Design Notes

Ernie Els breaks ground at Mexico’s Oleada

Rees Jones buttons up a renovation at Florida’s The Preserve at Ironhorse; Martin Hawtree to design the second course at Scotland’s Trump International Golf Links

Ernie Els
Ernie Els on an early site visit to Oleada Golf Links, which he is desiging.

Oleada Pacific Living & Golf, a new 860-acre oceanfront community on the southern point of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, announced in late April that it will be the flagship location for World Golf Hall of Famer Ernie Els’ first golf course design in Mexico.

Els is designing an 18-hole links-style championship course, Oleada Golf Links, situated 15 minutes from downtown Cabo San Lucas and set along Oleada's 1-mile stretch of beach. With the Pacific Ocean in the backdrop for the desert landscape, the resort community of Oleada will offer a unique luxury experience that melds an unparalleled collection of resort and residential options.

Els, winner of 75 professional tournaments worldwide, including four majors, has evolved into one of the game’s leading architects, with numerous award-winning courses dotting the globe. Based on decades of competing on different types of courses across four continents, Els has accrued a profound understanding of how to utilize the best elements for golf design. He believes in producing an aesthetically pleasing course, and one that’s challenging and yet playable.

"Our goal at Oleada will be to build a core golf course that harmonizes with nature," Els said. "We envision a compact design that drapes naturally on the land, steps lightly on nature’s toes and functions as an environmental steward of the site’s indigenous flora and fauna. With its rolling dunes, elevation changes and majestic desert-meets-ocean setting, I believe we can produce a versatile test that will rank among the best and most beautiful courses we’ve ever built."

The seaside site for the new 7,366-yard, par-72 course is a spectacular parcel of land and has an intricate maze of windswept dunes and sandy ridges. These natural landforms offer sheltered valleys and winding corridors ideal for the placement of golf holes. Els, a two-time winner of the Open Championship, has a special fondness for links courses and a deep knowledge of how seaside breezes dictate shot values and strategy.

"Because the native contours and dune formations are so good, very little earthmoving will be required to build the course," Els said. "Shaping will be very minimalistic. Man cannot improve on what Mother Nature has created over the eons. The golf course that we create at Oleada will be here long after I’m gone. That means something and it makes me feel very proud."

Oleada will feature some of the most recognized names in design, including Vision Land Design, WATG, iconic Mexican architect Victor Legorreta and landscape architecture by Design Studio of Michael McKay.

Phase One will comprise the golf course, three luxury beachfront resorts, and high-quality infrastructure to receive guests and golf enthusiasts. The development broke ground in January 2023 and is expected to open in early 2026. Oleada Golf Links Los Cabos will be open for public play in its first season.


The Preserve at Ironhorse in West Palm Beach, Florida, has reopened following a renovation from Rees Jones and his associate, Bryce Swanson.

Jones and his team remodeled bunkers and green complexes to enhance playability and aesthetics, while also improving conditions and infrastructure.

“The turf was at the end of its lifecycle,” Jones told “The construction of the greens was very different in the late 1980s when it was built. In some places where we dug down we found some very dark material — the superintendent Jay Pacholczak finally found out why he was having such a hard time growing grass."

In its early days, the course was known as Ironhorse and was designed by Arthur Hills and Mike Dasher for Alan Sher, the retired button magnate. John Strawn told the development story in the 1991 book, "Driving the Green: The Making of a Golf Course."

The development challenges included accounting for the nearby Grassy Waters Preserve, 24 miles of wetlands that serve as a main water supply for the region. A handful of holes skirt the buffer that shields the course from the preserve, so Jones took every precaution in protecting those areas, including relocating the 10th green and utilizing a natural waste area to prevent interaction with the buffer that leads to the preserve.

"A lot of bunkers around the greens are to keep the ball from going into the natural areas," Jones said. "People sometimes misconstrue what sand areas are about: they can also act as a protective feature, rather than just a penal one."

Seeking a more fun, traditional layout than what Hills and Dasher created, current owner Thomas O’Malley retained Jones, who shifted approach angles, yanked bunkers from in front of the greens, relocated greens farther away from water and recontoured the putting surfaces.

Holes such as the fifth and sixth, back-to-back par-5s, sport updated bunkering to provide more variety and memorability, while another par-5, the 14th, had bunkers fronting the green eliminated, thus providing more options in getting the ball to the hole.

“I think the par-3s are very interesting too," Swanson said. "They vary greatly in terms of length from the short third to the long 13th, that plays alongside water. It was nearly impossible before and we’ve been complemented on making it challenging but manageable."

Donald Trump and his son Eric were on hand for the May 1 groundbreaking of the new MacLeod course, the second golf course at Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Martin Hawtree, who designed the first course at the property in 2012, will also design this one. The course is to be constructed to the southwest of the original layout and is named for Mary MacLeod, Donald Trump’s mother, who hailed from Scotland.

“We are going to build a great golf course that aims to replicate the outstanding championship links we already have here and many believe to be the greatest golf course in the world,” said the elder Trump. “We will build a course that will be fit to host many great championships in the future along with our championship links. We’ve had a lot of pleasure in working on this land and there is no other land like it. We have incredible views by the sea and there are no other dunes like these in the world. It will be a great success.

“This project is very close to my heart and I am delighted to say that this is our first day of work on the new course. It will be dedicated to my late mother and that is a source of great pride to me and my family.”