First Tiger Woods design course to host PGA

Tiger Woods has yet to disclose the date of his return to competitive golf, subsequent to his ankle surgery in April

by Andrea Gussoni
First Tiger Woods design course to host PGA
© Harry How / Getty Images Sport

Tiger Woods has yet to disclose the date of his return to competitive golf, subsequent to his ankle surgery in April. However, he will be commemorating a new milestone in his illustrious career as the World Wide Technology Championship kicks off on Thursday.

This will be the first time that a TOUR event is hosted on one of Woods' designs.

Below are five noteworthy points regarding El Cardonal at Diamante, the setting for the World Wide Technology Championship.

Tiger Woods, the course

El Cardonal was established in 2014 and marks the first golf course accomplished by Woods' TGR design firm, following earlier projects that were impeded by the global financial crisis.

El Cardonal is also the premiere venue designed by Woods to host a TOUR event.

The website for the course features a comment from Woods, stating “I set up the golf strategy to make golfers think and make choices...

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 flourishing Diamante Resort on the Pacific side of Cabo San Lucas, which encompasses Davis Love III's Dunes Course and Woods' par-3 Oasis Short Course.

The Oasis course was inaugurated in December 2016.

El Cardonal was followed by Bluejack National (2016) located 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 comprises of two esteemed members: Bryon Bell, a close friend and business associate of Woods, who serves as the president of the company, and Beau Welling, a former Tom Fazio design associate, who carries the responsibility of TGR's senior design associate.

El Cardonal is nestled in an extensive terrain, scattered with cacti, palo verde trees, and arid desert flora.

The area descends 240 feet across its mile-long stretch from the 17th tee to the third fairway. This 225-acre plot situated at the foothills of the Baja California desert is characterized by a constant slope of 4%.

The course's layout poses a considerable challenge to players, caddies, and even spectators, with the constantly approaching desert arroyos serving as its primary obstacle.

Nevertheless, the panoramic views overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the shotmaking demands of navigating around, and sometimes over, the sandy hazards lining El Cardonal's holes make the trek worth it.

The course boasts of 97 acres of Platinum paspalum grass, trimmed to fairway height of 3/8ths of an inch.

The arid climate of the region, receiving only six inches of rainfall annually, causes this turf to play firm and fast. Additionally, the ever-present, gusty winds, blowing from the north, and occasionally reversing from the ocean, can change the challenge from one day to another.

The fairway corridors are generously wide, with the rustic sand traps often placed strategically at the center.

This ensures that players have ample space to maneuver their shots and showcase their skills, while the short grass around the greens offers a wide range of options to choose from.

The orientation of the arroyos, formed by the rapid flow of water, along a north-south direction, is dictated by the native topography, with the course design team opting to construct most holes on the same axis.

By doing so, they have significantly reduced the need for forced carries across the arroyos, which would have excessively challenged players, especially those not on tour, whose primary purpose is to enjoy the game's playability.

Notably, the construction of the course did not entail extensive earthworks.

Modifications, such as slight elevation of the course's lower holes, were made to provide panoramic ocean views and improve the terrain's visual appeal. Additionally, uphill holes underwent adjustments in their approach areas to ensure visibility of the intended targets.

El Cardonal offers a par-72 championship golf course covering 7,363 yards, with a 75.9 rating and a 140 slope.

The back tees provide a different perspective from the resort player's typically encountered angles. The large greens, averagely measuring 8,300 square feet, are notably 23% bigger than those at Marco Simone G&CC, which hosted 2021's Ryder Cup.

As such, the course design allows for a spacious, more comfortable play area.

Typically, the more extended tee sets align with the natural hazard of the arroyos, challenging players to strategize their approach. Nonetheless, experienced golfers, particularly those on the PGA TOUR, skillfully work the ball away from the threat while exploiting ample space available.

El Cardonal golf course offers a challenging and dynamic playing experience that will test even the most skilled golfers.

The course features a mix of easy and difficult holes, beginning and ending with downhill par-5s that provide opportunities for birdies and eagles.

The routing of the course is carefully designed, with a stutter-step, shifting rhythm that adds to its complexity.

The uphill fourth and sixth holes climb 30 and 70 feet respectively, while the seventh hole descends a dramatic 60 feet from tee to green.

From the 10th to the 14th hole, golfers will face up-and-down switchbacks that further challenge their skills and creativity.

In addition, most of the greens are canted diagonally, providing a wide range of hole locations and opportunities to incorporate the surrounding arroyos into play.

One of the most revealing holes at El Cardonal is the 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.

The alignment of this hole presents a challenge, with wind prevailing from the left and pushing everything towards the ravine. Golfers must aim for a right-to-left shot into the slope to avoid bringing the arroyo into play.

Overall, in a 72-hole, stroke play format, every hole at El Cardonal is vital to success.

This course will test even the most skilled golfer and provide a memorable playing experience.

The eighth hole at Diamante offers a challenging experience for players with its 474-yard length and steep 50-foot ascension from tee to green, made even more difficult by the prevailing winds.

A challenging approach shot of 180-200 yards awaits most players, with the green bunkered securely on both sides and located 70 yards beyond a cactus-strewn ravine. This makes it the toughest hole on the course, daunting even for the pros.

For those seeking an alternate fairway, the par-5 14th hole is another option to consider, measuring a robust 554 yards.

It's one of the few holes that require golfers to make a meaningful decision on their second shot. With a dogleg from right to left and a tee-box lying adjacent to the arroyo, players would need a bold carry across the inside of the turn for the perfect shot position.

While layup is also a viable option, the left fairway requires crossing the arroyo again, but the payoff is a more favorable angle.

Meanwhile, the right fairway leads to a dead-end cove of fairway. The green is canted diagonally and can pose a challenge for players opting for a seemingly safer second shot to the right. This situation will be fascinating to watch, as touring professionals weigh their options at Diamante.

Diamante is located on the southernmost point of Mexico's Baja Peninsula, which has become a top golfing destination worldwide, owing to its beautiful desert climate cooled by constant winds and exposure along two shorelines - the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Gulf of California to the east.

It's an idyllic spot for a game of golf.

The metropolitan zone, encompassing Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, accommodates a population of 400,000 residents. Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) provides global access to the most significant concentration of top-notch golf courses in Mexico - and possibly, in the entire region extending from the United States to South America.

The array of golfing options available is truly impressive.

The area boasts 18 golf courses, with some of the most prominent ones being Love's Dunes Course at Diamante, Cabo Real by Robert Trent Jones Jr., Chileno Bay, Querencia by Tom Fazio, and four courses by the legendary Jack Nicklaus, namely, Cabo del Sol's Cove Club, El Dorado Golf & Beach Club, Palmilla Golf Club, and Quivira.

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