Since its official opening in December 2014, the spectacular Jack Nicklaus designed layout at Quivira Golf Club has been showered with awards and accolades from some of the golf world’s most prestigious publications. To find out more about the area’s most acclaimed new course, I visited last week to speak – and play golf – with Quivira’s Director of Golf, Antonio Reynante.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself, your career path, and how you ended up in your current position as Director of Golf at Quivira?
My father got me involved in the game at the age of five, but I really didn’t begin to take golf seriously until I was about 11. Naturally, my father was my first golf instructor, and I learned on the only course – a little nine-hole layout – in Xalapa, Veracruz. As I got serious, I felt a tremendous desire to play on the professional tour level, and so I really worked on my game. I kept playing amateur tournaments with no formal instruction until I was studying my major of Business Administration…and beyond.
My unconditional love for the game took me at age 26 to Southern California, where I studied for two years for a professional golf management degree. In 2008, I came back to México and started to play on the professional tour here. I played professionally for three years, and besides playing, I was teaching and working independently as a golf course instructor. Those were very good years, with lots of fun, learning and golf.
During that time I got the chance to work at beautiful Malinalco Golf Course in Estado de México on a consultancy basis. My main contact was Ricardo Paullada. He hired me at the time, and three years later, in his capacity as master advisor for Pueblo Bonito, recommended me as a candidate to be Director of Golf at Quivira. That led to the opportunity to go through interviews with the Pueblo Bonito board of directors, and, very fortunately, put me in a position to speak with you today.
Los Cabos has become one of the world’s great golfing destinations over the last two decades. This amazing growth is generally credited to the region’s incredible natural beauty, and the unique proximity of diverse desert and mountain terrains to the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortés. Are there any other secrets to the area’s success as a major golfing destination? What, beyond water scarcity, are the major challenges for golf courses here?
It’s not just the beauty of a particular place in the world that makes it a great destination. You also need resorts and facilities that complement that beautiful place. That’s what great visionaries like (Pueblo Bonito resorts founder and Quivira developer) Ernesto Coppel have done through the years in Los Cabos. The result is developments which blend the best locations with the best designers and the best service staff, and provide visitors with the best possible experience.
As for water, Los Cabos has a very good aquifer, but it should be noted that most courses irrigate with retreated or secondary “gray” water. Many local layouts, including Quivira, are surfaced with seashore papsalum, a drought-tolerant, disease-resistant cultivar that can tolerate brackish water, and requires a fraction of the fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides of normal grasses.
Were you part of the planning process for Quivira Golf Club? When exactly was Quivira conceived and by whom, and how long did the project ultimately take from initial idea to grand opening?
I was not part of the planning process. Quivira was conceived by Ernesto Coppel nearly 10 years ago. Jack Nicklaus was involved in the original land plan. The construction itself took 1 year and 8 months, and Quivira Golf Club formally opened on December 4, 2014.
Quivira opened only a couple of months after Hurricane Odile, so the storm can’t have caused any serious delays. But what was the extent of the damage, and were there any special challenges faced by employees?
Quivira was spared the full wrath of Hurricane Odile. Apart from washed-out bunkers, toppled cactus and windblown debris, the course survived the storm without major damage. The clean-up and repairs were completed in time for Quivira’s soft opening in October, due to the amazing restoration efforts that Pueblo Bonito CEO, Alberto Coppel, promoted within the company.
Quivira is the sixth Nicklaus designed course in Los Cabos. What do you think sets it apart from some of his earlier efforts, and do you think his design style has changed or evolved at all over the years?
Great land produces great golf courses. Nicklaus had sheer granite cliffs, huge windswept dunes and rolling desert foothills at his disposal. No other golf course in Los Cabos has cliffhanging holes perched 275 feet above the surging sea. Coupled with the powerful aesthetics is a design style that is markedly different from Jack’s earlier work. Green shapes range from small and flat to large and undulating. There is no redundancy – no two holes are alike. There are also a few blind shots, which Jack abhorred earlier in his design career. In addition, gathering slopes, grassy “sideboards” and other bail-out areas feed the ball to safety. Nicklaus set out to build a world-class resort course that’s truly fun to play, and I think he succeeded magnificently at Quivira.
Quivira opened to widespread acclaim, and has already been the recipient of numerous awards, as well as glowing recommendations from virtually all the major golf publications. Is there one award, accolade or article that has meant the most to you? If so, why?
It’s a tie between GOLF Magazine’s selection of Quivira as the “Best New International Course” of 2014; and Golf Inc.’s recognition of Quivira as the “2014 Development of the Year.” The former acknowledges that Quivira was the best course that opened anywhere in the world last year; the latter salutes the overall excellence of the facility, from its economic and environmental sustainability to its “project vision,” which encompasses the land plan, real estate and golf course. The whole enchilada, so to speak.
Upscale comfort stations are among the many magical touches at Quivira? What, in your opinion, are the services and amenities necessary for the ideal golfing experience? Does your personal philosophy translate directly to the training your staff receives?
First and foremost, golfers want excellent playing conditions. Since it’s still new, Quivira has pristine tee boxes, fairways and greens. Tee time spacing is very generous, and golfers are never rushed to finish their rounds. The idea is to revel in the surroundings. The comfort stations provide complimentary regional cuisine and refreshments, but they also give players a chance to slow down, relax and enjoy the extraordinary views. The course staff, like all Pueblo Bonito personnel, are very friendly, welcoming and well-trained.
What is the best amenity Quivira offers, either before, during or after rounds?
In the minds of many, it’s the oceanfront practice facility. Where else in the world can you practice pitches, chips or putts and hit full shots a stone’s throw from the beach and the surf? The open-air clubhouse bar and restaurant are also superb, and at night turn into one of the best steakhouses you’ll ever find.
What are the strengths of the course itself, for low as well as high handicappers?
Quivira is loaded with strategic risk/reward options, and from the black tees at 7,139 yards (par 72) will give a pro or scratch player all he can handle. Single-digit handicappers will enjoy the gold tees at 6,701 yards, while the blue tees (6,216 yards) and white tees (5,458 yards) give average golfers a fighting chance – if they play smart and avoid “heroic” shots. At 4,763 yards, the red tees take most of the trouble out of play for women and beginners.
What is the signature hole on the course, and why?
That’s already become a great 19th hole discussion at Quivira. Some players opt for the glorious par-3 6th, with its huge concave green set in a bowl below a massive dune, and the ocean far below to the left. Others prefer the petite par-3 13th, the shortest hole on the course. The tiny green here is perched on a soaring granite pinnacle that rises from the surf. Purists like the classic par-4 18th, a links style creation that bends gently to the left and leads to an infinity-edge green with a Pacific Ocean backdrop.
What’s the most challenging hole?
It all depends on the wind, but most first-timers, and many repeat players, struggle at the short par-4 5th hole, which has a narrow slanted fairway and a rock-walled, peek-a-boo green set well below fairway level.
If you were to make an argument that your course is the best in Los Cabos, what would be your reasons?
Quivira offers a firm but fair challenge, exalted scenery, a handful of totally unique and totally unforgettable holes. Plus there’s the full package of services, from the pro shop to the practice facility, as well as the delicious food at the comfort stations throughout the course.
What’s the course record and who set it?
The record is a six under par 66 by Esteban Toledo. That’s the number we’re all shooting for.