Punta Brava Golf Course Update

With our local economy booming, and most of our violence problems under control, expect to see the project come alive
BY: MARSHA MELLOW

Punta Brava is that wind swept peninsula jutting out into the sea just south of  Ensenada. It is possibly the best land in northern Baja that hasn’t been developed.

In 2006 real estate and golf course developer Brian Tucker,  saw the potential for a golf course on this plot of land near the locally world  famous La Bufadora, which is about 10 miles west of Highway #1, the main north-south route in Baja.  An old Ensenada family that planned to eventually use the 300 acres for retreats finally sold it, retaing a five acre estate for themselves.  Tucker’s timing couldn’t have been worse because as we all are painfully aware, the economy went to hell in 2008. Development money and tourism took a nose dive.

puntabrava.jpgIt was to be the third golf course to be designed by the then somewhat young and still active Tiger Woods. It seems Tiger’s course design business was cursed, as his first six courses he contracted to build all were torpedoed by the world wide economy.

All that’s out there now is a skinny rickety road that’s been paved Mexican style, and two fences and a guard. Taking the road brings us to a halt at the first gate, but we get through that, and push on to a huge gate guarded by a rent-a-cop. We push on and are rewarded with a breath taking view. This would be a fabulous place for a challenging golf course, due to the rugged coastline and the dramatic 1200 foot gain in elevation. Houses and condos built here would afford lucky buyers a fabulous lifestyle. What’s that? Did we just hear sounds of ecofreaks’ clutching their chests and having a collective heart attack? Well, yes, there is that aspect to developing this land. That will have to be sorted out, but in this country our money is on the developers winning.

In June of 2008, a week after Tiger Woods astonished the world by winning the United States Open, he traveled to what was then a lunar-like chunk of land just south of Ensenada, where he discussed his vision for the golf course he would build here.

With Woods on board, it was easy to get Red McCombs, the billionaire co-founder of Clear Channel Communications, to back the deal. Next, following the announcement of the project at a Beverly Hills hotel in October 2008, a sales office was opened in downtown San Diego, where a helicopter was available to whisk potential buyers to the property. What they saw at that time was where the golf course was staked out to be, along with the locations of the clubhouse, spa and beach club with a pool.

Woods would soon undergo knee surgery that would shut down his season, but his performance in the U.S. Open had enhanced his stature as perhaps the greatest player ever, and his earnings from golf and endorsements had made him wealthy beyond imagination. Tiger mania was big. And since he was recovering from surgery, this was a good time to create a course that could rival the famous Pebble Beach in California. It would establish Woods’ legacy as a designer at the age of 32.

The golf course at Punta Brava had a completion date for late 2010, but that was pushed to 2013. But by this time the media coverage of Woods’s infidelities and environmental issues for the land, and the tightening of money in the recession delayed the development. The bloom was off the rose. The course missed its time. Tiger certainly missed his time.

The plan was for a 6,835 yards par 70 course, designed on the peninsula with 17 of the tees or greens touching the Pacific Ocean. The 16th, 17th and 18th holes were to run along the Pacific, creating a dramatic finish.  Woods had paid meticulous attention to detail, making 27 maps, when most course architects only draw three or four and then their hired guns take over. What, you think Jack Nicklaus has designed  those 345 courses in 36 countries and he’s out there plowing on the 45 currently under construction? You think Jack is out there driving the bulldozer? No, he just lends his name to it, and is paid for that, plus for a certain contracted number of media appearances he has to attend. But Punta Banda was his first, so Tiger got more involved.

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Some real estate developers question the wisdom of developing a high end golf club in an area known more for spring breakers and retired U.S. expats on a budget, than as an exclusive tourist destination. And especially at La Bufadora or Punta Brava, there is no marina, no beach, no shopping, nor an airport. But it will function as a contained resort, with 80 villa residences, 39 estate lots, a private clubhouse and hotel with 20 more villas, a health spa, 80 more villas attached to that, and a beach club. (Villa is real estate speak for condos).

 The New York Times reported  there were grand plans of 8,000-square-foot mansions and a gigantic clubhouse. Ricardo Legorreta, a pretty famous architect, was onboard, and the developers have formed an agreement with Don Vita of Vita Associates to oversee the land planning and landscape architecture. Fernando de Haro of Abax and A5 Arquitectura from Mexico City is also involved.

For now punta Banda is dormant. It’s not dead. It’s down, but it’s not out.  Ecofreaks keep your picket signs handy, the rest of us, we’re warming up our golf clubs.