Golf in the Mexican Riviera

César Lozano

Four Seasons golf courseWhether you call it theMexican Riviera or Vallarta or Costa Alegre, this stretch of land that runs north from Punta Mita and south to Manzanillo (approximately 230 kilometers) has some of the best golfing in the world. The 4 and a half hour drive from one end of the Mexican Riviera to the other will also take you by some of the best beaches on our planet.

Starting from the north, we begin with Punta Mita. Perched upon a land mass 45 minutes north of the Puerto Vallarta Airport is the home of the Four Seasons Resort and a Jack Nicklaus signature golf course with 19 holes. Even before opening day in September 1999, the 140-room Four Seasons Resort had rave reviews from all those fortunate enough to enter its plush tropical tranquility. Conde Nast and Departures Magazines have given it their highest rankings.

The area that is going through a golf transition is Nuevo Vallarta. Long considered the outskirts of Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta was a destination for the mid-market traveler, with a predominance of All Inclusive resorts and a classic Percy Clifford designed golf course, The Flamingo Golf Club. Lots of attention is being paid to client satisfaction, and the Flamingo course has been greatly improved and offers an excellent value for 18 holes with cart.

El Tigre golf courseAnother excellent option is the Robert von Hagge course at Paradise Village: a well-designed, 18-hole course called El Tigre. The course is accessed through a huge double-arched entrance, resembling an ancient Mayan temple. Next door, the Mayan Palace opened its own 18-hole course.

Club Corp has led the way in bringing its professional development skills to Puerto Vallarta. Under its management, the original Joe Fingers Marina Vallarta Course (with three holes on the ocean) has been upgraded over the years.

Vista Vallarta golf courseWhat's new, though, is the opening of the Vista Vallarta complex, just 10 minutes up the road from Marina Vallarta. Vista Vallarta has two courses, one which is a Jack Nicklaus designed course and the second, a Tom Weiskopf design that is equally challenging. Both courses are outstanding and it is said that they are both among the best courses in the Americas.

El Tamarindo is rated byGolf Digest as one of the ten best courses in Mexico. El Tamarindo is an incredible golfing experience that you must play at, at least once in your lifetime. Picturesque views of the ocean, tall trees on all sides and varying elevations put this course in a world of its own.

The man that started the trend in Mexico to hire famous international golf architects was billionaire tin magnate, Antonio Patino. More than 30 years ago, he hired the Dye Family to design the Las Hadas Golf Course, a wonderfully crafted course. An addition to the original plan is the famous million dollar hole: the 18th green is a man-made island built out in the ocean, a 160-yard par three.

Mexico has become one of the hottest golf destinations in the world. El Tamarindo golf courseThe Vallarta area, therefore, is becoming a golf destination to compete with Los Cabos and its seven world-class courses that has earned them the rank of being the 14th most popular golf destination worldwide. Puerto Vallarta will soon be considered for a similar honor. There are several international groups that are planning new golf courses in this area to add to this area's growth, making Vallarta a part of your next golf vacation itinerary.

Written by César Lozano Díaz