Labor of Love

North Carolina native Davis Love III crafts a wild seaside masterpiece in Mexico

Photo: Larry Lambrecht

The dunes at Diamante

A good golf course designer manufactures golf holes. A great golf course designer discovers them. Davis Love III and his brother, Mark, received an object lesson in this while traveling to a PGA Tour event with fellow Southern golf pro and course designer Ben Crenshaw. It was the early 1990s, and Crenshaw had just begun work on Sand Hills Golf Club, near Mullen, Nebraska, which is somewhere north of the middle of nowhere. Out there in the plains, eight thousand acres of rolling sand dunes rippled the land.

Crenshaw excitedly showed the Love brothers photos of the terrain, explaining that he had found natural routings for more than 130 golf holes, picked the best 18, and started creating the course now consistently ranked among the best in the nation. Mark Love recalls feeling borderline delirious as he looked at the photos and thinking, I hope someday we get to work with a piece of ground like that.

Photo: Matthew Boland

Davis Love III tries out his handiwork

Someday has arrived, and the result is called the Dunes Course at Diamante Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. It is Davis Love III’s first design outside of the United States—and one to which he gives equal credit to Mother Nature herself. “We let the site dictate our design,” he tells Garden & Gun. “The routing and style of the course fit completely naturally with the existing landscape. We didn’t force anything; the lay of the land allowed us to design holes with incredible variety.”

The wind-whipped course clings to the shoreline and features dunes as high as fifty feet. For these reasons, Diamante bears some similarity to the classic links of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. The differences lie in the warm weather, intense sun, snow-white sand, and dreamy views of the deep blue stretching out to the horizon. The resort also cradles a pristine private beach, and the glass-walled Cantina does triple duty as laid-back bar, restaurant, and clubhouse, offering a sweeping panorama of the golf course and the coastline.

Davis Love III has made his mark with striking course designs in some very beautiful places, mainly in coastal South Carolina and Georgia and in his native North Carolina. Diamante, dangling from the tip of the Baja California peninsula, presented a new tableau—and new challenges, the main one being the wind. He and his team found out quickly that if they fought the wind it inevitably won. So they changed tack and made the wind their design partner. When creating a fairway or a green, they’d gently sculpt the land according to Love’s drawings, leave it alone to let the wind amend their work, and then return to plant grass. That’s an oversimplification, but only a slight one. The results are 18 holes that look and feel as natural as the sand dunes and the ocean rushing to the shore. “As soon as I set foot on the site, I realized how spectacular the place was and what an unbelievable opportunity we had been given,” Love says. “There are three dominant features—massive sand dunes, ocean, and wind. I believe we took advantage of all three.”