The Tale of the Whale and Golf in Punta Mita

The best thing about one of the most famous 19th holes in the world is that you don’t have to play 18 holes to enjoy it.

At Pacifico, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Course at Punta Mita near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, the extra hole is a must-play option that comes early in the routing; technically it’s hole 3B, but it’s better known as the “Tail of the Whale” thanks to its singular setting. The iconic par-3 features an all-carry shot over water ( yards from the tips) to the only natural island green in the world. Some advice: take an extra club because the green — reachable by golf cart only during low tide — is deeper than it appears from the tee.

The showstopping hole is just one of the many oceanfront highlights on the stunning Pacifico course at Punta Mita, a 1,500-acre resort and residential community set on a private peninsula surrounded by 9.5 miles of beaches and lush tropical flora.

The layout, which opened in 1999 and is accompanied by another Nicklaus Signature course called Bahia, is currently undergoing a restoration project that will be unveiled Dec. 2-5 at the 10th annual Punta Mita Golf & Gourmet event. The work, which started this past April and is being overseen by former Nicklaus Design associate Jim Lipe, includes new TifEagle grass greens, new surrounds with Trinity Zoysia grass, and enhanced bunkers and tees.

“We’re not only reshaping and reimaging the green surfaces, including the percentage of slopes, fall-offs, and new pin placements, but also different ways to play the greens where you have backstops and different ways to get to a pin that is behind a bunker,” Lipe said. “The speed of the greens will be a little faster and they will have a lot more character. I think it’s going to be a lot more fun.

Lipe’s team is also reimagining the bunker complexes to better align with the overall strategy of the course.

“I think people will really like the bold look we’re coming up with,” he said. “It will be a whole new golf course and new experience.”

Similar renovation work is planned for next year on the par-72, 7,035-yard Bahia Course, which opened in 2009. Nicklaus incorporated a greater degree of challenge there, largely due to more undulating greens that will be toned down a bit, Lipe said. Bahia also features panoramic views of Bahía de Banderas, along with multiple lakes and water features.

The Pacifico Course unveiling will be a perfect match with the Punta Mita Golf & Gourmet, which over the past decade has become one of Mexico’s premier lifestyle events for both golfers and non-golfers.

“What makes that event so special is how immersive our experiences are,” said Carl Emberson, Punta Mita’s director of marketing and operations. “There is also a large emphasis on both local and international cuisine, wine and spirits. We prioritize bringing in new and former guest chefs and host chefs from around the world to celebrate their exquisite menus and dishes. Plus, guests will have a taste of various settings throughout our exclusive enclave with experiences at The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort, the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, beachfront casual activations, and more. The agenda is filled with four days of gastronomic journeys from cooking classes, diverse golf offerings and even boat tours for whale watching.”

Befitting one of the country’s premier golf destinations, Punta Mita counts Mexico’s two best golfers as official ambassadors. In addition to Gaby Lopez, world No. 12 Abraham Ancer recently came on board, deepening a rich tradition of past relationships with the likes of Johnny Miller, Lorena Ochoa, Corey Pavin, Craig Stadler and Dave Stockton. Having won first PGA Tour event this past August, Ancer’s sponsorship includes VIP Access for Club Punta Mita members at PGA Tour events that he plays in, the introduction of Flecha Azul Tequila (co-founded by Ancer) throughout the peninsula and a golf clinic he will host at Punta Mita.

Fine-tuning your game is another reason to visit the resort, thanks to a series of guest professional instructors who will be hosted at the Punta Mita Golf Academy over the upcoming season. Guest instructors include two-time European Tour winner Jean van de Velde, and putting gurus Marius Filmalter and Dave Stockton, Jr.

To play the courses at Punta Mita, you must be a guest of a member or stay at either one of the two on-site resorts or residences. The Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita has 177 ocean-view suites and casitas, pools and a lazy river, family fun programming, a new energetic bar and dining at Dos Catrinas. The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort, the first of its kind in Latin America, offers 89 spacious rooms and 31 luxury suites, the Remède Spa, three infinity pools and the Mita Mary Boat Bar & Bistro right in the sand and at the edge of the water. Other culinary options include Carolina (the only AAA Five Diamond Award dining experience in Punta de Mita), Las Marietas Restaurant & Bar, and the Sea Breeze Restaurant & Bar.

Real estate opportunites at Punta Mita span 18 residential communities, with home prices ranging from $1.35 million to $16 million. But for those looking into more short-term stays, Punta Mita Rentals was also recently launched to address the needs of multigenerational families, groups, and couples. Forty new luxury rentals are designed to be guests’ oceanfront home-away-from-home and range from two- to three-bedroom to spacious five to eight-bedroom villas with private beach access.

A 24/7 Concierge Services offers renters resort resort-level hospitality services, from the arrival experience to curating itineraries. Among the many water-based activities available is the new El Surf Club, where guests can enjoy surf rentals and instruction from a local surfer, drinks from expert mixologists, a barefoot-chic vibe and Chef Sergio Chávez’s Mexican coastal cuisine.

“While we are recognized as a world class golf community, we also offer a wide array of amenities from wellness programs, tennis, world class surfing, farm-to-table cuisine, private beach clubs with distinct culinary concepts and creative kids’ programs and more,” Emberson says. “Our resort and residential gated enclave is a safe, private sanctuary. Here, there is a strong sense of community cultivated through events and programming. Our guests, members and homeowners are brought together in all facets of life and lifelong friendships are forged. Punta Mita has mastered the art of catering to the desires and preferences of all within our gates.”

For Lipe, the course renovation project at Punta Mita brings him full circle. During the building of the course, he and the construction team would eat meals in a small house on the beach. The view outside included the island that would eventually become the “Tail of the Whale.”

“One day the tide was down so I went on out there to see what the space was like,” he recalls. “I believed we had an opportunity to build one of the most unique golf holes, and Jack thought it was a great idea. He’s all about finding opportunities to do things that are different. He was all for it.”