Rancho Viejo Resort & Country Club Stay & Play Review
We recently stayed at and here is our review of their golf Stay & Play. If you're trying to escape the winter cold, or if you're a migrating winter Texan to the Rio Grande Valley, or just out for a weekend of golf and fun, then Rancho Viejo Resort & Country Club is an excellent place to unpack your bags, bikes, clubs, fishing pole, and other toys. For over a quarter of a century, Rancho Viejo has meant quality golf, outstanding Texas hospitality, and legendary food. Rancho Viejo is an incorporated city that is spread out on over 1400 acres of tropical paradise with a water canal (called a Resaca which is an ancient waterways of the Rio Grand Delta that were cut to disperse flood water from the Rio Grande River) that meanders by some huge beautiful homes, along some golf holes, under a variety of trees, next to towering palms, and past colorful fauna and tropical vegetation, some of which were loaded with oranges or grapefruit. Rancho Viejo is unique, pleasant, and peaceful. If you are headed there for golf or other outdoor activities you'll be happy to know that a National Golf Foundation poll concluded that the Rio Grande Valley has more playable days of golf per year than anywhere else in the United States - less than 25 days a year are lost!
Rancho Viejo is located about 35 miles west of South Padre Island and under 20 miles south east of the Rio Grande International Airport which has several cheap flights from just about anywhere. The Resort is rich with history, has two 18 hole championship golf courses, an excellent winter golf school, a fantastic restaurant, very nice golf villas, and some good amenities. Plus you're very close to Port Isabel and within 30 minutes from Ranch Viejo you can be playing some other great golf courses, deep sea fishing, diving or snorkeling, parasailing, surfing, or just sitting in a beach chair enjoying the sun, sand, and surf. And you can enjoy most, if not all of those activities, 365 days a year! In fact we spent a fabulous 7 days on South Padre Island and a couple days at Rancho Viejo around the first of January 2011 and it was sunny and in the 70's the whole time - one day it was 83. Friends at home couldn't believe I hadn't been visiting a tanning salon after we returned. So what are you waiting for - pick up the phone, call Rancho Viejo (800-531-7400) and book a tee time and a golf villa.
Golfing at Rancho Viejo Resort
Rancho Viejo is home to two very good 18 hole par 70 championship golf courses - El Diablo and El Angel - and the only way you get to play them is if you're a member or a resort guest. Play alternates daily on each of the courses (resort guests play on one course while club members play the other) and the courses are seldom very busy, meaning its easy to get in 36 holes or more a day with the unlimited golf stay and play package. Both days we played, it seemed that we owned the course and where the only ones playing that day! Nothing worse that spending most of your time on a golf course waiting for the foursome or fivesome to find their golf balls and dribble it another 50 yards out of bounds! Not the case at Rancho Viejo - in fact, we played El Angel in less than 3 and half hours taking our time and even played a couple holes twice because I did so poorly the first time!
Each of the Rancho Viejo golf courses has it's own personality (the Devil verses the Angel) and characteristics but common to both course are well manicured grounds, towering palms, lots of tropical vegetation, a variety of trees (ebony, mesquite, Australian pines), plus water, prevailing winds, dog legs, and bunkers to keep you on your game. The two courses were carved through citrus groves (don't eat the oranges - they have an acidic orange lemon taste), wind through the community with some huge beautiful homes, and at several points they play across or beside the Resacas. Both courses offer you an opportunity to have an enjoyable and relaxing round and a chance to turn in a good score - my partner was one stroke short of a record round, but as usual, my game sucked!
El Diablo, which translates to the "Devil," is the more challenging of the two 18 hole courses at Rancho Viejo. It's a little tighter, longer, and the greens are a little smaller. Thus club selection and short game chipping is required to score well. In 1998, the Dallas Morning News referred to El Diablo as "One of Texas' Top Ten Resort Courses" and named it as "One of the 18 Diamond-in-the-Rough Texas Golf Courses."
If you play smart and most of your game is on, then you will have an opportunity to turn in a new record round at El Angel. It is a very traditional layout that is pretty straight forward and not overpowering with yardages ranging from 5097 to 6464 yards. The rating is 70.3 and the slope is 123 so it's not the easiest course in Texas. In fact you'll find water on 12 holes and over 40 bunkers to keep you alert and focused on course management and club selection.
Rancho Viejo's golf stay and play package is reasonably priced and can include one, two, or three bedroom villas, bucket of range balls, breakfast every day, shared golf cart, and best of all UNLIMITED GOLF! If you can't get enough golf at Rancho Viejo, then you have lots of other good choices for courses to play near your villa. Check out Texas Outside'sto find a course - click on the red golf icons to read our review of four of the other courses we played during our visit to the Rio Grande Valley. The Valley is home to some fun, challenging, unique, and very memorable courses and Rancho Viejo is close to all of them.
Rancho Viejo's courses have been the home for the PGA Tour's final stage Qualifying tournament and several pros, like Keith Fergus, Peter Jacobsen, Mike Reid, and Jay Haas, have played the course to qualify for the PGA Tour. If you want to play the course like they did and qualify for the Tour, then you need to sign up for Rancho Viejo's golf school. The Resort is the only Texas instructional site for the Scottsdale, Arizona based John Jacobs Golf School - so if you want to improve your game this is your opportunity. Sign up for a clinic, lesson, or better yet the three day Rancho Viejo Winter Golf School.
If you don't take a lesson or attend the Golf School, then at least head over to the range and practice green to hit and putt a few before you head out for a round of golf. You'll need to hit um straight and accurate and putt well if you want to head back to Bandito's Den to have a drink, collect your winnings, and boast about your score!
Lodging at Rancho Viejo Resort
One of the things we really liked about Rancho Viejo Resort was the spacious, southwestern style golf villa that we stayed in. The Resort is home to 17 golf villas that are one, two, or three bedrooms which are hotel type rooms or spacious suites with large living areas, dining rooms, and fully equipped kitchens. We stayed in a large golf villa #110 which was perfect for us:
- it was a chip shot across the Resaca to the restaurant and pro shop
- overlooked the 9th hole of El Diablo golf course out the front door and out the back door was the Resaca
- had a huge upstairs bedroom with a very comfortable king size bed with fluffy pillows, a flat screen TV, a small balcony overlooking the green on the 9th hole, a huge closet with a terry cloth robe, a large bathroom with two sinks, jacuzzi tub and shower, and soft big towels - I hate those small scratchy thin hotel towels!
- a living area with a large flat screen with cable TV, a soft leather love seat and a full size couch, plus a game table and four chairs
- a dining room with table and chairs
- fully equipped kitchen with complimentary coffee and everything you would need to cook some gourmet meals if for some strange reason you wanted to cook while you're on vacation and just across the street from a very good restaurant
- plus daily maid service
On either side of the living area was a one bedroom one bath lock-off hotel type room which could make our suite a 2000 square foot three bedroom villa - perfect for three couples, a family, or a group of golfers. Our golf villa at Rancho Viejo was nicely appointed, very clean, roomy, and very comfortable. And reasonably priced. Here is a link to the three bedroom lockout layout and to more information on the Golf Villas.
Before we arrived at Rancho Viejo, a couple we were golfing with at South Padre Island Golf Club told us that his favorite restaurant in the area was the Ranchero Room at Rancho Viejo Resort - the portions are large, the price is small, the service is excellent, and everything that they had sampled on numerous stays at Rancho Viejo was excellent. So we couldn't wait to sample our dinner. Ranchero Room has a formal dining area overlooking the Resaca and water fountain or you can dine in the more causal Bandido's Den, a sports bar type atmosphere adjoining the formal dining area. The restaurant is open seven days a week, year round, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and they are well known for serving a broad selection of delicious homemade specialties, regional southwestern cuisine, and all American favorites.
The Ranchero Room menu is quite varied with lots of good choices and reasonable prices, not your typical resort sky high prices -I really get angry having to pay $16 for two eggs over easy at some of the well known Texas resorts! Rancho Viejo offers a special each day as well as a different soup selection each day (we had the steak soup and it was excellent) and a wide choice of options off the menu. For example, for dinner you can choose from several appetizers (the Blue Crab, two cheese dip with Pico de Gallo and chips was outstanding), salads (a very tasty Caesar), huge portions of Mexican dishes, or sandwiches, burgers, and entrees like fresh fish or shrimp, steaks, chicken, glazed pork, chicken fried steak with jalapeno gravy (very good), pasta, and more. And if you need to escape to try something local, within 20 minutes you have hundreds of options from fast food, to well known chains, to some unique local restaurants.
Amenities At Rancho Viejo Resort
As a guest at the Resort, you are entitled to all of the Rancho Viejo member benefits which include being able to play either golf course as well as access to:
- two lighted tennis courts for a fun or competitive set or two of tennis
- the Alberca Grande pool area which will make you feel like you're on a tropical vacation in Hawaii complete with the vegetation, swaying palm trees, waterfall, thatched roof swim up bar (doesn't get much better than sipping a margarita on a bar stool in the middle of the swimming pool!), and a whirlpool spa to work out some of the golf kinks
- fitness room to help you wear off some of the calories from all the good Rancho Room food
- a well stocked golf shop with everything you need to play and look good during your round
If you have bikes or like to walk, run, or jog, then you'll enjoy any of that on the paved level streets of the Rancho Viejo community. It's very scenic with swaying palm trees, a variety of local fauna, the Resaca with several water features, the golf course holes, and some huge and stunningly beautiful homes. Better yet, befriend one of the members and have them take you on a slow pontoon boat cruise on the Resaca. Bring a fishing pole and drop a line in the Resaca and try landing a big catfish, gar, or carp.
Other Nearby Fun Things To See & Do
Another reason to stay at Rancho Viejo is because they are conveniently located to several other fun things to see and do in South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley. Within 30 minutes after walking out your Villa door, you can be sitting in a beach bar sipping a pina colada or a beach chair soaking up the rays and sound of the surf pounding the shore of South Padre Island. The Island is loaded with fun things to do in addition to building sand castles or enjoying the warm Gulf of Mexico waters, some of which include:
- ride miles of beach in your car or on horseback
zoom through the sand dunes on an ATV
jump out of an airplane and sky dive down to the beach
sail on a sunset cruise in the bay on a 48' catamaran
parasail 600 feet above Laguna Madre Bay
try to catch some fish for dinner with a local fishing guide, a deep sea charter boat, or a bay fishing boat, or just cast a line in the surf, bay, or off the jetty
enjoy some outstanding cuisine at any of several excellent restaurants or music or drinks at any of several lively bars
sail the bay on a pirate ship with a bunch of rowdy pirates
board a boat for a dolphin watch, a sunset cruise, or a thriller boat ride on the bay at over 50 miles per hour
surf, buggy board, kite sail, or land board sail
You shouldn't get bored on South Padre Island and it's an easy day trip from Rancho Viejo Resort. Check out our South Padre Page to find fun stuff to see and do and our Top Ten Favorite South Padre Activities. Read about our seven days full of action packed adventures during our Vacation on South Padre Island and check our interactive South Padre Island map to find our Top Ten Fun Things To Do on South Padre, plus some restaurants, and more.
Within 15 minutes you can cross the border into Mexico for dinner, shopping, or other popular cultural activities. The Rio Grande Valley is loaded with lots of local history, rich Spanish heritage, and local battlefields - in fact, the Valley is considered one of the most significant historical regions in Texas and you can learn all about it at Museum of South Texas History. If you're into birds and wildlife, this is heaven because you are close to an outstanding Birding and Nature Center on South Padre Island, the Sabal Palm Grove Sanctuary, the Laguna Atasoca National wildlife Refuge, and the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge - all with an abundance of rare wild birds and other wildlife. Or head over to the Gladys Porter Zoo to view over 1900 animal species and a variety of exhibits that are surrounded by natural flowing waterways. Lots of things to do during your stay with Rancho Viejo.
We haven't spent much time exploring the various cities in the Valley, so we can't help you with any specific recommendations on fun things to see and do. I know that in addition to lots of history and wildlife, you'll find some other good golf courses plus lots of choices for dining, outlet malls and huge shopping centers, and interesting nightlife.
And your villa is located a couple minutes and two stop signs from a major freeway to quickly get you to McAllen, Mexico, or South Padre Island.
If you're planning a wedding (congratulations!), a reunion, or a corporate retreat or special event, then Rancho Viejo can help make it an event to remember. They have over 12,000 square feet of flexible event space in ten different rooms ranging in size from the Casa Grade Hall (over 6000 square feet) to the intimate 655 square foot Resaca Room which overlooks the Resaca. Their staff can help you with planning, catering, equipment, and everything needed to make the event special. And their chef is excellent and offers you a wide selection of choices for scrumptious meals or appetizers.
So what are you waiting for - pick up the phone, call you family or golfing buddies, and book a reservation at Rancho Viejo Resort and Country Club - have fun.