Q&A: Ken Jowdy on hiring Tiger Woods to design Diamante courses, building Cabo’s Shadow Creek and playing thousands of rounds with Roger Clemens

LOS CABOS, Mexico — In 2003, Ken Jowdy was driving to the airport on a Thursday afternoon when his broker called and said there was a piece of property he had to see. The owner was 89 years old and he’d turned down every offer anyone had ever made.

Jowdy’s broker was his first call and he said, “you are my first call. I said, ‘OK, I’ll be back on Tuesday.’ He said, ‘You don’t understand. If you don’t come right now, this property won’t be here on Tuesday,'” Jowdy recounted on Saturday as the third round of the World Wide Technology Championship was getting underway at El Cardonal at Diamante, one of two existing courses he built on the land with a third under construction.

“I turned my car around and met him at what essentially was a ranch. I hopped in his Jeep Liberty and we went flying around and within 30 minutes we had a deal.”

Now the golf members and homeowners include the likes of former baseball stars Roger Clemens and Larry Walker. “Isn’t this place awesome?” Jowdy said to Walker, attempting to lead the witness. But it wasn’t necessary as Walker’s affection for Diamante was palpable.

“I visited one time and purchased a house and I’m here half the year,” Walker said. “I’m not here because it’s a (lousy) place. The food, the weather, the people. That could be in a different order every day.”

Q: How did Diamante become the host of the World Wide Technology Championship?

World Wide Technology Championship
Kramer Hickok and Chesson Hadley walk up the 14th hole during the third round of the World Wide Technology Championship at El Cardonal at Diamante on November 04, 2023 in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Mexico. (Photo by Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images)

KJ: When it was determined the tournament wouldn’t be in Mayakoba around this time of the year, they were going into the RSM Classic in November and had a conversation with Mark Love, (Davis’s brother), and told him they were searching for another place in Mexico. Mark and Davis built the Dunes and gave me a call to see if I’d be interested.

About 10 days later, the Tour came here. It happened to be during our member guest and (Tiger Woods) was here – he’s probably been to four of the last six, I’m guessing – so I was busy and never even got to see them during that trip. But it piqued the Tour’s interest and when they came back I walked all 36 holes with them. There were too many changes that needed to be made to the Dunes. When they got to El Cardonal, it was the obvious choice. All we did was add a tee box to No. 1, but they didn’t ask for that. I just thought it made sense. Credit goes to Mark Love.

Q: How did you select the designers of the Diamante courses?

El Cardonal at Diamante
El Cardonal at Diamante in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. (Photo: Todd Kelly/Golfweek)

KJ: I had an existing relationship with Davis so he was a natural choice for me to do the first course. Three years later, someone asked me if I’d be interested in talking with TGR Design and here we are.

Q: Why did you want Tiger for his first course?

Tiger Woods at Diamante
Tiger Woods on the land where he built his first golf course. (Photo: Diamante)

KJ: It didn’t have to be first course; it just turned out that way. In any walk of life, if you have the opportunity to work with somebody who is the best in that field, I say always take that opportunity. People don’t get to be in the conversation for the all time best if they don’t bring a whole lot more to the table than talent. A lot of people have talent. You don’t get to be Tiger on talent alone. You need all the other things that go into it.

Everybody asks what he’s like. He’s into it. He knows exactly where he’s going and exactly what he wants to do. Even with this tournament, he was very cognizant of the fact that this was the first PGA Tour event to be played on one of his courses and he wanted to make sure we did everything we were supposed to do. There were messages going back and forth. I told him I toured the course with the superintendent and everything looked good. He said, “Send me pictures. I want to see it.” I loved that.

Q: Why did you choose Tiger for the third course?

El Cardonal at Diamante
The pro shop at El Cardonal at Diamante in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, is full of Tiger Woods Nike merchandise. (Photo: Todd Kelly/Golfweek)

KJ: When we signed a deal with Tiger in 2012, we did a long-term deal with him. We knew that he was going to do another course and the deal tied him to the development over the long run.

We’re building a house for him now. He’s got the restaurant (Woods Cabo) now so there are a lot of reasons for him to come here. We opened it for the tournament this week and then Roger Clemens’s son is getting married here next weekend and then the restaurant will officially be open. It will be open to the public. We have a separate gate where people can drive in and eat there.

We’re full-blown construction right now on the third course. We probably moved 200,000 cubic meters of dirt for the first course. We probably moved 350,000 on El Cardonal and we’ll probably move 3 million on the club. The timeline is based on how fast we can move the dirt. We have six holes nearly shaped and hoping to have them grassed in the next six months. Next year we won’t be playing the golf course but in my perfect world we’ll be there in 2025 but it’s not my decision which of the courses they’ll play. It’s going to be a course for homeowners and we probably are going to close the course in August and September anyway because most homeowners aren’t here those months. So to close it one more month shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Then again, it’s not my decision.

Q: Why does Cabo need another high-end course?

Diamante Cabo San Lucas
The Davis Love III-designed Dunes Golf Course at Diamante Cabo San Lucas (Photo: Diamante)

KJ: If you want to go on the Dunes Course right now, there’s probably 230 players today. It’s meant to have 120. It’s just about demand. I’m just trying to fulfill their needs.

Q: Golfweek has the Dunes Course ranked second in our Caribbean and Mexico list well ahead of El Cardonal. Is it true he got better land than Tiger?

Diamante Cabo San Lucas
The Davis Love III-designed Dunes Golf Course at Diamante Cabo San Lucas (Photo: Diamante)

KJ: Davis was first. It was his choice. The dunes there are so striking.

At the third course, we’re moving so much dirt. We’re building lakes and streams and bringing in 5,000 trees. A lot of people say it’s going to be another Shadow Creek but there’s only one Shadow Creek.

Dunes gets a lot of attention because it is pretty striking. El Cardonal is a bit more subtle but it’s a 50-50 split which one they’d rather play. Legacy Club is going to be manufactured but it is going to be a very striking course with water features – waterfalls and streams. You’re not going to feel like you’re in this area. You’re not going to see desert. I’ve been in this business a long time and you could have three paintings and everyone is going to have a different opinion.

Q: How will Legacy Club be different?

Diamante Cabo San Lucas
The Tiger Woods-designed El Cardonal Golf Course at Diamante Cabo San Lucas (Photo: Diamante)

KJ: We’ll cap membership at 250. It’s a vertical family membership so your kids, your grandparents, your parents, your grandkids will also be members. In this business, especially with what we are trying to accomplish, exclusivity and access and service have to be set at a high standard in order to be able to sell the real estate at the price we want.

The people we get here have worked their whole life to be able to enjoy this period in their life and they want to stay active and golf is one of the things they want to do.

Q: Larry Walker isn't the only baseball star walking the fairways here. You're hosting Roger Clemens's son's wedding this month.

Roger Clemens
Former MLB pitcher Roger Clemens hits a tee shot on the seventh hole during the first round of the Invited Celebrity Classic at Las Colinas Country Club on April 21, 2023 in Irving, Texas. (Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images)

KJ: I’m more stressed about the wedding going as planned than this golf tournament. I met Roger in 1987. I went to Wake Forest and became friends with Billy Andrade and Roger and Billy got hooked up at a pro-am event and that’s how I met Roger.

I’ve played all over the world with Roger Clemens. We have probably played a thousand rounds together. When he was playing, he would send me his team’s schedule and he’d circle his fifth day when he was pitching. He wouldn’t play on that day but the other four days were open. The only problem was when he played for the Yankees, George Steinbrenner wouldn’t let clubs go on the team plane so I had to travel with his clubs too. I hate traveling with clubs.

He’s about a 5 or 6 handicap and he gives me three a side. He was here 20 years ago and we drove ATV’s all over the place and I’d point and say this is going to be the fifth hole and now it is.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek