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El Tigre Golf Club in Nayarit, Mexico: A challenging, fun test (with teeth) at Paradise Village

Mike BaileyBy Mike Bailey,
Senior Staff Writer
El Tigre Golf Club - Cub
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If you're lucky, one of the cubs at El Tigre at Paradise Village will be outside of the clubhouse when you play golf. (Mike Bailey/WorldGolf.com)

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico - You don't have to be fluent in Spanish to figure out what El Tigre translates to in English. Depending on the weather and what time you play El Tigre Golf Club at Paradise Village, however, could either translate into a cub or a full-grown angry tiger.

In any event, if you're lucky, you might get a glimpse of one of the real cubs that Director of Golf Jesus Carmona sometimes looks after here at El Tigre Golf Club. When they're not in Carmona's office, they are often in a cage next to the clubhouse - an added bonus to playing the golf course. You might even get to pet one of the adorable cubs if Carmona is around to supervise.

But as Dr. Evil would say, it's best to "stroke our kitty," not eat it. Meaning: El Tigre, which opened in 2002, is a golf course best played when you caress it and don't try to overpower it.

Designed by well-known Texas golf course architect Robert Von Hagge, there's ample room to drive the ball on this par-72, 7,239-yard layout if you play the golf course the way the architect intended. But if you force shots into small landing areas, try to steer the ball or take unnecessary risks, your score can add up in a hurry. Add some wind, which is typical in the afternoon, and this course can be a real tiger if you let it.

Typical of Von Hagge, water is the key feature at El Tigre Golf Club. Tons of dirt were also moved to give the fairway a rough character, and there are 144 bunkers, 25 of them on the par-4 14th.

Sometimes the best strategy, as El Tigre Head Professional Francisco Javier Salazar Merino will tell you, is to work the ball off the hazards instead of steering away from them. Not everyone has that ability - beware of the old double-cross - but I found it to be a solid plan.

In all, there are water hazards on 13 holes, and most of them are quite substantial.

Early on, you find out what this golf course is about. A good example is the 171-yard par-3 sixth, which features an island green. This is a hole you might see on other Von Hagge courses, like the Tournament at Course at The Woodlands, Texas, for example. Similar to the third hole at the former TPC course, the sixth at El Tigre is all about picking the precise club and finding the fat part of the green. Anything less, and you're probably using the drop area.

On the eighth hole, it's bunkers down the second two-thirds of this dogleg left, 407-yard par 4. On the ninth, a severe dogleg par-5 right that plays to 578 yards, a large lake hugs most of the right side. You get the idea. Avoid the hazards.

El Tigre Golf Club gets more interesting on the back nine. The 12th may be the best par 3 on the course. At 219 yards from the tips, the left side and left front of the green are surrounded by water. A bunker protects right and long right.

The 14th is a reachable par 5 at 492 yards, but most of the 25 bunkers are around the green, providing risk for going for it in two.

The 17th, a 250-yard par 3, has an island tee for a change of pace. And the 18th, at 621 yards, follows a lake all down the left side. For good measure, the green is surrounded by one large bunker on three sides.

El Tigre Golf Club at Paradise Village: The verdict

This a really fun golf course if you're in fairly good control of your golf swing. Most of the holes are driver friendly.

You'll also find a good variety of holes, although if you don't like water hazards this isn't your course. This is not a golf course you can easily play on the ground, although if you play the forward tees, there are opportunities to do just that - all except the island green par-3 sixth, of course.

If you can hit greens, you'll have good birdie opportunities because the ultradwarf Bermuda greens run very true. This course is also in excellent shape.

El Tigre Golf Club also features what may be the finest clubhouse in Mexico, elegantly Spanish in style, with 45,000 square feet that include a restaurant, lounge, pro-shop, locker room and a European spa.

Practice facility and lessons at El Tigre Golf Club

El Tigre features a large range with plush hitting stations and ample targets. There's also a large practice putting green, chipping green and practice bunkers. Rental sets are also available.

If you're looking to improve your game, individual lessons are also available from the professional staff at reasonable rates.

Stay and play at Paradise Village Beach Resort & Spa

El Tigre Golf Club is part of the large Paradise Village Beach Resort & Spa just a mile away. The large all-suite resort features nine restaurants, a marina, several pools, the El Tigre Sport & Racquet Club, its own mall and two spas, including the Spa Palenque located right next to the golf shop at El Tigre.

Spa Palenque is, in its own right, a world-class spa with a variety of treatments, including the sports massage, which I highly recommend following a round of golf.

Call (800) 995-5714 for more information about Paradise Village.

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El Tigre Golf Club - 11th HoleEl Tigre Golf Club - 18th Hole

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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