Marriott CasaMagna Resort

Marriott CasaMagna Resort

Puerto Vallarta, located on the Pacific coast of Mexico, first came to light in 1963, when director John Huston arrived with a cast and crew (including Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton) to film Tennesee Williams’s The Night of the Iguana in what was then a sleepy colonial seaside village. Liz and Richard’s torrid off-screen affair during the making of the movie made international headlines, gaining instant fame and destination status for Puerto Vallarta.

Nicklaus Course The par-three ninth on the Nicklaus course calls for a solid shot over a ravine. John & Jeannine Henebry

Flash forward to 2000. ClubCorp, the American golf development firm, hires Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf to build a pair of courses on an upcountry site not far from “Gringo Gulch,” the area where Taylor and Burton lived. Shortly after the Nicklaus course opens in early 2001, it is chosen to host the 2002 World Golf Championships — EMC World Cup to be held December 10 to 15. Local officials reckon the event will be the third largest sporting spectacle ever held in Mexico, behind the 1972 Olympic Games and 1994 World Cup (soccer).

The Nicklaus course, routed across heaving land nearly 500 feet above sea level, pushes up against the foothills of the Sierra Madre, its topmost holes serving up fine views of the Bay of Banderas. The 7,073-yard, par-72 course will give World Cup contestants plenty to ponder, especially on the greens, which have more corrugations than an overcooked tortilla. Perhaps Jack has come to view the putting surface as the last line of defense in the equipment technology wars. The holes themselves are well-strategized: Nicklaus chose to work with the natural undulations of the former ranchland, which means the holes have more individuality and character than he himself could have created.

On the lower west end of the complex, Tom Weiskopf was handed a rugged, densely vegetated parcel marked by deep ravines and swift creeks. “The site is one of the most dramatic inland properties I’ve seen anywhere in the world,” Weiskopf commented before ground was broken. His creation, unveiled last November, stands in dramatic contrast to the Nicklaus course. The holes here were dropped into a lush jungle of swaying palms and towering papalio trees, the rolling fairways routed on ridges above the verdant greenery. What it lacks in expansive views, it more than compensates with pace and beauty. The standout hole is the spectacular par-three 15th, where a trans-arroyo tee shot is played to a deep, bi-level green set above a tawny bluff staked out by bunkers. Like the famous movie, it is long on drama.

Green fee of $130 includes cart, range balls, and tax. Caddies are available. Tee times: 011 52 322 290-0030. Web site: Golf packages are available through a number of area hotels. Marriott CasaMagna Resort promotes a package for two priced from $327 to $421 per night. Reservations: 800-223-6388.

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