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Five things to know: El Cardonal at Diamante

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Five things to know: El Cardonal at Diamante

Venue for this week’s World Wide Technology Championship is the first Tiger Woods design to host TOUR event



    Written by Bradley Klein @PGATOUR

    Tiger Woods has yet to announce when he will make his return to competition after having ankle surgery in April, but he will celebrate a new milestone in his storied career when the World Wide Technology Championship begins Thursday.

    This is the first time that a TOUR event will be held on one of Woods’ designs. Here are five things to know about the El Cardonal at Diamante which is hosting the World Wide Technology Championship.

    1. Tiger's first course

    El Cardonal opened in 2014, making it the first course completed by Woods’ TGR Design firm after earlier projects were derailed by the global financial crisis. El Cardonal also is the first Woods design to host a TOUR event.

    “I set up the golf strategy to make golfers think and make choices,” Woods said on the course website. “There are going to be different ways to play every hole. Angles of approach are going to be very important and will dictate the type of shots you should consider. I love this kind of golf.”

    The course is part of the successful Diamante Resort on the Pacific side of Cabo San Lucas, which also features the Davis Love III-designed Dunes Course and the par-3 Oasis Short Course also designed by Woods. The Oasis course opened in December 2016.

    For Woods, El Cardonal was followed by Bluejack National (2016) north of Houston, the short course at Diamante, the 10-hole Playground at Jack’s Bay (2020) in the Bahamas, Payne’s Valley at Big Cedar Lodge (2020) in Missouri, the nine-hole The Hay at Pebble Beach (2021), and half a dozen other projects that are currently in development.

    Woods’ TGR Design team includes longtime friend and business associate Bryon Bell, who serves as the company’s president, and former Tom Fazio design associate Beau Welling, who is TGR’s senior design associate.

    2. Dramatic site

    El Cardonal sits on a broad landscape dotted by cacti, palo verde trees and scrubby desert flora. The land drops 240 feet along the mile-long stretch from the 17th tee to the third fairway. This 225-acre parcel in the foothills of the Baja California desert features a steady 4% grade.

    The terrain will prove demanding for both players and caddies, to say nothing of spectators. But the views out onto the Pacific Ocean make the trek worthwhile, as do the shotmaking demands alongside, and occasionally over, the sandy arroyos that line El Cardonal’s holes.

    The encroaching desert arroyos are El Cardonal’s main obstacle. The course features 97 acres of Platinum paspalum grass cut to fairway height (3/8ths of an inch), and the turf usually plays firm and fast because the area only receives 6 inches of rain per year. The wind often howls here, usually blowing out of the north but sometimes flipping entirely and coming in off the ocean. Such reversals can confront players with a dramatically different challenge from day to day.

    The course’s corridors are wide, with the rustic sand traps often scattered in the middle of the ideal landing areas. Players have plenty of room to navigate their way around, or over, the hazards, and the short grass gives players an abundance of options around the greens.

    The north-south direction of the arroyos – the steep-sided gullies formed by fast-flowing water – is entirely a function of the native topography. They run in the direction that water flows. With the course primarily serving as a resort layout, the design team decided to build the majority of holes on a north-south axis to prevent forced carries across those arroyos, which in many cases are 100 yards or longer. This enhances playability for everyday golfers.

    This was not a construction job that entailed massive regrading of the land. The course’s lower holes (Nos. 1-5), which run through sandy dunes, were raised slightly to broaden the features and establish ocean views over the dunes. The uphill holes were generally tweaked in the approach areas to provide visibility into the targets.


    The opening hole is a mid-length par 5 that plays dramatically downhill into large sand dunes, offering panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. On the tee shot, carrying the short left fairway bunker allows players to access a speed slot in the fairway, providing the shortest route to reach the green in two. There is ample fairway on the right side to avoid the bunker, but this angle requires a longer path to the green. The second landing area and green are nestled in a valley below the towering sand dunes. The surrounding slopes influence the ball's behavior around the green, introducing a recurring theme throughout the course, where players can use feeder slopes to navigate the putting surfaces.

    The opening hole is a mid-length par 5 that plays dramatically downhill into large sand dunes, offering panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. On the tee shot, carrying the short left fairway bunker allows players to access a speed slot in the fairway, providing the shortest route to reach the green in two. There is ample fairway on the right side to avoid the bunker, but this angle requires a longer path to the green. The second landing area and green are nestled in a valley below the towering sand dunes. The surrounding slopes influence the ball's behavior around the green, introducing a recurring theme throughout the course, where players can use feeder slopes to navigate the putting surfaces.

    This downhill, downwind par 3 leads to a spacious green situated in a depression encircled by dunes. The contours around the punchbowl-style green can guide balls onto the putting surface. However, given the green's generous size, pin placement will determine the length of the birdie putt. A menacing bunker looks closer to the green than it is and protects any center-cut pins.

    This downhill, downwind par 3 leads to a spacious green situated in a depression encircled by dunes. The contours around the punchbowl-style green can guide balls onto the putting surface. However, given the green's generous size, pin placement will determine the length of the birdie putt. A menacing bunker looks closer to the green than it is and protects any center-cut pins.

    The first par 4 on the front nine is short, downwind and may be within reach for longer hitters. Those aiming to drive the green must carry a deep bunker on the right side of the fairway. A successful carry rewards with a kick toward the green. Multiple lay-up options exist off the tee, but the best line is to the left of the middle fairway bunker. From this vantage point, the entire green comes into view.

    The first par 4 on the front nine is short, downwind and may be within reach for longer hitters. Those aiming to drive the green must carry a deep bunker on the right side of the fairway. A successful carry rewards with a kick toward the green. Multiple lay-up options exist off the tee, but the best line is to the left of the middle fairway bunker. From this vantage point, the entire green comes into view.

    Playing in the opposite direction of the third hole, this lengthy par 4 challenges golfers into a prevailing wind. A tee shot favoring the right side of the fairway provides the shortest approach to an elevated green guarded by a bunker on the right. The subtly contoured green offers opportunities for up-and-down recoveries for those who miss their targets.

    Playing in the opposite direction of the third hole, this lengthy par 4 challenges golfers into a prevailing wind. A tee shot favoring the right side of the fairway provides the shortest approach to an elevated green guarded by a bunker on the right. The subtly contoured green offers opportunities for up-and-down recoveries for those who miss their targets.

    After a change in direction, playing with the prevailing wind introduces a new challenge: a desert arroyo. Carrying the right fairway bunkers near the arroyo yields an open approach to the green. Shots aimed left must carry a bunker short of the green. The sandy arroyo protects the green's right side and an elevated pin area at the back demands a precise and bold approach.

    After a change in direction, playing with the prevailing wind introduces a new challenge: a desert arroyo. Carrying the right fairway bunkers near the arroyo yields an open approach to the green. Shots aimed left must carry a bunker short of the green. The sandy arroyo protects the green's right side and an elevated pin area at the back demands a precise and bold approach.

    Ascending from the dunes, this lengthy par 5 requires a strategic approach due to the wide "M" shaped green protected by a large central bunker. Optimal angles for pin placements on the right side of the green are best approached from the right side of the second landing area, which in turn is accessed from the left side of the first landing area and vice versa for left pin placements. A large crowned area in the middle of the fairway adds to the challenge off the tee.

    Ascending from the dunes, this lengthy par 5 requires a strategic approach due to the wide "M" shaped green protected by a large central bunker. Optimal angles for pin placements on the right side of the green are best approached from the right side of the second landing area, which in turn is accessed from the left side of the first landing area and vice versa for left pin placements. A large crowned area in the middle of the fairway adds to the challenge off the tee.

    This downhill, lengthy par 4 offers expansive views of the Pacific Ocean. A tee shot carrying the left fairway bunker sets up an unobstructed approach to the green. Shots veering too far right contend with a bunker short of the green. A generous feeder slope short of the green aids in propelling balls onto the putting surface, while low chipping areas protect both flanks of the contoured green.

    This downhill, lengthy par 4 offers expansive views of the Pacific Ocean. A tee shot carrying the left fairway bunker sets up an unobstructed approach to the green. Shots veering too far right contend with a bunker short of the green. A generous feeder slope short of the green aids in propelling balls onto the putting surface, while low chipping areas protect both flanks of the contoured green.

    A sandy arroyo splits the tee, landing area and green, shaping the strategic element of this hole. The "T"-shaped green features challenging pin positions, with bunkering on the back left, back right and narrow front sections. Favoring the right side of the fairway near the arroyo provides a better angle for attacking back-left pins, while targeting the left fairway bunker sets up an approach to back-right pins.

    A sandy arroyo splits the tee, landing area and green, shaping the strategic element of this hole. The "T"-shaped green features challenging pin positions, with bunkering on the back left, back right and narrow front sections. Favoring the right side of the fairway near the arroyo provides a better angle for attacking back-left pins, while targeting the left fairway bunker sets up an approach to back-right pins.

    Playing into the prevailing wind, this par 3 demands accuracy due to the sandy arroyo between the tee and green. The left side of the green is protected by a bunker, while the right side is open and inviting. The narrow back-left portion requires a precise and assertive shot.

    Playing into the prevailing wind, this par 3 demands accuracy due to the sandy arroyo between the tee and green. The left side of the green is protected by a bunker, while the right side is open and inviting. The narrow back-left portion requires a precise and assertive shot.

    The first hole on the back nine is a short par 4 offering strategic options off the tee. Aggressive players can attempt to drive closer to the green, navigating between fairway bunkers. A wiser approach might be to challenge the left-to-right wind, laying up to the left side of the fairway for a better angle to the green. The wishbone-shaped green is guarded by a deep bunker in the center, adding to the challenge.

    The first hole on the back nine is a short par 4 offering strategic options off the tee. Aggressive players can attempt to drive closer to the green, navigating between fairway bunkers. A wiser approach might be to challenge the left-to-right wind, laying up to the left side of the fairway for a better angle to the green. The wishbone-shaped green is guarded by a deep bunker in the center, adding to the challenge.

    This mid-length par 3 plays slightly downhill. Golfers can choose to carry the green or use the feeder slope for an approach shot played short. Accurate yardage control is crucial, as missing the green long and right may result in a challenging recovery from a deep pot bunker. Subtle undulations on the green pose challenges for putting.

    This mid-length par 3 plays slightly downhill. Golfers can choose to carry the green or use the feeder slope for an approach shot played short. Accurate yardage control is crucial, as missing the green long and right may result in a challenging recovery from a deep pot bunker. Subtle undulations on the green pose challenges for putting.

    An aggressive tee shot carrying the left fairway bunker can result in a favorable kick down the hill. Shots to the right side of the fairway leave a longer approach. Accuracy is key on the short approach, where the prevailing wind and challenging left-to-right elements come into play. The small, elevated green features strong slopes on the front and right, while the wind can carry stray approach shots into the low collection area on the right.

    An aggressive tee shot carrying the left fairway bunker can result in a favorable kick down the hill. Shots to the right side of the fairway leave a longer approach. Accuracy is key on the short approach, where the prevailing wind and challenging left-to-right elements come into play. The small, elevated green features strong slopes on the front and right, while the wind can carry stray approach shots into the low collection area on the right.

    The tee shot on this hole must clear a substantial sandy arroyo. Opting for a more aggressive line to the right side of the fairway yields the best angle for approaching the right-to-left green. Shots to the left must contend with a bunker guarding the green's left side. The sandy arroyo extends along the entire right side, offering opportunities for daring recovery shots.

    The tee shot on this hole must clear a substantial sandy arroyo. Opting for a more aggressive line to the right side of the fairway yields the best angle for approaching the right-to-left green. Shots to the left must contend with a bunker guarding the green's left side. The sandy arroyo extends along the entire right side, offering opportunities for daring recovery shots.

    Designed around a narrow, sandy tributary of a larger arroyo, this hole challenges golfers with a "cape" tee shot. Aggressive players can carry the arroyo on the left for a shorter second shot. Playing to the right leaves a longer approach. The second landing area features a central sand ribbon, dividing it into left and right sections. Opting for the left side sets up a more straightforward approach to the green, while the right section requires negotiating a desert plum guarding the green's right side.

    Designed around a narrow, sandy tributary of a larger arroyo, this hole challenges golfers with a "cape" tee shot. Aggressive players can carry the arroyo on the left for a shorter second shot. Playing to the right leaves a longer approach. The second landing area features a central sand ribbon, dividing it into left and right sections. Opting for the left side sets up a more straightforward approach to the green, while the right section requires negotiating a desert plum guarding the green's right side.

    This dogleg-left par 4 plays uphill, with bunkers framing the left side of the tee shot. A deceptive wide landing area lies beyond the bunkers. Approach shots near a large "Cardon" cactus to the short right of the green can use the feeder bounce for better placement. The green's distinct undulations create various pin placement sections, adding complexity to putting.

    This dogleg-left par 4 plays uphill, with bunkers framing the left side of the tee shot. A deceptive wide landing area lies beyond the bunkers. Approach shots near a large "Cardon" cactus to the short right of the green can use the feeder bounce for better placement. The green's distinct undulations create various pin placement sections, adding complexity to putting.

    As the shortest par 3 on the course, this hole introduces drama near the round's end. Golfers face an "all or nothing" carry to a green nestled at the confluence of two arroyo canyons. With three distinct levels, navigating the green requires precision from a short iron shot.

    As the shortest par 3 on the course, this hole introduces drama near the round's end. Golfers face an "all or nothing" carry to a green nestled at the confluence of two arroyo canyons. With three distinct levels, navigating the green requires precision from a short iron shot.

    From the course's highest point, the tee shot offers a panoramic view of Diamante and the Pacific Ocean. The split landing area, with an upper right and lower left side, presents strategic choices. The elevated right side provides a better approach angle, but the prevailing crosswind poses a challenge. Shots from the left side must traverse the narrow dimensions of the right-to-left green, which extends into the arroyo guarding the 16th green.

    From the course's highest point, the tee shot offers a panoramic view of Diamante and the Pacific Ocean. The split landing area, with an upper right and lower left side, presents strategic choices. The elevated right side provides a better approach angle, but the prevailing crosswind poses a challenge. Shots from the left side must traverse the narrow dimensions of the right-to-left green, which extends into the arroyo guarding the 16th green.

    The final hole invites an aggressive tee shot, playing downhill more than 60 feet from tee to green. Longer hitters can aim to carry cross bunkers near the second landing area, setting up a chance to advance closer to the green. A successful carry will result in a favorable kick forward. The lengthy, narrow green is surrounded by deep low areas and a bunker left. The prevailing right-to-left wind adds complexity to high wedge approach shots.

    The final hole invites an aggressive tee shot, playing downhill more than 60 feet from tee to green. Longer hitters can aim to carry cross bunkers near the second landing area, setting up a chance to advance closer to the green. A successful carry will result in a favorable kick forward. The lengthy, narrow green is surrounded by deep low areas and a bunker left. The prevailing right-to-left wind adds complexity to high wedge approach shots.


    3. Rhythm

    Championship golf at El Cardonal involves a 7,363-yard, par-72 layout with a 75.9 rating and 140 slope. The back tees provide completely different angles than what the resort player faces. The fairways are wide and the greens are enormous, averaging 8,300 square feet (23% larger than the greens at Marco Simone G&CC, which hosted this year’s Ryder Cup). There is a lot of room out there.

    On most holes, the longer sets of tees are more closely aligned to the arroyos. That allows the natural geography to enter the mind as a hazard. Smart, skilled players like those on the PGA TOUR are not likely to be fooled, though; they know that most of their tee shots will be played on a line away from that hazard and they’ll have plenty of room to work the ball.

    The course begins and ends on easy, downhill par-5s that will see plenty of birdies and eagles. In between is where the stutter-step, shifting rhythm of the routing takes hold. The short, drivable par-4 third hole is on level ground at the lowest part of the golf course. It transitions to the first of the uphill holes, the 483-yard, par-4 fourth that goes up 30 feet from tee to green. The 601-yard, par-5 sixth ascends 70 feet to the green. The course turns back down the slope at the 489-yard, par-4 seventh. That hole dives 60 feet from tee to green. The stretch from the 10th to the 14th involves up-and-down switchbacks on every hole, as well.

    Most of the greens are canted diagonally, offering a wide variety of hole locations and the opportunity to set up back flags that bring the arroyos closer into play for even slightly wayward approach shots.

    4. Key holes

    In a 72-hole, stroke play format, every hole is key. However, some of the holes at El Cardonal are more revealing of the terrain and character of the site. Among them is the 438-yard fifth, which features a green suspended along the edge of an arroyo and a fall-off on the right that runs the length of the hole.

    This is one of the few holes at El Cardonal that is not laid out on the north-south axis. It runs partially downhill, from northwest to southeast. Its alignment presents the challenge of wind prevailing from the left (north) and pushing everything towards the ravine. The ideal shot-shape here is right-to-left, into the slope. Anything drifting right that is marginally overcooked brings into play that looming arroyo.

    The 474-yard eighth hole is the longest of the two-shot holes here, thanks to a 50-foot ascent from tee to green, and into the prevailing wind. Most players will face an approach shot of 180-200 yards. The green, bunkered left and right in front, sits 70 yards beyond a cactus-strewn ravine that crosses in front. The visual impact of the approach shot is daunting and will make this, in all likelihood, the hardest hole on the course.

    The par-5 14th, which measures 554 yards, offers the rare alternate fairway that requires a meaningful choice on the second shot. No hole out here climbs more ground. The hole climbs 80 feet from tee to green. With the hole doglegging right-to-left and the tee set right alongside the arroyo, a bold carry across the inside of the turn is needed to get in the proper position for a second shot to the putting surface.

    Otherwise, it’s a layup, with the choice right side offering a dead-end cove of fairway. Players who choose the left fairway have to cross the arroyo again but are rewarded with a much more favorable angle in. With the green canted diagonally from 7 o’clock to 2 o’clock, the seemingly safer second shot to the right leaves a much tougher angle across the narrow waistline of the green. It will be fascinating to watch TOUR players consider their options here.

    5. A golf destination

    Diamante sits on the southernmost tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, which has become a major destination in the world of golf. Having a desert climate cooled by persistent winds and exposure along two shorelines, the Gulf of California to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west is a recipe for an idyllic setting.

    The metro area, including the nearby cities of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, is home to 400,000 residents. Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) gives the world access to the strongest concentration of quality golf in Mexico – and arguably in the entire region between the U.S. and South America. The offerings are impressive.

    Among the 18 courses in the area are such standouts as Love’s Dunes Couse at Diamante, Cabo Real by Robert Trent Jones Jr., Chileno Bay and Querencia by Tom Fazio, and four courses by Jack Nicklaus: Cabo del Sol’s Cove Club, El Dorado Golf & Beach Club, Palmilla Golf Club and Quivira.

    Bradley S. Klein is a veteran golf writer and author of 10 books on course design. A former PGA TOUR caddie, he was architecture editor of Golfweek for over two decades and is now a freelance journalist and course design consultant. Follow Bradley Klein on Twitter.

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