Hoping to attract American golfers to exotic warm-weather locales that can be readily accessed from the States, real estate developers and hoteliers are betting increasingly on Mexico. In Los Cabos, at the exclusive oceanfront community Diamante Cabo San Lucas, private courses by Davis Love III and Phil Mickelson are in the works. Love’s links-style layout, the Dunes, is on track to open early this year, followed by Mickelson’s lush and tropical Oasis Course (whose completion date has not yet been set). Farther up the Baja coast, on a spectacularly rocky point sixty miles south of San Diego, Tiger Woods is designing a course called Punta Brava. It’s expected to open in early 2011 as the centerpiece of a community comprising forty estates, eighty villas and a boutique hotel. In the meantime, a few other notable courses south of the border are set to debut this winter.
Punta Mita, the exclusive community north of Puerto Vallarta on the country’s west coast, has been at the forefront of Mexico’s luxury development since 1999, when it unveiled both a Four Seasons resort and a Jack Nicklaus Signature course featuring a natural island-green par three. In November the St. Regis Punta Mita Resort opened on the property, followed three weeks later by a second Nicklaus eighteen, the Bahía. (The Golden Bear’s original layout here, formerly called the Four Seasons Golf Club Punta Mita, has been renamed Pacífico.) Set on undulating land and studded with deep bunkers, Bahía (Spanish for “bay”) is bolder than its older sibling. No fewer than five holes skirt coastal bluffs, including the seventeenth and eighteenth, both perched over one of the area’s most popular surf spots.
Another new eighteen by Nicklaus, El Jaguar Golf Course at the Yucatán Village & Resort, opened in December. Located outside the charming colonial city of Mérida, the course contains ruins of ancient Mayan temples at the archaeological site of Dzibilchaltun (tzee-BEEL-chal-toon). Boulder-lined lakes and cenotes—sinkholes that are connected to groundwater supplies—come into play on a number of the holes, providing a further sense of place.
Also in the Yucatán, along the burgeoning Riviera Maya south of Cancún, is the new Capella Bahía Maroma Golf Club. The course, which is set to open in the spring, was designed by Rees Jones as part of a resort and real estate community. In many ways the layout has the feel of a classic Caribbean course. Most of the holes wend through a lightly forested interior section of the property, their drama heightened by a network of aqua-blue lakes and lagoons that provide risk-reward opportunities. Even more stirring are the greens at holes nine, seventeen and eighteen: They sit on points overlooking the beach.
Yet another growth area in Mexico is La Paz, which is located on the Sea of Cortez a hundred miles north of Los Cabos and since December has been home to a new desert links-style design by Arthur Hills and Steve Forrest. The course is a focal point of Paraíso del Mar, a residential resort community nestled onto a secluded peninsula. The architects did more than pay lip service to the particular pleasures of links golf: They laid out holes along a natural ridge of windswept dunes, created pot bunkers and subtler scrapes that blend into the native scrub and, in a nod to St. Andrews, built a double green shared by the fourth and seventh holes.