Bullish on Baja

Tom Doak's Bahia de los Suenos, located south of La Paz.

Tom Doak's Bahia de los Suenos, located south of La Paz.

With space at a premium in Los Cabos, developers of resort and residential golf projects have been moving north, up Baja’s eastern and western coastlines. Many of these projects are in their infancy or in slow development, but some are moving forward.

Paraiso del Mar (Golfweek, May 9), a fanciful Arthur Hills design, opened earlier this year on a narrow strip of land across from the capital city of La Paz on Baja’s eastern coastline. That was the city’s first course, but there are more to follow.

Across La Paz Bay, Gary Player is building his first course in Mexico at CostaBaja Resort and Marina, a 550-acre development set in a rocky bowl, at the bottom of which is a 250-slip marina. It’s a difficult site on which to build, but the upside is that 14 holes will have water views, and the property offers easy access to Tecolote and Balandra beaches. The course is scheduled to open in 2010.

Hills also has been commissioned to build two courses in Todos Santos, an artsy enclave on Baja’s Pacific coastline about a 90-minute drive north of Cabo San Lucas.

The most anticipated opening is Tom Doak’s first course in Mexico, at Bahia de los Suenos (Bay of Dreams), located south of La Paz.

“We’re 45 minutes out of La Paz and two hours outside of Cabo, so we have to build a city here,” says Scott Conley, a California-based real estate agent who is selling property at Bahia.

They can just about do it on this massive, rectangular, 4,000-acre site, which has six miles of oceanfront. This is where you come if money is no object and you truly want to get away from it all. Some are doing that, regardless of economic conditions; more than 50 lots have been sold, and work is progressing on one seaside home that Conley valued at more than $25 million.

Half of the Bahia layout is open, and the rest of the course should be playable by fall. The course features distinctive Doak touches. His minimalist style is manifested in tee boxes that blend into the terrain and bunkers that typically look like arroyos. The fairways often are enormous, as much as 100 yards wide on No. 5, and there’s little rough.

Much attention no doubt will focus on some of Bahia’s opening and closing holes, on which a large, scenic cove that opens to the Sea of Cortez provides the backdrop. But the layout changes character in the middle as it winds up and around the surrounding hills. An early look suggests these holes will produce some of Bahia’s most memorable shots.

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