NUEVO VALLARTA, Mexico – Jack Nicklaus’ latest golf academy might just be his greatest yet. Located at the Nayar Vidanta course in Nuevo Vallarta, the Nicklaus Academy is the 15th such facility worldwide and third in Mexico.
The academy opened this month to dazzling reviews from PGA pros, avid golfers and weekend players whose games stand to benefit most from the elite instruction and training program. Tucked inside sprawling Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta, which boasts the Grand Luxxe, Grand Mayan and five more resorts, the academy gives visitors the added luxury of shaving strokes off their score while vacationing in paradise.
“I think I have found heaven … and in Nuevo Vallarta of all places,” said Leon Shwetz, a visiting golfer from Las Vegas by way of Canada. “The new Nicklaus Academy is unbelievable. I now have a place to come to get out of the cold or the heat, and just work on my golf game as much as I can stand.”
Golfer Mark DeWald took a two-hour flight from Phoenix for the grand opening and he wasn’t disappointed.
“I came here with the expectation of seeing another driving range with some teaching aids and the standard stuff,” he said. “That wasn’t the case. The range is huge with all sorts of targets and trees to hit at or around. The short game area was one of the largest I have seen. But the really cool part was the climate-controlled coaching studios that allow you to escape the heat, sun or rain while taking a lesson.”
The academy experience includes tactical evaluation, on-course instruction and mental and physical evaluation and training programs. The lit driving range is designed with seven strategically placed target greens, complete with bunkers and palm trees, creating a realistic visual for the golfer working to shave strokes off their score.
“You feel like you are on a course,” said Mike Malaska, PGA of America’s 2011 National Teacher of the Year and the Nicklaus Academies’ Worldwide Director of Instruction. “The backdrop from the tee is the [Sierra Madre] mountains. Not the golf course, buildings or houses, but a mountain. This is the perfect setting to work on your full swing, your short irons, and your complete game.”
Ted Simons, Executive VP / COO of Nicklaus Academies, called the new facility “one of the best I’ve seen anywhere in the world.”
“The short game training and practice area is a dream come true,” Simons said. “The oversized putting green, and the oversized chipping, pitching and bunker areas provide the opportunity to practice virtually any shot you might come across during a round of golf. The practice areas are complete with a variety of uphill, downhill and side hill lies. Anyone interested in developing a solid and consistent short game area does not have to go anywhere but here.”
The facility’s Director of Instruction is Bruce Summerhays Jr., a PGA professional from Utah whose father Bruce played on the PGA and Senior PGA tours.
“This academy is really more of a golf experience than a practice area,” Summerhays said. “The beginner can not only enjoy the incredible atmosphere, but can feel confident that they are receiving the best quality instruction.”
Summerhays said the early feedback from guests has been encouraging. One visitor from California emailed Summerhays to thank him for changing his family’s attitude toward golf.
“I have been trying to get the rest of my family involved in golf. A lesson with you has everyone excited about playing.”
The Nicklaus Academy is open to members and guests of Vidanta Resorts as well as residents and visitors to Puerto Vallarta.