Eighteen years after bursting onto the PGA Tour, Tiger Woods is finally about to make his debut as a golf course designer. Woods announced Tuesday that his El Cardonal course at Diamante in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, will open December 16.
The opening date had been in some doubt after the Cabo area sustained heavy damage from Hurricane Odile last month.
While Woods is also designing a track called Bluejack National, near Houston, the course at Diamante will mark his first ever design after several aborted starts. Woods’ first three commissions—in the Dubai desert (2006), in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina (2007) and on Mexico’s Baja Coast (2008)—were all upended by the economy and either delayed or abandoned.
But in less than two months the golf world will see how the 14-time major winner ranks as a designer as he follows fellow legends like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player into the course architecture business. Many players-turned-designers have been criticized for being too hands-off, but that wasn’t the case with Woods, says Diamante’s developer, Ken Jowdy.
(GALLERY: Exclusive Photos From Tiger's Course at Diamante) “Tiger’s level of passion for this design has been evident since Day One,” Jowdy says. “Tiger has been very hands-on. He’s made multiple visits and spent many hours in the field. This is definitely a Tiger Woods-designed course.”
El Cardonal is named for the ranch that occupied the property before golf and real estate entered the picture. While the course will measure more than 7,400 daunting yards from the tips, Woods is adamant that his courses will reflect a “playable-for-all” philosophy, inspired by the Old Course at St. Andrews and Pinehurst No. 2.
“I don’t want people to lose a dozen balls when they play our course,” Woods told Golf.com. “Pinehurst is a great example of a course that’s tough for us, but playable for everybody else. It gets players thinking, with options around the greens. We want lots of variety. St. Andrews is the world’s greatest course. There are so many different ways to play it, to get the ball on the green.”
The El Cardonal track will not only be hard-pressed to stack up against St. Andrews and Pinehurst, it will have to be good just to match Diamante’s existing Dunes course, a Davis Love III design that’s ranked Number 52 in Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Courses in the World. The Dunes course benefits from a spectacular setting among huge dunes along the ocean. El Cardonal is set back considerably from the Pacific, though it boasts several eye-candy long views of the water.
Woods and his team—including his design chief Bryon Bell and former Tom Fazio associates Beau Welling and Shane Robichaud—have utilized an “Old California” design style, harkening back to the designs of George Thomas, who crafted Riviera, Bel-Air and Los Angeles Country Club’s North course, all in Southern California. “We’ve got big, bold bunkers,” says Woods, “but we’ve built in ways that you can avoid them. I want to give opportunities to have several ways into the greens.”
El Cardonal is private, though it will be accessible to prospective property buyers at Diamante, as well as to those renting a house, golf villa, beach estate or two-bedroom condominium unit.
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