There's good news for golfers who love traveling south of the border.
The PGA TOUR is moving Mexico's signature event from a private club outside Mexico City to the largest golf resort in the country. And by large, I mean massive. Not only are there 46 holes at Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta, but there's more than 2,500 acres featuring a mile of beachfront, more than 35 bars and restaurants, more than 30 pools and a lazy river; and 2,300-plus rooms spread across five tower hotels and the new Estates development.
The Mexico Open, which dates back to 1944 and is considered Mexico’s national championship, will appear on the PGA TOUR schedule for the first time as an official FedExCup event, offering 500 FedExCup points to the winner and a purse of $7.3 million. It replaces the Mexico Championship, a former World Golf Championship that lost its momentum due to the pandemic after 2020. The Mexico Open's field of 132 players will include 12 sponsor exemptions, with a minimum of four players from Latin America, competing on the resort's Greg Norman design the week of April 25-May 1.
I played the course at its 2016 grand opening, teeing it up with Carlos Ortiz and Norman for a few holes. It's a layout ready for prime time.
I've been to Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta twice over the years, and it still never ceases to amaze. I still get turned around walking its nine miles of secluded, wooden-plank walkways cut through the jungle. An elaborate system of golf-cart shuttles whisks guests from one spot to the next.
The Grand Luxxe, where I stayed both visits, features views spanning miles to Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding Sierra Madre Mountains. Expansion plans continue at a torrid pace.
New is the SkyDream Parks Gondola, the world's first-ever beach resort gondola. This state-of-the-art aerial ride follows a 4-mile loop between the beach and the upcoming immersive parks called VidantaWorld. This new immersive entertainment experience has evolved from a single theme park into a groundbreaking, 830-acre entertainment destination consisting of three Dream Parks. Guests can expect the first phase of VidantaWorld to open next year with a fire village in the jungle featuring special attractions, rides, experiential dining and more. Later phases will include a water Dream Park with attractions for thrill seekers and families; a new Cirque du Soleil zone at the Immersive Dream Park, including the dedicated theater for nightly shows; and a nature and adventure Dream Park.
Already open is Beachland, a completely transformed beachfront area that's an oasis of walkways, ocean views, al fresco dining, lounge areas, waterfront pools and the resort's largest pool bar yet.
Vidanta is the largest golf operator in Mexico with courses in multiple tourist destinations like Los Cabos and Riviera Maya. The Norman course at Nuevo Vallarta is probably the best of its portfolio.
Perhaps the most memorable moment on the Norman course is getting there. It is located across the Ameca River, which separates the Mexican states of Jalisco (and Puerto Vallarta) and Nayarit (and Nuevo Vallarta). Golfers ride over the world's longest golf course suspension bridge to reach the Norman.
Hosting the PGA Tour has brought enhancements. Roughly 1,740 tons of Tour-approved white silica sand was brought in to fill the 102 bunkers. Nine new tees have stretched the 7,287-yard course to 7,456 yards. It is covered wall-to-wall in paspalum grass. Six lakes are always in play.
Soon after the grand opening I played in, the first five holes -- including a pair of average, parallel-opening par 4s and two watery par 3s -- were replaced by strong new holes in a more flood-resistant area. The changes created more dynamic shot-making, especially on a short, drivable par 4. Two par 3s over water and a good par 5 will be championship-caliber tests.
"Had a great time playing here," reads a GolfPass review from March 23. "Course in good condition in preparation for the Mexico Open."
A 10-hole lighted par-3 Lakes course, the Jack Nicklaus Course called Nayar and the Vidanta Golf Academy are complementary pieces. Nayar isn't as glamorous (or expensive) as the Norman, partly because it has been carved up and rerouted several times as the resort has expanded. But it's still a solid, 6,542-yard, par-70 course with seven lakes, 49 bunkers and Bermuda rough.
If you're not staying at the resort - though you should - allow extra time to get to either course. Navigating the maze-like Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta is a first-world problem.
"Of the four courses I played (on vacation), the two at Vidanta were in the best shape and most enjoyable," wrote 'blaseko' in a 2022 GolfPass review. "Grass was green and not dried out. Only issue I had was getting there. You can only access this and the Norman course thru the main Vidanta entrance off Rte. 200 not from Nayarit Blvd. Also allow at least 30 minutes before the tee time as you have to take a shuttle to course. Otherwise enjoy the scenery."