Here is a fact that might surprise you: Mexico is the number two worldwide golf destination for U.S. golfers, right behind Hawaii. The Mexican Government Department of Tourism wants to change that ranking. That's right -- they are determined to become number one, and at the rate they are going it shouldn't take too long to achieve that goal.
To seasoned Mexico travelers the reasons are obvious. Mexico is an amazingly diverse country blessed with gorgeous locations that rival any in the world, from the stark beauty of Baja California hard against the Sea of Cortez to the new jungle courses in Puerto Vallarta. In the interior of Mexico, at elevations over 5,000 feet you can golf the wonderful traditional courses of Mexico City, Guadalajara and Morelos. In fact, there are now more than 150 golf courses in Mexico with the world's top architects (Nicklaus, Dye, Von Hagge, Weiskopf, Jones, to name a few) lining up to create new, exciting venues to meet the rising demand.
The Punta Mita resort sits in the shadow of the Sierra Madre Mountains to the north of Bahía de Banderas, one of the largest bays on Mexico’s Pacific coastline and the development is spread over an enormous 2,700 acres, encompassing white sandy beaches and clear blue waters that are ideal for sailing, snorkeling and scuba diving.
Water sports enthusiasts are certainly well catered for but so too are golfers now that there are two championship courses to play here and, make no mistake, this is a world class place to golf, with Conde Nast Traveler magazine listing it as number one in its Top 100 Golf Resorts chart compiled in 2008.
Jack Nicklaus designed the two courses at Punta Mita (the Pacifico course opening in 1999, some ten years before the Bahia layout) and both sets of lush, rolling fairways are set out on a stretch of natural rock outcropping renowned as a prime site for whale watching.
The Pacifico routing brings eight of the holes into close proximity with the ocean and Jack incorporated even more water into the design when he created the first 19th hole in Mexico, an optional par three called “Tail of the Whale,” which plays to a natural island green 200 yards from the mainland tee.
Carved out of a mountainous jungle, El
Tamarindo Golf Club has spectacular vistas on nearly every hole, often
bathed in a gentle haze. Shown here is the 157-yard 12th, with the
Pacific Ocean in the background.
The 11-year-old course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and David
Fleming, sits on a 2,044-acre nature preserve near Melaque, about 45
minutes from the airport in Manzanilla. It's not unusual to spot wild
boars or tejónes (tay-HO-nays), the latter an indigenous creature that
looks like a cross between a raccoon and an anteater. The green fee is
Guests at El Tamarindo Beach & Golf Resort (eltamarindoresort.com)
stay in elegant thatch-roof villas that open completely to the
elements. A number of these villas are within yards of the beach. Each
comes with a pool and hot tub.
Playing at Vista Vallarta, it's tempting to
focus on the remarkable views of Puerto Vallarta and the Bay of Banderas
six miles in the distance. But don't underestimate the natural beauty
of the courses. This is the ninth hole at the Nicklaus course -- a
182-yarder that's framed by colorful bougainvillea on one side and the
Sierra Madre Mountains on the other.
The course, which opened in 2001, was the site for the World Golf
Championships the next year. It's Mexico's No. 4 course, according to
Golf Digest's Planet Golf ranking. An excellent, somewhat more jungle-y
course by Tom Weiskopf -- No. 8 in Mexico -- is part of the complex as
well. Green fees are $183 at both. Several hotels in Puerto Vallarta
offer stay-and-play packages (vistavallartagolf.com).
At the Velas Vallarta Suite Resort & Convention Center from late
March through mid-December, two people can stay for three nights and
play unlimited golf for $1,200, plus $42 a round for a cart.