The Takeaway: El Cardonal encourages swinging away off the tee with spacious driving widths that are countered with plenty of bunkers and death if you leave the short grass. The length and undulated greens will test the best of players while the ocean views deliver eye candy to every level of golfer. El Cardonal is one of the best courses in Cabo, but clearly second fiddle to its older sister, the Dunes course, at Diamante. Grade B+
Designer: Tiger Woods in 2014
Phone Number: U.S. (866) 901-1456 or Mexico +52 (624) 172-5812
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Diamante (El Cardonal)'s official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - Boulevard Diamante, Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur 23473 – MEXICO
Accolades: Ranked 5th in Baja California Sur and 5th in Mexico by Golf Course Gurus.
What to Expect: Despite being commissioned to do other courses first, El Cardonal at Diamante is the first course that Tiger Woods completed. The second course at Diamante (world renowned Dunes course being first), El Cardonal is characterized by wide fairways, plenty of bunkers, and large undulated greens. Though there are some short par fours, you'll rarely be tempted to hit anything but driver on the non-par threes given the width of the short grass and confidence it breeds. On a calm day you almost can't miss a fairway but when the wind is up, which it often is, then things get tough quick and leaving the fairway often results in a lost ball. The difficulty in the course comes from the overall length combined with the pin placements. There are some pins that could prove to be absolutely diabolical to contend with but enough real estate on the greens that would allow easy pins as well. The course is kept in good shape and you'll enjoy rolling your putts, taking note that balls tend to roll towards the water. In the end, El Cardonal is a solid track with good strategy but lacks the character and memorability of its sister course. There are few times you'll find yourself mesmerized by a hole while at the Dunes there are only few times you don't find yourself mesmerized. Caddies and carts are both available while the comfort stations will keep your appetite satisfied throughout the round. As a side note, the coconut balls are ridiculously good and I find myself wanting to go back just for those.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 11th Hole – 189 Yard Par 3 – The scenic 11th is fronted by a pair of decorative and defensive bunkers while the background is laced with the glistening ocean. A small pot bunker sits behind the right third of the green and is a bad place to try and save par from. The tightly mown grass around the green makes a front left miss challenging considering the putting surface runs away from players just over the back edge of the green and requires spin control to maintain proper distance. There are plenty of views and enjoyable hole to play at El Cardonal but this takes the cake of the group.
Best Par 3: 9th Hole – 200 Yards – The final hole on the front nine is this 200 yard one-shooter that plays uphill and over a ravine. The right third of the green offers much more putting surface to work with and is the safe play regards of where the pin is. When the flag is tucked in the left third of the green players have to carry the ravine, a deep bunker, and only have half the green to work with. With plenty of strategy to consider and winds that are often wiping, this is a solid hole to finish the front with.
Best Par 4: 15th Hole – 462 Yards – As you step on the 15th tee the first thing that grabs your eye is the series of bunkers up the left side that makes the hole look like a dogleg left, but it actually plays fairly straight. In fact, balls that go left of the bunkers trying to cut any length off the hole will find themselves in desert waste. The fairway tilts from right to left and the cactus on the right side provides some protection from players that try and take too safe of a route. The approach shot is especially enticing with feelings of Scotland that will allow players to utilize the slope right of the green to chase the ball to a variety of pin locations.
Best Par 5: 18th Hole – 537 Yards – The closing hole provides an exciting finish and a chance to take a stroke back from Old Man Par. Playing downhill the entire way with the ocean providing the distant background, the 18th offers plenty of fairway but a trio of bunkers in the landing area to contend with. A successful drive opens the door to reach the green in two if you can avoid the pair of high lipped bunkers that front the putting surface. The safe play is right of the green on your second shot to leave a short chip onto the raised putting surface and a good look at birdie. With great views and an exciting finish, the 18th is a great way to finish your day at El Cardonal.
Birdie Time: 1st Hole – 541 Yard Par 5 – If you can mentally get passed the idea of teeing off from a secondary practice green when playing from the tips, then you can grip and rip your drive to a generous fairway on this downhill par five that begs players to reach it in two. The fairway plays through sand dunes on both sides while the approach shot leaves the entire right side of the green open for players to work the ball in from aerially or on the ground. The green is plenty large and has a bowl effect around much of it to provide extra generosity when attacking this hole. If you were looking for an easy start, you got it; now take advantage of it.
Bogey Beware: 4th Hole – 483 Yard Par 4 – In a location that can get notoriously windy, this hole is just mean. 483 yards is plenty to bite off on a par four, but add in a steep climb up to the green with a wicked false front and you aren’t going to see a lot of greens in regulation here. A trio of bunkers come into play throughout the hole with two in the driving zone and one green side. If you can manage a par here you are taking a stroke on the field.