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Retirement in Puerto Vallarta--Want to Golf All Winter?

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Are you tired of shoveling snow, scraping windshields, and wading through slush throughout the winter? Would you prefer having the ability to play golf everyday this winter? If so, you should consider Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, otherwise known as Vallarta or PV by the locals.

Being the same latitude as Hawaii and located on the Mexican Riviera, Vallarta has an average daily temperature of 73°F for seven months from November through May. The average high during those months is 82°F while the average low is 64°F. During those months, there is an average of one wet day per month with .6 inch of rain, which if it exists, will occur during the evening. The weather is absolutely ideal for golfing every single day during that seven month period. 

When we moved to PV in 1997, there were two golf courses in the area. One was a decent tract; at least good enough to get some practice and keep the swing in tact. The other was a cow pasture and really not worth playing at any price. Ten years ago, you seldom saw visitors arriving at the airport with their clubs because Vallarta was not considered to be a golfing destination.  

Today, there are seven very fine courses in PV with at least three more in the planning stage or currently under construction. As an example, the Nicklaus course at Vista Vallarta was the setting for the 2002 World Cup Tournament, the 2006 Blue Agave Seniors Tour, the Annual TaylorMade Tournament, the 2001 NCAA Tournament, and numerous others. The Weiskoph course at Vista Vallarta is probably favored by most of the locals because of it’s beautiful layout, and risk-reward holes. Both courses are built in the foothills of the Sierra Madres with elevation changes and an abundance of bougainvilleas and other natural vegetation. These two courses at Vista Vallarta are what you would expect in Paradise, but only four miles from the PV Airport.  The Nicklaus course at Four Seasons in Punta Mita stretches along the ocean side and has what is believed to be, the only natural island green in golf. In fact, hole #3 has two greens, 3a and 3b. The natural island green, 3a, can only be played while the tide is out because there is no access to it when the tide is in! There are two fine courses in the Nuevo Vallarta area with El Tigre, designed by Von Hagge being preferred by the locals. Marina Vallarta, a Joe Finger course, is a real test of skill requiring accurate iron shots. This course is located on Banderas Bay near the marina and has lakes and water that come into play on at least half the holes. Bring plenty of balls, and oh yes, watch out for the crocodiles!  The Flamingo course designed by Percy Clifford and located about five miles north of the airport, was the original course in PV. Ten years ago, it was rated a notch above a cow pasture, however, five years ago, millions of dollars were invested in the course upgrading it to a masterpiece that is thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. A new Greg Norman course is well along its way toward completion just north of Punta Mita on the Pacific Ocean shoreline plus there are an additional two or three more courses in the planning or design phase along the Riviera Nayarit. 

Traveling 80 miles south of PV, there are a couple of the best kept secrets in the world of golf. Isla de Navidad, by Von Hagge and El Tamarindo, a Robert Trent Jones masterpiece, are two truly magnificent courses, rarely visited by anyone. They are manicured to perfection, lightly played, located on the Pacific Ocean, and ready for any avid golfer willing to drive the scenic highway south of Vallarta. All courses in the area are available to the public, offering memberships to residents or packages to visitors.

Guests of most local hotels receive discounted daily rates. With virtually no chance of rain and absolutely ideal temperatures, everyday throughout the winter is perfect for golfing. 

During the ten years we’ve lived in PV, we’ve spent only two entire summers, June through October, here. They are tough with temperatures and humidity similar to Houston. Highs are near 90°F and it rains almost every other evening, usually between 4:00PM and 9:00PM. During those two “off season” summers, we were unable to play golf only twice and those two times were due to residual water from the prior night’s rain. It seldom rains in the daytime during the summer months and the courses are virtually wide open for play. 

For those of you that worry about the water, the food cleanliness, the safety, or the language barrier in Mexico, don’t! Forget about the myths “don’t drink the water” and “be careful what and where you eat”. The water system throughout PV has been purified for about seven years, equal to that in the US. There are hundreds of fabulous restaurants in Vallarta with every kind of cuisine imaginable. The grocery stores are on a par with Safeway and Kroger in the States and with Sam´s Club, a mega Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, etc., everything is available in Vallarta.

The majority of the younger locals are now speaking English, as do all taxi drivers, waiters, and of course, caddies. Safety and cleanliness are of high priority to the native Mexicans, assuring return visits by all tourists. 

In summarizing, next winter when you’ve had enough cold and blizzards, consider Vallarta for a golfing vacation. You will not find a more hospitable climate or people in the world.

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Jim Scherrer has owned property in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for 25 years and resided there for the past eleven years. The mission of his series of 47 articles pertaining to retirement in Puerto Vallarta is to reveal the recent changes that have occurred in Vallarta while dispelling (more...)
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