Golf Life: Fred Couples near completion of new Cabo course

Twin Dolphin

Golf Life: Fred Couples near completion of new Cabo course

Digital Edition

Golf Life: Fred Couples near completion of new Cabo course

Fred Couples hasn’t played tournament golf since the PGA Tour Champions visited Hawaii in January, when, he said, “I literally crawled around the place.” His chronically aching back has prevented him from practicing much the past two months. But that won’t stop him from competing this week in the Masters, at which he finished T-18 in 2017.

“I’m very capable of playing (Augusta National) well, even at this age (58),” Couples said. “But I’ll be honest, I’m nervous about getting there. My body is just not holding up very well. But come hell or high water, I’m going to be at Augusta and I’m going to play. You can bet on that.”

While Couples is frustrated with his back and his game, he’s much more upbeat about a golf course at Twin Dolphin on which he and architect Todd Eckenrode are collaborating in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The course, scheduled to open in late 2018, anchors a new residential and resort community on the corridor connecting the towns of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. The community includes the high-end Montage Resort & Residences Los Cabos, scheduled to open in May.

While Couples is frustrated with his back and his game, he’s much more upbeat about Twin Dolphin, a golf course at Twin Dolphin on which he and architect Todd Eckenrode are collaborating in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The course, scheduled to open in late 2018, anchors a new residential and resort community on the corridor connecting the towns of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. The community includes the high-end Montage Resort & Residences Los Cabos, scheduled to open in May.

Los Cabos, already one of Mexico’s top vacation destinations, is undergoing a building boom, with several resorts and golf courses scheduled to open over the next two years.

“It’s just shocking how busy it is from a construction standpoint,” Eckenrode said. “There’s a tremendous amount of activity with (new) hotels. It’s shockingly hard to find equipment down there because there’s so much growth going on.”

Course entirely on the hillside

In the face of so much competition, Eckenrode said a lot of thought was given to how to differentiate Twin Dolphin from other courses in the area. Rather than trying to squeeze a hole or two into a narrow corridor near the ocean, the decision was made to route the course entirely on the hillside just to the north of the seaside highway, creating a core golf experience. Couples said the effect was to create sweeping ocean views no matter where you are on the course.

“There are views of the ocean on every shot except for a par 3 where you shoot down into an arroyo,” Couples said. “When you’re down there putting, it’s like you’re in a cave. But every other shot you see the ocean. It’s pretty spectacular.”

The land rises quickly from the ocean in Los Cabos, and that will create about 300 feet of elevation change from the highest point, on the 14th tee, to the low point near the Montage.

‘Let’s make it like God left it here.’

In shaping the course, Couples and Eckenrode said they were guided by two principles. First, don’t move around a lot of dirt – or as Couples put it, “Let’s make it like God left it here.”

They also decided to let the arroyos, the dominant features on the land, help guide the routing and design strategy.

“We play over them diagonally, we play over them more directly on some holes, we play alongside them on some holes, and there are three holes where we play in them, through the valley,” Eckenrode said. “The intent is, the arroyos are the best, most natural, memorable feature of the land up there aside from the big ocean views.”

Ocean views are plentiful at the Twin Dolphin resort, including here from No. 3, located in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. (Twin Dolphin)

Despite having been a world-class player for the past 40 years, Couples has embraced the industry trend toward building more playable courses. He said he wants Twin Dolphin to be a place where he can bring his buddies who are mid-handicappers, and everybody can have a good time.

Couples said he has visited Los Cabos off and on for more than two decades, after being introduced to it by Blaine McCallister, his college teammate and former PGA Tour pro. The opening of Twin Dolphin and the Montage will only provide more incentives to return.

“One of the key things is, I’ve built courses in several places, but this is a course in a place where I’m going to go a lot and play,” Couples said. “And not because I built it, but just because I want to be there and play. I will be there a lot.”

Aside from Twin Dolphin, here’s a look at some other golf and resort developments in Los Cabos:

  • Puerto Los Cabos, a 2,000-acre community on the east side of San Jose del Cabo, this month is scheduled to open a new nine holes by Jack Nicklaus, bringing the count to 27 holes on property. Greg Norman, who did nine of the original holes, is expected to add another nine at some point.
  • Further up the East Cape, Robert Trent Jones II and his team are designing a course at the 1,000-acre Costa Palmas resort community. Four Seasons and Aman are building resorts and residences there.
  • On the Pacific side of the cape, Norman is building a course expected to open by early 2019. It is part of the 834-acre Rancho San Lucas community.
  • Nearby, Tiger Woods is slated to build his second 18-hole layout at Diamante, a 1,500-acre community. Diamante’s first course, built by Davis Love III, is ranked No. 2 on the list of Golfweek’s Best Courses of the Caribbean and Mexico. Hard Rock and Nobu are building hotels at Diamante.
  • Next door to Diamante, Jack Nicklaus is expected to build a second course at Quivira, an 1,850-acre community. Construction tentatively is scheduled to begin in 2019. Gwk

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