A Day With Tiger
I had the pleasure of traveling to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to witness the unveiling of the first Tiger Woods designed golf course in the world, El Cardonal. The property in which El Cardonal sits, an amazing private gated property called Diamante, is located on the Pacific Ocean side about 15 minutes from the city of Cabo San Lucas, 45 minutes from the main airport in San Jose. If you happen to fly private it’s only a 20 minute drive from the Cabo San Lucas airport.
The original course at Diamante was designed by Davis Love III and fittingly named The Dunes, it is laid out over sand dunes and is very challenging. I don’t think there is ever a day where the wind doesn’t blow at least 10 mph. The driving range is one of the best ranges I have been to in the world. It has an outdoor grill where they make you sliders, protein smoothies and have plenty of ice-cold beer. Classic rock is playing on the range with perfect grass and PROV-1 practice balls. While on the course you can enjoy amazing tamales, chorizo black bean soup, bloody marys, margaritas and other things that would make most people very happy, oh did I mention ice-cold beer and tequila?
The grand opening for El Cardonal was invite only and started Monday afternoon at The Dunes Clubhouse with a cocktail party. The evening kicked off with a perfect sunset and rolled into a Q and A with the Tiger. It was great to hear what Tiger thinks is important about laying out a golf course: trying to use all of the natural elements of the land, making sure each tee shot is pleasing to the eye, making it possible to advance the ball out of all fairway bunkers, having back stops on the greens that you can use to hit different shots into and also worrying about players safety by making the arroyos playable, clearing out rocks and cactus so you can try and advance the ball with out hurting yourself. Tiger said on several occasions his favorite type of golf course is a Links course and that he loves to have the option of keeping the ball on the ground from 40 yards and in, also using different clubs like 5 irons to play bump and runs. He feels not every player can hit the high soft wedge shots into greens so having the option of running the ball was very important to him. He also said he liked to position fairway bunkers far enough out that the shorter hitters wouldn’t be the only ones to hit tee shots into them. For a golf nerd like myself the Q and A was awesome, Tiger talked about sitting next to Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer at his first Masters dinner and smiling because he ordered cheese burgers, fries and milk shakes and watching them all eat was funny. He also spoke of Ben Hogan picking up a knife and talking about the grip, Sam Snead, chiming in and saying you have to hold the club light like a feather and Mr. Nelson nudging him and whispered into his ear “don’t listen to these guys, hold it tight and keep doing what you do”. Tiger looked very slim, he said he has been sick and lost some weight. I think a lot of us are hoping he keeps the weight off and gets back to his physical form of 2000. He said he was starting to feel healthy again and excited about trying to get his swing back to where it was in the earlier years.
Tuesday started with a great reception at the beautiful El Cardonal Clubhouse which has an entrance framed with an ocean view and overlooks the driving range. Greeted by a Mariachi band and friendly staff, we were taken down the steps to the outdoor bar and grill where breakfast was being served. Several of Mexico’s top diplomats were there speaking about how much golf means to Baja and how honored they where to have opened the first Tiger Woods designed golf course in the world. Tiger closed the reception with some very exciting news, he announced that he was going to design a short course and another regulation course on the Diamante complex; this will make it a golfer’s paradise, the Bandon Dunes of Mexico. There are also talks of Hard Rock and NOBU opening hotels at Diamante.
After the reception the real fun began!! We all got to follow Tiger for 9 holes where he talked about every hole and every shot he played and why he designed the holes the way he did, pretty damn impressive! I love the fact that he feels golf courses should be designed with the average golfer in mind and not make courses so hard they that they aren’t fun to play. We came to the 5th hole, a long par 5 into the wind and he sprayed his drive off to the right into an arroyo, he punched out laterally and had 232 into the wind playing about 250 yards, he pulled a 4 iron and joked to the group that he had better step on it a little, made one of his signature swings and the ball finished 5 feet from the hole. He laughed and said I think that should work. After the round he talked for another couple of minutes and then we all got to play golf. It was a beautiful day with about 10-15 mph of wind and the course was flawless. Tiger and his crew did an amazing job on the course, very user friendly but with enough trouble lurking to make you think twice when going for certain shots and pins.
Golf was followed by a great dinner. “The Champions Dinner” modeled after The Masters, which was very cool. There were four different stations and each station’s theme was what Tiger ordered for dinner each time he won The Masters. The 1997 menu was Cheeseburgers, Chicken, Fries and Milk Shakes, 2001 was Porterhouse Steaks, Chicken and Sushi, 2002 was Sushi and 2005 was Porterhouse Steaks again with mashed potatoes. Following the Champions Dinner was live entertainment followed by a great firework show. What a special day it was! I was lucky enough to be invited by a couple of good friends that were personally invited by Tiger himself. Walking down the fairway listening to Tiger talk about his kids, showing a video of his son’s swing and how happy he is, gave me hope that we haven’t seen the last of him in the Butler Cabin. I think the fact that Tiger has a lot more on his mind now than just winning major championships only levels the playing field. Looking to seeing what the future brings to Tiger and if he can chase down the Golden Bear and become the best of all time. Only time will tell, but from what I saw it sure looks like it is going to be exciting to watch.
Check out 18GREENSTV on YouTube to see footage of this special day at the El Cardonal Golf Course designed by Tiger Woods