see what stands on the site of the burned out rubble.

Even though they had to deal with the COVID pandemic, the G-1 Architects were hired, design approvals were given and construction carried on. The new building is modern, but not overly so. The structure is very sympathetic to the entire environment. The views of the course and the sea from the second floor of the clubhouse where the restaurant is located are superb. We even saw dolphins playing by the shoreline.

We loved being cocooned in the Ugadale Hotel. The staff is genuinely friendly and you can’t beat the convenience of being able to walk next door to the Machrihanish clubhouse or across the street to the first tee.

Along with creating Machrihanish Dunes, designed by Scotland’s own, David McLay Kidd, and also refurbishing the Royal Hotel in Campbeltown, Southworth Development made a huge investment in elevating this magical golf destination.

Alas, it’s time to make the epic journey to Cairnryan to catch the ferry back to Belfast. I reflect on our all-too-brief experience in this remote part of Scotland. I say goodbye to the Hebridean islands Islay, Jura and Gigha off the coast to my left. From the rock clusters along the jagged shore to the changing landscape of rolling hills dotted with sheep we leave the extraordinary Kintyre Peninsula and make the turns around the lochs.

Racing around Glasgow on motorways we hurdle toward the linksland of the Ayrshire Coast. We retrace our route, and then bang — the massive Ailsa Craig comes into view as we approach Girvan. It is lit up gloriously in the sunshine like a spectacular cabochon. Zipping along, passing through the little hamlets of Lendalfoot and Ballantrae that greeted us at the start of our Scottish adventure, at last we see the familiar signs that tug at our heartstrings:

Haste Ye Back.

Cabo Is Fab-O

Cabo Is Fab-O

In February of this year, my golf tour partner, Kevin McGrath, and I spent two glorious weeks, zipping back and forth between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, twenty miles apart. Our local contact, Brian McCallen, who does Public Relations for Los Cabos, calls it the “Tourist Corridor”.

Cabo San Lucas, or colloquially “Cabo”, is at the southernmost tip of the Mexican state of Baja California Sur. The Baja peninsula is separated from mainland Mexico by the Gulf of California; but locals prefer to call it the Sea of Cortez. Along the coast you will see pristine sandy beaches and postcard perfect turquoise blue water. However, the strong currents and powerful shore breaks do not encourage taking a dip in the sea.

Hazards of the shore are marked with beach warning flags, red being the most dangerous. One red flag means surf is high and there are treacherous currents. Two red flags means NO-GO for even the strongest swimmers. Besides red, there is an entire beach color coding system. Green: conditions are good. Yellow: Caution. Black: Extreme danger!

A few places like Chileno Bay, have a swim-safe area, with kayak, snorkel and dive gear rentals available. The gorgeous Medano and Palmilla beaches are also swim friendly. If you want a close-up look at the iconic rock formation known as El Arco (the arch), where the Pacific Ocean becomes the Gulf of California, you have a number of options. There are tours of different duration, and even some on fancier boats taking in the sunset on a 2-hour tour. You can also hop onto a water taxi that will drop you off and pick you up at the swimmable Lover’s Beach.

However, we were there for the golf. Golf. Golf. And more golf. That’s what we’re all about. And plenty of delicious food and excellent wine.

In the two fun-filled weeks, we managed to pack in nine rounds of golf along the Tourist Corridor. Were I not such a golf fanatic I’d have loved to have observed the gray whales, including cow-calf pairs, and even courting whales, on one of the many private boat excursions. Or go in search of blue whales, the largest animals ever to exist on Earth. And there’s sport fishing; but the golf course beckoned…

Cabo sand beach

Chileno Bay

Taba and Kevin

Course #1: Cove Club at Cabo Del Sol

We started our golf adventure at this ultra-private club. If you can pull some strings, like we did, your extraordinary round will include stopping off every few holes at “comfort stations” — mere bathrooms these are not.

The array of food and drinks boggles the mind. We had the benefit of playing the Jack Nicklaus Signature course (formerly the Ocean Course) with Aaron Shotzberger, the Golf Professional, who congenially pointed out, “The bacon is really incredible.” Standing on end in a ceramic cylinder, when I took the first bite I was hooked. I grabbed an ice cold can of pineapple juice while I circumnavigated the astonishing smorgasbord full of mouthwatering treats; but kept returning to the crunchy strips of bacon that tasted like they were baked with honey. Sinfully good, and golfers need protein, right?

While we did not play golf at Chileno Bay Club, Dan Counts, the Head Golf Professional, gave us a tour, pointing out the spectacular golf holes designed by Tom Fazio. Next up was a site visit of the entire property, owned by Discovery Land Company, including the ultra-luxurious Auberge Spa.

Throughout our tour we saw stunning works of art, starting with a monumental steel sculpture by Sante Fe, New Mexico-based artist Will Clift. A wide range of pieces from dozens of artists, some from Los Cabos and elsewhere in Mexico, included fascinating ceramics by the Mexico City duo Charabati Bizzarri, and mosaic surfboards by Wes Horn near the entrance to the beach.

That evening, Valentine’s Dinner at COMAL was sublime. Our romantic table was set against the dramatic views of the Sea of Cortez. The food was exquisite and the live music by a group called Green Love took the whole experience over-the-top. The female singer was enchanting.

Cove Club

Cove Club Course18th hole

Course #2: Diamante Cabo San Lucas

Our friends, Jeff and Lisa Sepesi, whose permanent residence is in North Carolina, are building a house on the property. They invited us to play with them at this magnificent private resort that includes two world-class courses paralleling a mile and a half of breathtaking Pacific coastline.

Before we descended the steps to the spectacular practice range at the Dunes Course, designed by Davis Love III, we took advantage of the breakfast slider bar. Like the other courses in Cabo, the green fee includes all the food and beverages. We enjoyed egg and bacon sliders accompanied by fresh smoothies made with blueberries, strawberries, and/or bananas. Later, while playing golf, we made pit-stops to indulge in small plates and skinny margaritas at course-side comfort stations.

Course #3: Rancho San Lucas

We had the good fortune to be paired with a lovely couple, Shairida and Johnnie Mack, who’ve been coming to Cabo for 25 years. The Greg Norman-designed course is the centerpiece of the 834-acre private Solmar Group resort. On this particular day, the wind was whipping up the sand from the beach and high dunes, creating an extraordinary challenge. To reward ourselves for surviving what felt like a Saharan desert storm, and continue the friendship we developed during our round, we drove up the hill to Picaro for drinks, and to take in the magnificent view from the tranquil patio. The menu looked superb, especially the Charbroiled Giant Shrimp.

Course #4: El Cardonal

Lucky us. Jeff and Lisa had us come to Diamante again to play this second course, designed by Tiger Woods. Oh, were we in for a treat. Wide landing areas and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean made the experience fun and memorable. We joined them later for dinner at a seaside restaurant in downtown Cabo. Situated on the Medano beach shoreline, SUR Beach House is part of the trendy Bahia Hotel Group. From the outdoor seating area we could see cruise ships anchored out in the bay. Cabo does not have a cruise ship dock yet, but there is probably one on the drawing board. There is a massive amount of construction going on — hotels, resorts, hundreds of private homes — so for the next ten to twenty years, this tourist destination will only grow bigger; and for cruise ship travelers too.

Course #5: Puerto Los Cabos Golf Club

This is one of three public golf courses in Los Cabos owned by Questro Golf. The first nine holes we played was called the Nicklaus II Course. The tiny greens were lightning fast and confounded us. More experience would have helped us adjust.
While lining up a putt, I spotted a giant lizard on the edge of the green with sharp spikes protruding from the ridge of its long back. This Spiny-Tailed Iguana was one scary reptile. Just as the sun was setting, we finished the second nine holes on the Norman Course.

We were thrilled that our room at Hacienda Del Mar (HDM) was in the main building, high enough up with views of the pool and ocean. We delighted in strolling through the manicured gardens and further enjoyed the nightly themed music and dinners served in the Los Tomatoes Restaurant courtyard.

Once Kevin and I discovered the Pitahayas Restaurant at HDM, we returned two more times. Chef Volker Romeike’s sophisticated menu encompasses tastes from Mexico and exotic dishes from the Pacific Rim cuisine.

Other joys of HDM include the artwork that greets you in the main reception area, and is showcased in other public spaces. Paintings and decor in the lobbies reflect old-world Mexico. More contemporary canvases, 6-foot-high tile portraits and stained glass are found both indoors and outdoors.

Diamante Club entrance

Chileno Bay red bucket

Chileno Bay pool

Course #6: Club Campestre San Jose

Today we were in for a big surprise. The starter on the first tee informed us that the word campestre means “country” or “rural.” This course is also a Nicklaus design, and part of the Questro Golf communities. When we reached the fourth hole, the first par-5, the meaning of the word campestre was underscored when a herd of goats meandered onto the course. They bunched up in the shade of a big tree behind a bunker on the left side of the fairway. I aimed my shot in the direction of the goats, knowing I couldn’t reach them or the bunker, and it would position me for my third shot onto the green.

Kevin and I were both trying to get a decent photograph to send back to pals at Lahinch Golf Club in Ireland, where two goats roam the course. The tradition of keeping the goats stems back to before weather apps became the norm. If the goats took shelter by the clubhouse it meant rain was on the way. The goats are so beloved that one is now part of the Lahinch logo.

Course #7: Club Cabo Real

This is the third course in the Questro Golf group, where we were guests of Susana Martin, Director of Sales. She arranged for us to play all three in our quest to experience what Cabo has to offer the golf traveler. Cabo Real was designed by Robert Trent Jones II. We had the pleasure of playing with José Vargas, who flew into Cabo from the thriving commercial center of Monterrey. He was an excellent player and gave Kevin serious competition. When José would hit a wayward shot, he’d moan, “I hate golf.” Then he’d birdie the next hole and was back in love with the game.

Course #8: Palmilla Golf Club

Playing golf with Brian McCallen was both fun and enlightening. Brian revealed that when the club’s first two nine-hole courses opened — Arroyo and Mountain, the first Jack Nicklaus Signature Course in Latin America — this was the start of the big golf boom in Cabo. We played Arroyo first, then Mountain, nearly tumbling off the steep cart path when we came upon the resident rock lizard that Brian said has been there for twenty years. (The club’s Ocean nine was added in 1999.)

The club is part of a 900-acred master-planned community known as the “One & Only Palmilla”. Exhilarating elevated tees…check. Unplayable transition/desert areas…check. Manmade water hazards…check. Getting to know a bit more about Brian while having post-round drinks, was certainly illuminating. He served as a Senior Editor at GOLF Magazine from 1987 to 2003. Big expense account…check. He is now a freelance writer and tourism consultant, living in Cabo, and escaping the heat of the desert summer back home in leafy Connecticut.

Hacienda del Mar pools

At Cabo Real with Jose Vargas

Goats on Campestre Course

Course #9: Quivira Los Cabos

Nothing like saving the best for last—except we didn’t know it until we got there. Quivira is an epic residential resort community. The golf course was designed by Jack Nicklaus. Kevin and I both agreed it was our favorite. Considering Kevin plays off a low single digit handicap, and I’m way north of that, it is quite a feat for an architect to create a course that is fun and challenging for golfers of such different skill levels. Nicklaus wasn’t always known for doing that; but thankfully he has evolved over the decades of doing golf design, and has arrived at this new awareness.

The course itself is a marvel of engineering, cut into and weaving around a mountain. The drama builds as you leave the 4th green and you are riding higher and higher in your cart, wondering if you’ve strayed onto the wrong cart path. Nope. Just keep going for what seems like 10 minutes and you finally reach Hole #5.

Not only is there a great comfort station, where the drink of the day was an amazing rum punch, the fifth hole is so unique, there is someone on hand to give you guidance on how to play it. You have to see it to believe it. It’s a par-4 blind shot to a green that is so far below you, it is magical and scary at the same time.

I chose the right line and my driver sent the ball down, down, down to within a short pitch shot to the small undulating green. Overshoot it and you’re in the ocean. To make par there was a thrill. With four more pars on the back nine, I had the most fun and best score of my entire Cabo experience.

After our round, we had committed to doing a site visit. Figuring it would be a letdown after all the euphoria Kevin and I felt from playing the intense course, we were treated to a big surprise instead. I had heard about Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach from a fellow member of Troon Country Club. She said, “We have a timeshare there,” so I figured it would be nice. Nice? Ha! It was extraordinary.

The gated luxury community at Quivira Los Cabos is situated on 1,850 acres. One of the newer offerings, Coronado, atop a bluff overlooking the ocean and hole No. 17 of the Nicklaus course gives buyers the chance to choose from floorplans ranging from 3,700 to 4,000 square feet, with prices starting at $1.8 million. Features include kitchens with granite islands, Viking appliances, marble flooring and a two-car garage. More highlights are patios, pools, fire-pits and pergolas for your outdoor entertaining. You can even have your own family crest adorn your personal hacienda.

I have to say, after being shown around the massive “all-inclusive” property, I was duly impressed with every luxurious design element, but when we got to the Towers at Pacifica, I realized this adults-only “resort within a resort” set a new bar for me. To cap off this perfect day, we dined at El Huerto Farm to Table Restaurant, indulging in delicious organic food from their four and a half acres of gardens, orchards and fruit trees.

Golf, whale-watching, golf, fabulous food, golf, strolling on the beach, golf, sport fishing, golf, floating in a refreshing pool with a swim-up bar, and just enjoying the laid-back splendor of Cabo, there’s something for everyone — but especially golf lovers.

P.S. A note about timeshares: If you don’t already have one, or even if you do, it’s a safe bet that, at some point during your visit you’ll be invited to a presentation on buying Cabo timeshares.

Pueblo Bonito at Sunset Beach

Quivira-13th-hole-par-3

Quivira hole #5