Article and Photos By: Robert Kaufman
During one of my former lifetimes, I journeyed south of the (USA) border to Mexico and, remarkably, navigated my rented VW Bug without GPS to some remote town outside Mexico City. Those days, golf wasn’t even part of my lexicon and if there was any course nearby, I hadn’t a clue. How times have changed. My Spanish, too. Nowadays, the game of golf is a dominant part of my conversations and was the driving force behind my ticket to one of Mexico’s most luxurious retreats, the St. Regis Punta Mita Resort.
On this trip, I even upgraded from my previous stick shift transport. Upon arrival at Aeropuerto Internacional de Puerto Vallarta, I was whisked away in the tequila express limo for a 45-minute ride to the gated hideaway resort located at the Riviera Nayarit and, as fast as I could say “la cukaracha,” became a willing hostage in my room lined with red brick tile floors, a full accompaniment of entertainment features, two showers (one outdoors), a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean AND my own personal butler who even offered to unpack for me. I passed on that little amenity but, needless to say, this signature service of the St. Regis was only the tip of the taco for an uncompromising resort lifestyle at the “gateway to paradise”.
Known as a secluded fishing spot for centuries, the pristine white sand beaches and tropical landscape of Punta Mita have now been transformed into an active, yet, peaceful playground for celebrities, world leaders and discerning travelers in search of an escape void of any high-rises, neon lights and modern chaos.
“One of the special things about the St. Regis Punta Mita is the very generous layout of the property,” says General Manager Carl Emberson, who arrived in December 2010. “With 22 acres, even when all 120 rooms (80% of which with ocean views) are full, the resort does not lose that sense of intimacy.”
With a non-stop menu of outdoor activities from sunup to sundown, including top-notch fishing, scuba diving, three swimming pools, tennis, or the Remède Spa, the resort’s defining recreational pursuit takes place on the 37 holes that make up the two Jack Nicklaus Signature courses – Pacifico and Bahia – winding throughout the entire 1,500-acre resort (also includes a Four Seasons Resort opened in 1999) and residential community.
Unlike all golf courses reserving its 19th hole for libations and storytelling, at the Pacifico (1999) layout, it is the story. Thanks to the owner, Nicklaus transformed a tiny lava rock popping out of the blue Pacific just off shore into hole 3B and the world’s only natural island green. Playing a daunting 199 yards from the back tee, the green at the par-3 hole, known as the “Tail of the Whale,” is accessible only by a six-wheel, amphibious cart at low tide.
The official 18 holes, including eight bordering the water, provide five sets of tees at the Pacifico varying from 7,014 yards down to 5,037 yards, where any forced carry shots from the tee box are eliminated. With favorably wide fairways, the Pacifico is classic resort golf and a bit easier test than its sister course, Bahia.
Nicklaus’ second Signature course (November 2009) at 7,034 yards offers more undulating fairways and tighter doglegs. In comparing the two layouts, Punta Mita’s resident pro, Phil Ferrari says, “The need for ‘fairness’ was replaced by the need for ‘strategy’ and a love of the challenge.”
Regardless of which layout is chosen or other activities to indulge, quality of life is the primary objective at Punta Mita and nothing enhances that more than food, wine and, of course, when in Mexico, tequila!
With all these ingredients in place, The St. Regis Punta Mita, along with the Four Seasons Resort next door, has seemingly developed a winning formula. Now three years old, the annual Punta Mita Gourmet & Golf Classic, a four-day celebration held each spring ,will blow your taste buds away.
In conjunction with a two-day golf tournament, guests are immersed into gastronomical heaven with gourmet meals and cooking classes presided over by acclaimed chefs, winemakers and tequila masters from around the world. Even the home-country’s legendary golfer, Lorena Ochoa, made a rare appearance to conduct a clinic and raise money for her golf foundation supporting health, fitness and education through quality family time.
“This unprecedented extravaganza of culinary talent and sensational golf, all taking place in one of the most alluring settings in the world, has become a proud tradition that we are honored to host for years to come,” said Emberson.