The new par-4 17th hole at Quivira recently made its debut, and it’s a beauty! This is the rare instance where the new hole is better than the one it was built to replace.
The original 17th hole, a lengthy two-shotter that dropped sharply to a fairway flanked and crossed by a sandy arroyo, was a tough test of golf. But it will no longer be a source of high scores and head-scratching for average duffers. Once the corridor for the original hole was appropriated for the construction of Alvar, a condo development at Quivira Los Cabos, Jack Nicklaus was brought in to conjure a new hole.
In a space adjacent to the Quivira’s original 17th hole, Nicklaus and his design team devised a short but beguiling par 4 to serve as the club’s penultimate hole. Like its predecessor, new No. 17 is a left-to-right dogleg that slopes gently down to the sea, the ocean flooding the horizon beyond the green. But there the similarity ends.
A winding cart path cut through the desert now leads from the 16th green to a series of rectangular tees at the new 17th. Distance will not be a problem for shorter hitters. The hole measures 345 yards from the blue tees, 319 yards from the white markers, 252 yards from the red tees. The broad fairway is indented to the right by a sandy waste area. The prevailing wind, generally at a player’s back, must be taken into account on the drive and approach. Nicklaus installed a pair of aiming bunkers at the outside turn of the dogleg to frame the hole and provide a target off the tee.
Antonio Reynante, Quivira’s director of golf, was delighted when he saw the drawing for the new green. It was signed “JWN,” short for Jack William Nicklaus, or “JWN” as he’s known within his design company. The Golden Bear himself sketched Quivira’s new 17th green! Jack took inspiration from the long slim green tucked in dunes on the fourth hole at Spyglass Hill, the famed Monterey Peninsula layout by Robert Trent Jones, Sr.
The three-tiered putting surface at the new 17th, sunk below two ridges and skewed to the line of play, is 100 feet long and barely 30 feet wide. A pair of menacing, spectacles-like bunkers cut into the front ridge stares back at players. They properly defend the slender, peek-a-boo green. Only the top portion of the flagstick can be seen from the vantage point of the fairway. A bunker placed behind the putting surface saves players who overshoot the green from a fate worse than sand.
Jim Lipe, a long-time Nicklaus design consultant, explained that the new 17th hole presents a risk-reward scenario. “Flirting with the waste area on the right off the tee will give players the best angle to the green,” he said. “There’s plenty of room to the left, but the approach to the green from the left side of the fairway is more difficult.” The safe play on the second shot, he added, is to aim for the front right portion of the green and pitch or putt the ball up the length of the putting surface.
On a course chockablock with memorable holes, a few of which tiptoe along sheer cliffs that drop to the sea, new No. 17 has taken its place as one of Quivira’s most strategic holes. It may not be long on the scorecard, but there are pitfalls for the unwary. Jack Nicklaus has yet to build a creampuff for anyone!