Recently i had the privilege of playing the Jack Nicklausdesigned Vista Vallarta Golf Course located in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Situated on the highest elevations on the property and offering magnificent views of Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay, this marvelously designed masterpiece, opened in 2001, is just a 10-minute drive from the airport.
Since its inception the course has hosted many prestigious world-class tournaments, including the 2002 World Golf Championship and 2006 EMC World Cup. Along with a stop by the PGA Legends Tour, three United States Collegiate Championships have been staged here. Although the course plays 7,073 yards from the tips, its five sets of tees allow golfers, no matter their ability, to thoroughly enjoy their experience.
Nicklaus was able to create a pristine, manicured marvel across the natural terrain of the area. The dense forests of palm and ficus trees, coupled with hilly terrain and natural creeks, add to the magnificence of the course. With wide fairways and undulating, very fast greens, this is the kind of course golfers dream about.
Adding to the total experience is a very courteous staff that takes the time to make sure every golfer has a memorable time. From the wellstocked pro shop to the beautiful restaurant, your every need will not only be met, but exceeded.
This is an absolute must-play course for anyone who enjoys golf. No wonder many prestigious tournaments have been played here. The two things I always have in my mind before teeing off are to have fun and to set the course record. Here, I soon found out the former was unavoidable and the latter unattainable. Considering my ability, one goal will be enough the next time I tee it up.
Hole 1 (401 yards, par 4)
The fairway here slopes severely from left to right — a tee shot hit down the left side will work its way back to the middle. You will be left with a medium iron to a narrow, twotiered green guarded by a bunker on the right. To make birdie, hit your approach shot onto the correct tier.
After playing this hole, I immediately understood that Nicklaus, while offering wide fairways, makes golfers who miss the greens pay a penalty. Because of the undulating and superfast greens, short-siding yourself will almost guarantee a high score on each and every hole. Remember: forewarned is forearmed.
Hole 3 (550 yards, par 5)
This straight layout requires three solid shots to reach the green in regulation. Two traps guard the right side of the fairway, and a creek runs across the fairway about 280 yards from the tee. This can cause problems if you have to play out of the bunkers on your second shot, for the approach to the green will be a blind one. Don’t go long, as the green is shallow and narrows at the back.
Hole 4 (381 yards, par 4)
While the fairway is wide, you must avoid the bunkers that guard the left side. Play your tee shot to the right side for a short iron into a green that slopes severely from right to left. A deep bunker guards the right side. The severe slope to the green makes a sand shot from here particularly nasty. The view of Banderas Bay made this hole my favorite.
Hole 8 (534 yards, par 5)
Go for a tee shot down the right side of the fairway here. You will run out of fairway fast if you shoot down the left side, and that will put you among some of the thickest flora this course has to offer. Big hitters will have a chance to go for the undulating, multi-tiered green, but you have to watch out for the two bunkers that guard the left side. The hole looks easy, but par is a good score.
Hole 9 (182 yards, par 3)
Clear an arroyo to hit this green. The green, sloping severely from left to right, is guarded by traps on both sides. Hitting the green doesn’t ensure a good score. If you land above the hole, it will take all your skills just to two-putt.
Hole 10 (536 yards, par 5)
A split fairway gives the golfer options from the tee. The smart play is to hit your tee shot down the left fairway. If you have the nerve to go down the right fairway, a good tee shot rewards you with an easier second shot. Big hitters have an outside chance of hitting the green in two, but we mere mortals will play our second shot with the thought of setting up or taking a third shot. The approach runs a little downhill to a green surrounded by bunkers and tall grass.
Hole 13 (340 yards, par 4)
This short hole requires an accurate tee shot down the right center of the fairway, setting up the potential trouble ahead. You will be left with a short but dangerous shot into a green that is only 13 yards deep. A ravine guards the front of the green. Go long on your second shot to avoid putting the ball into the ravine and you risk overshooting the green. That will leave you with either a bunker shot or a delicate chip on to the green, which slopes severely from back to front.
Hole 16 (423 yards, par 4)
Water guards the right side of this dogleg right. Although the layout entices you to shorten the hole down the right side, the smart play is to hit it down the left center of the fairway. Your second shot requires a middle- to long-iron onto a green well guarded by bunkers. With a subtly undulating green, a par here means you’re on top of your game — at least for one hole.
Hole 18 (445 yards, par 4)
A shot down the right side of the fairway from the elevated tee keeps you away from the left side, guarded by a ravine that you definitely want to avoid. A good tee shot will leave you with a longer iron onto the most severe green on the course. Missing or even being on the wrong side of the green, 43 yards long and unmercifully treacherous, ensures that you will be walking off shaking your head and berating the golf gods. It is a truly great finishing hole.
Vista Vallarta Golf Club
Colonia San Nicolas Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
tel 52 332 290 0030
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