Cheryl Fitzgerald and her husband Scott have been golfing seriously for the past five years. One, or both of them, can be found on the course nearly every day. They, like many residents of the park they live in, not just enjoy golf, but are deeply passionate about it.
It’s that passion that has led golfers to name Long Island Village as the Winter Texan Times Overall Favorite RGV Golf Course. (The course also came in second for the Lower Valley)
Champion Lakes (formerly Palm View Golf Course) was named the Upper Valley Favorite, Tierra Santa earned the Mid-Valley Favorite, and River Bend secured the Lower Valley Favorite.
Cheryl, who is from Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, said that the people at Long Island Village Golf Course are what makes the difference. She remembers her first year at the park, getting involved with other activities such as painting and stained-glass. Then she decided to take up golf.
“I told one lady the next year I came that I would like to learn to play,” she said. “We would go out with a group of ladies every morning, walking the course and they would help me out. You don’t get better unless you play so I would go out every day practicing. I took it serious and am always trying to better myself.”
Fitzgerald says she can see that the course is getting busier all the time, adding that since the COVID-19 scare has lessened, there are more new golfers who probably took up the sport as a way to get exercise and get out of the house.
She also said that golf is more than just an activity at Long Island Village, but a way to support others in need. The course recently had a night-golf event that raised thousands of dollars for St. Jude Hospital, she said.
“When there’s need, people come forth here,” she said. “It’s one of those communities that you just want to keep coming back.”
The course is an 18-hole par-3 but can play as long as the more traditional golf courses with a merciless wind that seems to always be in your face. Club selection is critical here and you may need to go up or down a club or two based on pin placement, strength of wind – and its direction.
Champion Lakes – First Place
A few years back, when the Winter Texan numbers were shrinking, City of McAllen Golf Director Carlos Espinosa went in search of, “Why.”
His reaching out to golfers has made a huge difference and Espinosa said it was important to see what the golfers wanted and what he and his staff could do to appeal to the Winter visitors.
It has worked. Champion Lakes continues to be a favorite among all golfers – even the new ones who took up the sport due to COVID-19.
“People don’t often realize the health benefits of playing golf,” Espinosa said. “Even my doctor has been telling me I need to go out and play more. The Winter Texans are so important to the economy in the Valley, and we have made so many good relationships with many of them.”
Of course, it helps that the course is always in amazing condition with a layout that is visually enchanting but both challenging and unique. It also boasts the biggest lighted driving range in the Valley.
It also has a fully stocked pro shop with all the new – and impressive looking -- Champion Lakes gear. And don’t forget to grab a burger while you’re there.
Tierra Del Sol – Second place
With several parks nearby, many Winter Texans went home one year and came back to find a new and improved Tierra Del Sol.
Greens were restructured. Grass went from tee to green, drainage was improved and Tierra Del Sol became a completely new golfing experience. Some holes are still in the “grip it and rip it” category, but other holes require a deft touch. Large greens are nice and roll true – but large greens also can lead to really long putts. Sometimes laying up and pitching onto the green here is more beneficial than being on the farthest point from the green.
The course also has amazing breakfast tacos.
Los Lagos – Third Place
This course is a unique experience that can be frustrating or super rewarding. Moguls, elevation changes and, of course, Valley wind are the triple crown of golf and Los Lagos has them all.
There’s just something about this course that calls out to golfers at all levels. It’s visually appealing, incredibly challenging but a course that has to be played at least once – but once you play it, you’ll be struck with the Lagos bug and want to keep returning.
Tierra Santa – First Place
The course with the most well-known finishing hole is undergoing major changes – including flip-flopping its front and back nine, meaning No. 18 will now by No. 9. The good side is that even if you have a bad No. 9, you still have nine more holes to recover – and can make a stop at the clubhouse along the way.
The pro shop is being remodeled as well as the restaurant. The course has been in immaculate shape for several years and the layout is fabulous. You could play this course over and over and never get tired of the challenges, or the beauty of several holes. It’s no wonder this continually ranks among the most favorite golf courses in the Valley.
It has 14 lakes, strategically placed sand traps and provides multiple shot selections for almost every hole. Par 3s are easily reached but where they land – even if on the green – can make the difference between a birdie and a bogey, or something else.
It’s definitely a risk and reward type of course and clearly a favorite all across the Valley.
Stuart Place Country Club – Second Place
This golf course continues to make a meteoric rise in popularity. It’s a refreshing and enjoyable course to play (don’t confuse that with easy though).
It has the look and feel of a country club from the moment you drive in, but it is public for play – as nice as the course is, it also has one of the premiere golf pros in LPGA Class A pro Wendy Werley Bullock, founder of Mind Body Golf Training and a Master Kids Teacher.
Then, when you hit the clubhouse, you’ve discovered the pot at the end of the rainbow. Open arms, smiling faces and a great time awaits you, whether you had a spectacular round, or one you want to forget. It makes the entire experience an A-plus.
Village Executive Golf Course – Third Place
You get what you see at this Weslaco tucked-away gem. It’s flat, it’s open and it’s a perfect place to play when you decide you just want to go and hit some balls.
While this course is perfect for beginners, it’s also ideal for those who want to challenge themselves by going for every pin. It provides golfers with challenges but is also forgiving enough to drop some low scores. The par-3 course is a little more than 1,350 yards from the farthest tees, making it a shot-makers, and apparently a Winter Texan’s, favorite course.
River Bend – First Place
Ever since River Bend opened itself up to let golfers know they were open, the course has sky-rocketed to a perennial favorite among Winter Texans, and across the Valley. It's situated along the banks of the Rio Grande and was once considered one of the best-kept golf secrets in the Valley
The Rio Grande Valley is renowned for its climate, flora and fauna, friendly people and economical lifestyle and River Bend worked to bring it together in one location. The name is derived from the huge bend in the Rio Grande that borders the resort and provides the property with a lush tropical setting. Plants and birds not seen elsewhere in the U.S. are common throughout River Bend Resort & Golf Club.
Not only one of the most scenic and relaxing courses to play, River Bend gives golfers wide open holes, tight fairways, elevation changes and a chance to use every club in your bag. They have also removed some trees to where a beautiful view of the River emerges and it could make you forget that you’re golfing and not just sight-seeing.
South Padre Island Golf Course - Third Place
The expectations are high when you play a course named after one of the most exhilarating vacation destinations in the country.
This course has been working furiously to meet those expectations. Clearly that work – and some TLC – is paying off as once again SPI is among the Winter Texans’ favorite courses.
It’s easy to take in some of the breathtaking views this course has to offer. Those same views can also lull you into too much relaxation on a course that is filled with challenges, and the amazingly crazy South Texas winds, especially on the coast.
Whether you come to South Texas on vacation or are a winter visitor – or a full-time resident, you need to play this course at least once. There will be stories to tell, especially after playing the par-4 No. 18. A hole where being conservative is probably the best bet, even though the rewards of a long ball are at their maximum.
Golf Pricing Correction
We would like to correct some pricing information that was previously published for River Bend Golf Course. The pricing is as follows:
November through April, Monday-Thursday, $36 for 18 holes, with cart; Friday-Sunday, $38, with a cart. Price break points are offered during certain timeframes during the day. Membership options are available. Call the golf pro shop for more details. (956) 548-0192.