Written by: Larry Olmsted
Why It Is Unique: There are just handful of “island green” golf holes in the world, but the rarest of all is the Tail of the Whale on Punta Mita’s Pacifico Course. Every other island green is man-made and in a lake, but this one, also known as Hole 3B, is a naturally occurring offshore atoll in the Pacific Ocean. Because the tees are on the beach, and the island is where nature put it, the hole cannot be played at less than 170 yards, and since this is still too much for some, legendary designer Jack Nicklaus built an alternative inland par-3, Hole 3A, giving the course 19 holes and leaving post-round margaritas for the 20th. The island is shaped like a whale’s tail, and at low tide, golfers can walk to it on a sandbar; otherwise, they are shuttled in a unique amphibious golf cart. Nicklaus has done hundreds of courses worldwide but calls 3B “probably the best par-3 I ever designed.” It is visually stunning.
Tip: “There is always a prevailing wind that blows in from the Pacific Ocean behind the island green to the tee box,” notes Head Golf Professional Arturo Castro. “In order to clear the ocean from the forward tees, you need to carry your shot at least 170 yards in the air, and depending on the wind, you may add anywhere from 10 to 30 yards, making it a very difficult hole for many golfers. The island itself is naturally cut at an angle from right to left, so the farther you go left, the farther your ball has to travel in the air. Aim at the right center of the big green, as there are bunkers on the left and behind the green, which actually provide for more landing area than you see from the tee box. You should always play at least one club more off the tee than you normally would. If you do happen to land on the green, just remember, the putt breaks toward the water every time.”
Don’t Be Distracted By: The Pacific! Any tee shot over water is intimidating, but there are no shots in all of golf as watery as this one. Take solace in knowing that most golfers playing 3B lose at least their first ball, but no matter what happens, you can always make up for it on easier 3A, and the Resort offers 36 more Jack Nicklaus-designed holes on the Pacifico and Bahia.