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Punta Mita, Muy Bonita

Jack Nicklaus calls the Four Seasons Golf Club Punta Mita the "Monterey Peninsula of Mexico." And the Golden Bear has a point. With eight holes bordering the Pacific and ocean views on every hole, there's definitely some Pebble Beach channeling going on. The two-year-old Nicklaus-designed track occupies nearly two hundred acres of Mexico's Pacific coast at the northern tip of the Bay of Banderas and offers an idyllic playground for guests of the oceanfront Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita.

Soon, however, the course and the resort--plus a planned second Nicklaus track--will be open to homeowners as well. Four Seasons Residential Properties plans to break ground early next year on a residential community with both private homes (sixty-eight; from $1.2 million) and shared-ownership villas (eighty-six; starting at $90,000 for a two-week interest).

Homeowners will receive golf club memberships and access to resort services and amenities. (To get on the first-come, first-serve waiting list for sales, call 800-868-7997.) And if Mexico seems too far away, Four Seasons is also scheduled to open residential properties in 2003 in Wyoming and Arizona.

In the meantime, get yourself to Punta Mita and check out the third hole--or, rather, the two third holes. That's right, golfers play 3-A (181 yards over a weedy marsh) for the official score and 3-B at their option, just for fun. It's 3-B that stretches a spectacular 194 yards, all carry, over the Pacific to a generously sized green built on a volcanic rock outcrop--the course's "signature island hole." A chauffeur in an amphibious vehicle transports golfers to the green over a path at low tide and floats them there when the water rises. The green fee for hotel guests is $160. For reservations and golf package info, call 800-332-3442.

The resort is conveniently accessible, with several daily flights from the United States to Puerto Vallarta International Airport (a forty-minute drive away) on Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Mexicana Airlines and Aeromexico. Getting there is easy; it's the leaving that's hard.

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