LOS CAPOS, MEXICO – One of the joys of playing golf at many of the courses that dot the southernmost tip of the Baja Peninsula are the amazing rest stops, which include all the snacks, candy and drinks your heart desires.
Five years ago, I visited Twin Dolphin, a course designed by Todd Eckenrode with Masters champion Fred Couples, and the marketing guy told me that their “Red Door” rest stops were designed to outperform anything that came before them. You were not disappointed.
The ring on the fifth hole is where the couples filmed an episode of Golf Channel Feherty A showcase, lavish setting that many assumed to be a unique home. Her choice of sugar-laden sweets would make Willy Wonka blush, and it turns out husbands are addicted to sweets. “I love Snickers and Hershey Kisses, but I try to stay away from that,” he says. “If you stay there for seven days, it’s a losing proposition.”
The bar was also full, manned by a full-time host who made me a salty margarita and told me what he described as the best tequila I would ever taste. Did I mention the fresh guacamole, fish tacos, and octopus ceviche? In case anyone gets hungry or thirsty again, there is a second red door between slots 12 and 13 that can also be accessed when going from 15 to 16. You won’t need lunch or dinner. (Don’t skip the sliders!)
On Saturday, I caught up with Mike Abbott at the El Cardonal practice field in Diamante, the host stadium for the Tech World Series. Abbott, who returned to Diamanti to manage the Legacy Club, a third court at the facility billed as a members-only club and likely the future home of the tournament, looked resplendent in pink. Abbott knows all about rest stops, and when I mentioned how they’d jumped the shark, he shook his head and said, “They turned into a Costco over there.”
“That was never the point of rest stops,” he added. “You were supposed to have some unique items that were special to that establishment, some nuts, snacks, a little candy and something to refresh your drink.”
Abbott should know. It is considered the godfather of the comfort station. As vice president of operations for Discovery Land, where he oversaw all aspects of the development of courses such as Vaquero near Dallas, El Dorado in Los Cabos, Mexico, and Mirabel in Scottsdale, Arizona, Abbott introduced and perfected the comfort station with the intent of giving golfers a big surprise. At Diamante, that means tamales, tacos, and black bean soup. He explained how he conceived the concept at Vaquero and Kukio, an oceanfront residential golf and beach club located in Kohala, Hawaii.
“We didn’t have anywhere to house one of the cooks, so we kept them at the rest station, known as the Pigeon Man. ‘When I die, I think I’ll be known as the Pigeon Man,’ he said. “But there was no clubhouse when we started, so we cooked Bunsen stoves in the back And smokers. We have sold a lot of properties this way.
Abbott spent several years at Diamante before using his extensive experience in the luxury resort and private golf club industry to form Abbott Golf Management and partner in the development of Blue Jack National near Houston, another Tiger Woods-designed course where the rest stops are known for their locally grown fruit and desserts. But he promised Diamante’s developer, Ken Gowdy, that if a third stadium was built he would come back, and here it is.
Capo is ground zero in the inter-club rest station competition, anything you can do, we can do better. Will Legacy Club Comfort Stations follow suit and beat Twin Dolphin and the others at their own game?
We talked about it a lot and said: Let’s go the other way. “Let’s keep it really simple and build an old-fashioned house and know that everyone on the golf course can get what they want when they want,” Judy said. “We’re not going to try to outdo everyone.”
The problem with rest stops is that some of them are so luxurious that you can’t help but stop and put your favorite treats in your bag to get your money’s worth on the all-inclusive deal. This ends up slowing down the game. But with the Legacy Club designed as a members-only course with a maximum of 250 members, Abbott said they envision a vintage-style halfway house.
“We will change the profile again,” he said. “It will have a squeaky screen door and greasy burgers and all the wonderful smells you associate with it.”