Diverse landscape at Danzante Bay Golf Club, Rees Jones' newest must-play in Baja California, Mexico

LORETO, Baja California South, Mexico -- From the lofty perch of the par-3 17th hole at Danzante Bay Golf Club, one can view a Sea of Cortez panorama that Jacques Cousteau once proclaimed "The Aquarium of the Word."

The five islands of Loreto create a sanctuary for more than 1,000 species of marine life, and in 1996, the area was declared federally protected as Loreto Bay National Marine Park. And Danzante Bay Golf Club might just be as diverse.

This new Rees Jones' design just celebrated the grand opening of 11 ocean-facing holes that feature a stunning, 178-yard par 3 that's every bit as good as no. 7 at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

"I have no doubt that no. 17 will be one of the best in the world," Jones said.

The transition from the uphill 16th fairway and green to the 17th tee is filled with anticipation. You crest a ridge and discover a dazzling vista of the Sea of Cortez 250 feet below the tee.

Your stroke is to a peninsula green surrounded by a horseshoe-shaped bunker. The putting surface seems to cling to a rock plateau with distant islands in sight. Scan the horizon, and you might see a breaching whale.

Danzante Bay's downhill 18th hole -- a par-4 journey of 520 yards from the back tee -- is a fitting finale to this fun quest.

Diverse landscape might be Danzante Bay Golf Club's legacy

"This is the most diverse landscape I've ever had the opportunity to work with," said Jones, whose redesign of Torrey Pines South and Bethpage Black got him the moniker of "The U.S. Open doctor."

This land features dunes, mountains, foothills, desert, arroyos and ocean holes. And the final seven valley holes, set to open in a year, remind you of a Jurassic Park journey. It is very much like an Arizona with giant saguaros (called cardón cactus in Mexico) and rugged terrain minus an unspoiled ocean.

The 7,107-yard, par-72 course also features a nine-hole putting course inspired by the famed Himalayas Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, where families can enjoy playing together. And the practice facility is an unusual, uphill, reverse funnel into the mountain face.

So why did Danzante Golf Club open with just 11 holes completed?

"People staying at the hotel kept asking to play," said hotelier Owen Perry, owner of the Villa Group. "So one day this February we did, and everyone who played loved it and wanted to play again."

"Most of the world's most popular golf courses that have stood the test of time were built slowly," Jones said. "Golf holes aren't really designed and built from a plan -- you feel them in the land. This land is so good it tells us what to do. The holes fit the land naturally."

The golf course is one that both avid and casual golfers will want to travel to play, Jones added. The golf course has open entrances, pockets and sandy areas to capture the ball and keep it from going into the desert. Jones has kept the green contours mild so that the putting surfaces are manageable in the wind. "People will want to play this course over and over again because the conditions change with the wind," Jones said.

"Being located in a protected marine park, we adhered to stringent environmental rules, and we gladly accepted the challenge, because we feel that that is going to keep the Islands of Loreto unique," said Perry. "Sunrise each day gives the mountains a brownish hue, and when the sun sets at night, they turn a vibrant red. And the views of the bay are without question some of the best I've ever seen. We're literally carving this golf course into this incredible setting while maintaining all of its natural beauty."

Villa del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa at the Islands of Loreto

Villa del Palmar has been called Baja Mexico's first billion-star resort -- the absence of a dense population and city lights or street lamps, makes the night sky a sight to behold.

The beautiful Islands of Loreto transports you back to historic Mexico. And the resort, flanked by the rugged landscape, leads you to one of the last virgin coastlines.

This pristine meeting of land and sea offers a luxurious beachside resort complete with excellent dining, water sports and spa days. Adventures include snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding or just enjoying the warmth of the water.

Complimentary shuttle service enables guests to explore historic Loreto and visit the 1697 mission that made the town famous. A short, direct flight from LAX on Alaska Airlines, the resort is located just 25 minutes from Loreto International Airport.

Danzante Bay real estate opportunities also include a 734-acre, master-planned resort community. Timeshare condos are also available.

For more information on Danzante Bay Golf Club, click here.

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.
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Awesome! Gotta play that 17th.

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Diverse landscape at Danzante Bay Golf Club, Rees Jones' newest must-play in Baja California, Mexico