Playing golf in Mexico: It's still worth it
With all the great golf in Mexico, it's a shame that violence and crime there have been getting all the ink of late, potentially persuading golfers to stay away from legitimate world class destinations like the new St. Regis Punta Mita and Punta Mita Golf Club.
I recently stayed at the St. Regis as part of an excursion to the Riviera Nayarit north of Puerto Vallarta on Banderas Bay and can attest to the region's natural beauty, fantastic golf courses, terrific food and wonderful people.
Unfortunately, the U.S. State Department recently felt compelled to issue a another warning concerning the increased violence in Mexico.
The question is how much does the violence have to escalate before foreign vacationers start staying away?
For the most part, it seems, the problems, mostly involving drug cartels, have been concentrated more along the U.S.-Mexican border in cities like Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana and in places like Nogales, Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico.
This latest warning by the State Department includes this: "Common-sense precautions such as visiting only legitimate business and tourist areas during daylight hours, and avoiding areas where prostitution and drug dealing might occur, can help ensure that travel to Mexico is safe and enjoyable."
In other words, stick to the resort areas, perhaps, and don't do anything illegal. Simple.
I felt relatively safe on my recent trip. Of course, I had a guide much of the time and stayed at a couple of high-end resorts, including Paradise Village In Nuevo Vallarta.
Still, it's a shame to visit a place this exotic and not be able to venture out a little from the resort. Again, I had someone to show me the ropes as we walked the wonderful artsy villages of San Francisco (San Pancho) and Sayulita. And while the resort restaurants are very good, what a pity it would be if you couldn't savor the barbecued lobster and shrimp at Tino's La Laguna or the legendary fish tacos at Tacon Marlin across the bridge from the Puerto Vallarta Airport.
I guess the best advice really is common sense: Travel in groups. Stay on the beaten path. Don't go to seedy neighborhoods. Stay in well lighted areas.
Come to think of it, that sounds like good advice in most American cities, too.
Not that you should ever get bored playing Pacifico, but the Bahia Course at Punta Mita Golf Club is a nice change of pace and perhaps more difficult. More than that, the views of the ocean are comparable to that of Pacifico. The course more than complements the original, making for a most memorable golf experience.
Podcast: Nicklaus golf in Mexico, and more
Given the quality of courses at Callaway Gardens, golf would normally headline the marquee at such a vacation spot. But this resort, located about an hour south of Atlanta, offers so many activities and attractions that just playing golf would be selling yourself short. Beyond golf, the creation of Cason J. Callaway and wife Virginia Hand Callaway has given generations of visitors so much to do.
Whenever I run into my friend from Savannah, he never says just, "How are you hitting it?" He reminds me, "Hey, I still have those socks, you know the ones I won two years ago when we played Kiva Dunes, and I beat you by five skins?" Would he have remembered a mere gin and tonic?
Also: Men vs. the ladies