Seventh heaven: Cabo's Ocean rises with new par 3
As director of golf at Cabo del Sol, a 36-hole facility in Los Cabos, Mexico, Greg Tallman has overseen changes to the resort's signature Ocean Course, a Jack Nicklaus design that is ranked No. 6 among Golfweek's Best Courses of the Caribbean and Mexico. Tallman, who has been at Cabo del Sol for eight years, also has worked through the boom years and the downturn of recent years.
Golfweek recently spoke with Tallman about the Ocean Course and the golf business in Los Cabos.
Golfweek: What prompted the changes to holes 5, 6 and 7 on the Ocean Course, and what were you hoping to accomplish?
Greg Tallman: When we were re-grassing the greens in 2004 – we took them from TifDwarf to TifEagle – Jack was here and spent two days riding (the course). We basically said, ‘Pretend you have a blank check. Give us every idea of what you would like to do.’ We got a hole-by-hole report on what he would do. (Nos.) 6 and 7 were the major things, and 16 green, which was done immediately because we were replacing the greens at that time, so we went ahead and pushed that back about 25 yards to the edge (of the beach). . . . As we were doing 6 and 7 (last year), we started talking more about No. 5 because (Nicklaus) had half-heartedly suggested moving the green 20 or 25 yards. So we re-engaged him on that and ended up doing that.
GW: Talk about the changes on No. 6.
GT: The tees that used to sit up on the hillside were moved 50 to 60 yards, right to the edge of the water – you could fish off the tee at times if so inclined. The green was moved back onto what used to be a rugged granite shelf with a tidal pool coming up against the left side of the green. So it’s the same yardage, same playing characteristics, but probably a little bit harder and certainly more dramatic for the guest. It’s a more difficult recovery as everything used to funnel onto the green, whereas now everything hit to the right will run away from the green.
GW: And No. 7?
GT: That is the best improvement, period. Probably the only thing the course did not have was a great short par 3. It seems today everyone wants to build a 285-yard par 3, which I think is the worst way to go. Build a really good short hole and people will remember it. The new seventh is a great 135-yard hole that sits on brand new land. You play from tees set just off the sixth green and nearly surrounded by the ocean to a green set directly on the beach just below where the back tee of the previous seventh hole was before. There are some really fun shots there now and I honestly believe we can now make a great case for having the best set of par-3 holes in the world.
GW: What is the status of the golf business in Los Cabos compared with five years ago?
GT: Everybody is a little different. We’ve been off as much as 50 percent. The season used to be Oct. 1 to June 30 and we were to the point of turning players away on the Ocean Course for a good portion of that period. Now the season is back to what it was when the golf course first opened, which is Christmas to Easter. It’s almost like starting over and rebuilding the season from there. It used to be that for Christmas you had to book your golf at least six months in advance. You had to book your hotel a year in advance. Now you can call a week ahead of time and you’re fine, you may not get the exact tee time you would like, but space is available.
GW: How have you adjusted to that?
GT: We’ve introduced midday and twilight rates. At the end of the day, if we drop our rates $75, is that going to convince somebody from the United States to hop on an airplane, fly to a foreign country, and play golf? Probably not. So you’re competing for the business that’s already here. It would take a massive effort to really make a difference, and it would likely have to be collective. That has its challenges.
GW: How many rounds do you do in a season?
GT: We’re going to end up doing 30,000 to 32,000 rounds between the two golf courses, which isn’t what it needs to be.
GW: Is that driven entirely by the economy?
GT: A lot. We got hit by a triple whammy. The economy, poor reporting of the drug issues in the country and the swine flu (in 2009) that virtually shut Cabo down. It was a ghost town for six months. We already knew we were going to have a tough summer in 2009, and the first of May that (flu scare) hit. That just wiped everything out for a year, more like 18 months. So we were slowly building back from that and then there was all of the terrible press about the drug problems. We don’t have any issues here, but how do you get that message out? To go out and say there’s no problem suggests that there’s a problem. I get emails from friends all the time: “Are you safe?” I say, “What are you talking about? Are you safe? You’re the one who lives in Miami. You have more problems than I do.’”