Hole 3B is not an inspiring name, so I can understand why a player looking ahead on the scorecard at the Pacifico course at the Punta Mita resort might not be all that excited about what’s coming up.
Hole 3B at Pacifico is one of the most breathtaking holes on the planet, and certainly the most unique. In fact, it is truly one of a kind. About ten years ago, Jack Nicklaus was down here looking over the site of yet another Nicklaus Signature course in Mexico, when he spied something he had never seen before…
Quick interruption. For those of you who do not know, Nicklaus is the Godfather of Mexican golf. South of the Border was not even remotely on the golf vacation radar before he built the Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol, which remains the highest ranked course in Mexico and the only one on most Top 100 lists. Overnight it turned Cabo into a golf destination, and Nicklaus has poured it on ever since, with the 27 holes at Palmilla and a private 18 at Eldorado, both in Cabo, Vista Vallarta near Puerto Vallarta, another 27-hole Signature course at the Moon Palace near Cancun, and he has two more Signature courses that just opened in the Yucatan, El Jaguar in Merida and Riviera Maya outside Cancun. But his original course at Punta Mita, Pacifico, may be his best, and a second Signature course at Punta Mita just opened (more on that soon).
So Nicklaus rules golf in Mexico and has done far more than anyone else to make it a prime vacation destination. And when he stood on the shoreline at Punta Mita, sitting on the world’s second largest bay, the Bay Of Banderas, Nicklaus saw something he had not seen in over 300 courses he’s designed: a small offshore island, an atoll festooned with rock ledges and palm trees, about 180 yards from shore. Forget Coeur d’Alene or TPC Sawgrass or its many imitators: this was a real honest to god island, not manmade, the perfect distance from shore for a challenging par-3. It is not a flat piece of grass on a manmade platform, but a miniature version of Gilligan’s island, all tropical flair and flavor, and it remains the only offshore natural island hole in the world. At low tide, golfers can drive their carts across a natural sandbar that has been “paved” with flagstones, and at high tide, an attendant shuttles players in a 6-wheel amphibious cart to the putting surface. It is simply awesome!
Why 3B? Because sometimes the hole is too tough, especially if the wind is howling in off the ocean, and given that Nicklaus had to use the distances Mother Nature gave him, from tees on shore to the immovable island, it can be unplayable for some resort guests So he built another inland par-3, also quite nice, 3A, and players have their choice at the third tee – but most just play both. In reality, 3B has a name, the Tail of the Whale, due to its shape from the air, but this is hard to fit on the scorecard.
Whatever you call it, is one of the greatest holes on earth, possibly the most spectacular par-3 anywhere, and the rest of the Pacifico course is pretty damn good as well.
The Punta Mita resort is a luxury community (not cheap) about an hour north of Puerto Vallarta, with two great hotels, a Four Seasons and St. Regis, plus rental homes and condos, awesome beaches (11 miles worth) and two Nicklaus Signature courses. We’ll look at the brand new one, Bahia, shortly.