Golf in Puerto Vallarta
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"Not a bad mango in the bunch" is how one golf aficionado described Puerto Vallarta's courses. From the two courses at Four Seasons Punta Mita (prohibitively expensive for those not staying at the hotel) to the Gran Bay at Barra de Navidad, the region is a close second to Los Cabos in variety of play at a range of prices. Well-known designers are represented, including Jack Nicklaus and Tim Weiskopf.
Most of these courses offer first-class services including driving ranges and putting greens, lessons, clinics, pro shops, and clubhouses.
Marina Vallarta. Joe Finger designed this 18-hole course; the $129 greens fee includes practice balls, tax, and a shared cart. It's the area's second-oldest course and is closest and most convenient for golfers staying in the Hotel Zone, downtown Puerto Vallarta, and Marina Vallarta. Although it's very flat, it's far more challenging than it looks, with lots of water hazards. Speaking of hazards, the alligators have a way of blending into the scenery. They might surprise you, but they supposedly don't bite. Go to the course's Web site to find hotels participating in their "Stay and Play" golf packages. Paseo de la Marina s/n, Marina Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta, 48354. 322/221-0545 or 322/221-0073. www.marinavallartagolf.com.
Vista Vallarta. Some of the best views in the area belong to the aptly named Vista Vallarta. There are 18 holes designed by Jack Nicklaus and another 18 by Tom Weiskopf. The greens fee for the course, which is a few miles northwest of the Marina Vallarta area, is $194. A shared cart and tax are included. Circuito Universidad 653, Col. San Nicolas, Puerto Vallarta, 48290. 322/290-0030 or 322/290-0040. www.vistavallartagolf.com.
Nuevo Vallarta to Bucerías
El Tigre. At the Paradise Village hotel and condo complex is this 18-hole course with 12 water features. The greens fee of $150 includes a shared cart, bottled water, practice balls, and cold towels, but not tax. Don't be surprised if you see a guy driving around with tiger cubs in his truck: the course's namesake and mascot is the passion of the club's director, Jesús Carmona Jiménez. El Tigre has a par-3 hole played entirely on an island. Paseo Paraíso 800, Nuevo Vallarta, 63732. 322/297–0773; 866/843–5951 from U.S.; 800/214–7758 from Canada. www.eltigregolf.com.
Four Seasons Punta Mita. Nonguests are permitted to play the 195-acre, par-72, Jack Nicklaus–designed Pacífico course; however, they must pay the hotel's day use fee of 50% of the room rate (approximately $300 plus 28% tax and service charge), which covers use of a guest room and hotel facilities until dark. Reservations are essential. The greens fee is $262, including tax and the golf cart. The club's claim to fame is that it has perhaps the only natural island green in golf. Drive your cart to it at low tide; otherwise hop aboard a special amphibious vessel (weather permitting) to cross the water. There are seven other oceanfront links. Opened in 2009, the Bahía is another stunning 18-hole course. It has more undulating fairways and greens than the first course, but similarly spectacular ocean views—and high price tag. Punta Mita, Puerto Vallarta, 63734. 329/291–6000. www.fourseasons.com.
Los Flamingos Country Club. Designed by Percy Clifford in 1978, PV's original course has been totally renovated. The 18-hole course in Los Flamingos development, at the northern extremity of Nuevo Vallarta, has new irrigation and sprinkler systems to maintain the rejuvenated greens. The high-season greens fee is $139, including a shared cart, tax, a bottle of water, and a bucket of balls. Carretera 200, Km 145, 12 km (8 mi) north of airport, Nuevo Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta, 48300. 329/296-5006. www.flamingosgolf.com.mx.
Nayar Golf Course at Mayan Palace. Nine of the 18 holes at Mayan Palace have been completely redesigned by Jack Nicklaus. At this writing, renovations were getting the finishing touches, and the course should be open by press time; until they're finished golfers repeat play nine holes once ($80) or twice ($130). The full course was projected to run about $150. The fee includes cart, tax, use of practice range, and return transportation to hotel. Twilight fees (after 1 pm) are almost half that price, at $80 for 18 holes. Paseo de las Moras s/n, Fracc. Nautico Turistico, Nuevo Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta, 63735. 322/226-4000 Ext. 4600.
El Tamarindo. About two hours south of Vallarta on the Costalegre is one of the area's best courses. At least six of the holes play along the ocean; some are cliff-side holes with fabulous views, while others go right down to the beach. On a slow day, golfers are encouraged at tee time to have a swim or a picnic on the beach during their round, or to play a hole a second time if they wish. Designed by David Fleming, the breathtaking course is the playground of birds, deer, and other wildlife. It's an awesome feeling to nail the course's most challenging hole, the 9th: a par 3 with a small green surrounded by bunkers. The greens fee is $240, including cart and tax. Resort guests get priority for tee times; call up to a week ahead to check availability. Carretera Melaque-Puerto Vallarta, Carretera 200, Km 7.5, Cihuatlan, 48970. 315/351-5032 Ext. 113.
Isla Navidad. It must have the best variety of play in the area, with three 9-hole courses of different terrain: mountain, lagoon, and ocean. Designed by Robert von Hagge, the course is beautifully sculpted, with lovely contours. Greens fees are $180 for 9 holes or $200 for 18, including driving-range practice and cart. Isla Navidad, Barra de Navidad, 48987. 314/337-9006. www.islanavidad.com..
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