Two-Time Major winner and World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman spent 331 weeks ranked Number One in the world, amassing nearly 90 career wins. But one of the best golfers ever did not slow down after hanging up his spikes, and went onto a career as a top notch golf course designer. I’ve played Norman courses from Hawaii to Ireland to Australia, but there is no place he has excelled as much as Mexico, where – just like on the course – he cannot seem to miss.
Norman’s El Cameleon course at Mayakoba on the East Coast’s Riviera Maya is so good it brought the PGA Tour South of the border for the first time, and still hosts a big annual event. Golf Advisor’s Jason Deegan called Norman’s Litibu, “The best-kept secret along the Pacific Ocean in Riviera Nayarit,” and his Nuevo Vallarta course boasts stunning views – and the longest suspension bridge in the golf world.
But now he has outdone himself at Rancho San Lucas, the newest full-service resort community in Los Cabos, “Mexico’s Hawaii,” and one of the world’s best golf – or simply vacation -destinations. Luxury hotels, great golf and famous designers abound in this region at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, where the Pacific and Sea of Cortez come together, but Norman’s course is already getting buzz as a must-play for visiting golfers.
Rancho San Lucas is a new 834-acre upscale gated resort community just 15-minutes from downtown Cabo San Lucas, the region’s major town and a world-famous hotbed of deep-sea fishing (and late-night carousing). The resort is set in rolling desert foothills with an impressive 1.2 miles of Pacific Ocean beachfront, important in an area where many of the resort beaches are un-swimmable. The anchor hotel for the resort is the new Grand Solmar, from a proven Mexican brand, with seven food and beverage venues and a retail market. There are also extensive residential offerings, with The Villas at Rancho San Lucas, The Solmar Residences at Rancho San Lucas and The Norman Estates.
In addition to golf and beach, facilities include an adults-only infinity pool, kids pool with mini waterpark, saltwater lagoon, seaside spa, private beach cabanas, state-of-the-art fitness center, and a whopping 15-miles of jogging and mountain biking trails. A tennis facility, sports complex and Mexican Village with shopping, entertainment, amphitheater, and variety of dining venues are well under construction. More than 100-acres have been preserved as untouched native ecosystem, which along with golf course makes more than a third of Rancho San Lucas open space.
But in Cabo’s heated golf environment, the Greg Norman Signature course is Rancho San Lucas’ flagship centerpiece. As Norman himself put it, “When we were first asked to build a golf course here, I drove over the top of the hill and saw all the arroyos and dunes set back from the sea, and I said ‘Wow, this is the most spectacular piece of property I have seen in a long, long time.’”
The course will be officially opened by Norman on February 20 but is already open for public preview play. Similar to his stunning El Cameleon, so named because it changes appearance every few holes to fit in with the background terrain, here Norman has created a multi-themed layout that features more than 300 feet of elevation change and showcases natural beauty and presents different environments along the way.
But the big difference in Cabo is one important constant – sweeping ocean views from every single hole, a rarity in golf. The eighteen rambles through three different ecosystems, starting with large windswept oceanfront dunes before climbing into a thick cactus forest broken up by dry wash arroyos, then finally and climactically reaching the beach and sea on the back nine. All told, the 7,210-yard layout has five marquee holes on the coast – well above average for an “oceanfront” course – and the signature will undoubtedly be the penultimate par-3 Seventeenth with its island green.
Five sets of tees span more than 2,000 yards of distance (from 5,135), making it playable for every caliber golfer. A unique touch is a 12-hole Short Course loop that cherry picks low-lying holes sheltered by the dunes from Pacific breezes, meant to make life easier during the late spring windy season. In typical Cabo luxury style the course has a well-stocked comfort station on each nine, but unlike many high-price layouts that nickel and dime players, these are all-inclusive, featuring food, beverages and adult beverages complimentary with your green fees in the style of the finest high end private clubs. There’s also a new full-service clubhouse with indoor-outdoor restaurant overlooking the course and ocean, plus a complete practice facility. I can’t wait to tee it up here.