JALISCO, Mexico -- First came the flood waters from the Ameca River. Then came the rains from Hurricane Patricia.
These two natural disasters derailed the opening of the Greg Norman Signature Course at Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta for more than a year, causing the Norman design team on site and the Vidanta maintenance staff one cleanup headache after another. But under all that silt and debris was a beautiful course worth saving.
The Shark himself was on hand to celebrate the official grand opening Nov. 14, 2016. The Norman Course, located across the Ameca River from the resort, will team with an existing Nicklaus Course and a 10-hole, par-3 course under construction to put this Mexican megaresort just north of the Puerto Vallarta airport on the map for Canadian and American snowbirds. Long-range plans for Vidanta Golf, Mexico's largest golf operator, include another 18-hole championship course at the Nuevo Vallarta property, recently named a "Silver Medal Resort" by Golf magazine.
Norman's 7,326-yard, par-73 design -- managed by KemperSports -- is infinitely playable for resort duffers but strong enough to give Vidanta Golf's stable of PGA Tour pros a good workout. Mexico's Carlos Ortiz and America's Charlie Beljan, two of those pros, attended the grand opening as well.
The wall-to-wall paspalum grass is a great playing surface. The wide fairways run firm and fast, and the greens roll fast and true. Waste bunkers on eight holes and ponds on another five holes determine the shot-making angles. Norman's creative green sites pose the real challenge.
To combat further flooding issues, five new holes will eventually replace the first five holes, probably sometime in 2017. The routing will be tweaked. It's not ideal that the intimidating, water-logged 15th hole will become the first hole, but the changes will certainly enhance the whole experience. The five new holes offer more risk-reward shots and decisions off the tee -- especially on a short, drivable par 4 -- the only thing missing in the existing course. Two par 3s over water and a par 5 that ends with a green on a canal on the right and protected by a massive indigenous tree on the left will be championship-caliber tests.
Tom Stickney II, a Golf Magazine Top 100 teacher, runs the Vidanta Golf Academy that will eventually move into a brand new facility featuring four hitting bays. Construction is a constant theme at Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta. Building for the better is part of the resort's ethos. Guests are the lucky recipients.