My return to Marina Vallarta was a good one. More than 11 years ago, I played the front nine before racing off to catch my flight at the airport that's right next door to the course.
Little did I know how cool the back nine is. These last nine holes are reason alone to play. The course has its own version of Amen Corner once you cross the street to the back portion of the property. Holes 11-13 each deliver something special. No. 11 is called the 'X' hole - a short par 4 named for the two palm tree trunks that criss-cross behind a sloping green guarded by water. Ponds filled with crocodiles pinch either side of the fairway on the par-4 12th. Be careful playing this hole. And finally, the par-3 13th plays directly along a public beach on the Bay of Banderas, providing striking views of Puerto Vallarta in the distance. A few closing holes cut a narrow path through trees on the way back to the clubhouse, where a nice patio and bar beckons for food and drinks.
Some of the traps, cart paths and homes along the course show their age, but overall, Marina Vallarta still rates as a fun place to play. Guests staying nearby at Casa Velas, Velas Vallarta, the Marriott Puerto Vallarta and the Westin Puerto Vallarta can easily walk there. Guests at the adults-only, all-inclusive Casa Velas (like me) can play as often as they wish for the cost of a cart fee ($57 per round). That's a great deal for golf south of the border in high season.