Punta, Mita: GA Whale of a Golf Story

When you are the great­est name in golf, you tend to hold all the cards. In 1999, the DINE Real Es­tate de­vel­op­ment team in Mex­ico’s ex­clu­sive Punta Mita re­gion tugged at Jack Nicklaus’ sleeve and re­quested, “Please de­sign our new golf course.”

Golf Vacations - - Contents - by Tim Cotro­neo

When you are the great­est name in golf, you tend to hold all the cards. In 1999, the DINE Real Es­tate de­vel­op­ment team in Mex­ico’s ex­clu­sive Punta Mita re­gion tugged at Jack Nicklaus’ sleeve and re­quested, “Please de­sign our new golf course.” Here’s the part where the DINE de­vel­op­ers held a bit of lever­age with the Golden Bear. Nicklaus was of­fered the best of the best prop­erty to ap­ply his de­sign magic. That’s say­ing a lot when you con­sider Punta Mita is com­prised of 1,500 choice acres al­most com­pletely sur­rounded by the Pa­cific Ocean and Ban­daras Bay. So the ques­tion was, “Jack, do you think you could do some­thing spe­cial here? Fast for­ward to to­day and golfers from around the globe flock to the 7,100-yard Paci­fico Golf Course which fea­tures no fewer than eight ocean holes. Nicklaus was handed a blank can­vas that hap­pened to in­clude mag­nif­i­cent ocean views, awe-in­spir­ing vis­tas of the Sierra Madre moun­tains, and two of the most lux­u­ri­ous names in hos­pi­tal­ity lo­cated next door of­fer­ing ac­com­mo­da­tions.

Five Stars, Four Sea­sons, and Two Thirds

If you think that the DINE de­vel­op­ment team are good poker play­ers, you’d be right. What’s one way to as­sure that golfers are lured to your golf course? How about po­si­tion­ing a Four Sea­sons Re­sort and a St. Regis Re­sort a mere three wood drive from your first tee box. Af­ter a sat­is­fy­ing day play­ing one of the most beau­ti­ful cour­ses in all of Mex­ico, per­haps you’ll en­joy hun­ker­ing down at not one, but two Five Star re­sorts with around the clock ser­vice. Not enough? How about we throw in miles of beach, a plethora of restau­rants, and a spa? Once you’re com­fort­ably checked in at the Four Sea­sons or the St. Regis, the Paci­fico course sneaks up on golfers in the qui­etest way pos­si­ble. The si­lence is deaf­en­ing on the Par 4, 421-yard first hole. The air is so quiet it’s like the 40-foot palm trees are am­bas­sadors to an up­scale al fresco li­brary. On a trade­mark Riviera Na­yarit sunny day, the si­lence, the air, and the lush green Ber­muda fair­way makes golfers ap­pre­ci­ate their odyssey to see what Jack built. First im­pres­sions are huge at Paci­fico. The quiet con­tin­ues un­til the Par 3, 181-yard 3rd hole. That’s your first glimpse of Nicklaus the artist. Be­hind the green you’re wel­comed by the sound of ocean waves and the sight of the Pa­cific in all its turquoise glory. The good news is this sen­sory em­brace is just an en­tic­ing lure lead­ing up to Nicklaus’ grand ar­chi­tec­tural en­trée.

Whale of a Golf Hole

Hole out on num­ber three and walk fifty yards to your right. There it is: The Tail of the Whale. For most golfers who’ve made reser­va­tions at Paci­fico, at least part of the rea­son is to take on the course’s 19th hole. What do you mean 19th hole? The Tail of the Whale is con­sid­ered hole 3b, a 190-yard ex­tra hole that trans­lates into a pure adren­a­line rush.

Golfers step up to the tee box and stare at an is­land green that’s all carry over the Pa­cific Ocean. There is no bail out. You’re ei­ther on the green or in the drink. This is golf in its rawest, all-nat­u­ral form. The legacy of Paci­fico’s hole 3b is it’s also a golf photo keep­sake you won’t soon for­get. Glis­ten­ing is the word that jumps out on the Par 4, 355-yard 7th hole. The chances are about 95 per­cent that the sun is flex­ing if you’re play­ing in Punta Mita. That means the El Sol is bounc­ing off the Pa­cific Ocean waves serv­ing as a back­drop to the 7th hole green. If you speak Span­ish, you’d say the putting green spec­ta­cle you’re wit­ness­ing is “bril­liante,” or “glis­ten­ing” if English is your first lan­guage. The 8th hole is one part bougainvil­lea, one part surfer, and one part Jack you’ve done it again. The red flow­ers ac­cent­ing the tee box and putting green add a sexy dash of color to this mag­nif­i­cent Par 3. By the way, the surfers frol­ick­ing in the ocean to your left are tak­ing ad­van­tage of El Faro, one of west­ern Mex­ico’s best spots for hang­ing ten.

A Mag­nif­i­cent Ahhh

At the turn you may wish to toast the Mex­i­can vibe that is Paci­fico. Ask for a “Michelada” to quench your thirst. Watch as the bar­tender runs a lime wedge around the rim of your glass, then adds a bit of sea salt and even a dash of chili pow­der. Fill your glass with your fa­vorite beer and add ice. De­pend­ing on your bar­tender’s pref­er­ence, you may also re­quest to­mato juice, lime juice, and Worces­ter sauce. Nicklaus’ flair for the dra­matic builds on the Par 4, 387-yard 17th hole. The whole left side is an im­mense ex­panse of Pa­cific Ocean. If you won­der how Jack could pos­si­bly raise his game af­ter the spec­tac­u­lar 17, ad­just your som­brero be­fore tack­ling the Par 4, 445-yard 18th hole. This time the Pa­cific shows up on the en­tire right side of the fair­way and then wraps be­hind the green. The 18th is noth­ing short of “mag­nifico.” Be­fore head­ing to the club­house, try­ing cir­cling back for a mo­ment. The best pho­tog­ra­phers of­ten say to look be­hind you for the money shot you may have ne­glected. Ab­sorb the Pa­cific, the surfers, and a fi­nal look at one of the Golden Bear’s best. Let out the sat­is­fy­ing “ahhh” that trans­lates in any lan­guage.

Every­one Goes Home a Win­ner

Re­flect­ing on the 1999 dis­cus­sions be­tween the Punta Mita real es­tate de­vel­oper and the golf course de­signer, it seems that Jack Nicklaus held all the cards. Al­most 20 years later, the ver­dict is in. Paci­fico is a golf course in which both sides went home a win­ner. There is no doubt that Jack cre­ated some­thing spe­cial in Punta Mita.

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