El Angel Golf Course at Rancho Viejo Resort & C.C. has a little devil in it
RANCHO VIEJO, Texas - You'll find water on a dozen holes, tight doglegs looming around the next bend and a few holes that are just plain difficult. There's very little that's angelic about the El Angel golf course at Rancho Viejo Resort & Country Club.
Opened in 1971, El Angel is one of two golf courses at this original Rio Grande Valley area resort. The other, which is probably considered the more championship level course, is the El Diablo Course.
At 6,434 yards, the par-70 El Angel might seem like the meeker of the two, but not so fast. First off, just finding the first tee is a bit of a victory.
Unlike El Diablo, El Angel starts about a mile or so from the clubhouse. It's not a bad drive in the golf cart; it's just that you have to pay attention to the directions from the clubhouse or you'll wind up in somebody's backyard.
Once there, you start off with a 411-yard par 4 that immediately brings water into play off the tee if you're a long hitter. The lake that goes all the way down the right side on the approach is a common theme, so get used to it. Mix in a strong breeze and this angel really is a devil.
"El Angel is actually my favorite of the two," said Rancho Viejo Assistant Professional K.C. Lauber, who's been working and playing golf in these parts for years.
Perhaps that's because it lacks notoriety. Or perhaps because it makes more use of the Resaca that runs through the course and property.
The Resaca is actually an old irrigation canal that came off the Rio Grande. Long before there were golf courses here, Resacas were used to water citrus fruit groves. Throughout the course, there are still plenty of orange trees in front yards, but the Resaca's chief function these days, it seems, is swallowing errant tee shots and approaches.
You get to deal with the Resaca early at the picturesque 138-yard par-3 third. Getting over the water should be no problem for the average player; hitting the green is another story. Three bunkers protect the green, and there's usually some sort of wind persuading players to try to create a shot they are not comfortable with.
While the par-4 ninth at 464 yards takes two man-sized blows to reach in regulation, the majority of the par 4s are 400 yards or less and should be pretty manageable. On some of them a fairway wood or hybrid might be prudent off the tee to avoid the out-of-bounds that comes into play on much of the golf course. On others, you can swing away with the driver to get short irons in your hands for birdie opportunities.
The par 5s are also reachable for strong players with 16 playing just 488 yards from the back tee. It's a good place to make birdie because 17 is the other long par 4, a 465-yard dogleg left that requires two well struck and well directed shots.
El Angel golf course at Rancho Viejo: The verdict
I wouldn't want to play it all the time, but El Angel is a fun golf course and good tune-up for El Diablo. Again, don't be fooled by the yardage; it isn't easy and if there's a good breeze going, it can be downright difficult.
The Tif-dwarf greens were also redone within the last decade, so they putt true.
This is a great place to go during the winter. South Texas is on a similar latitude with Miami, so you can expect temperatures in the 70s and 80s in the dead of winter, and frost delays are a rarity.
The resort is no-frills, but very comfortable. A nice little pro shop with a friendly staff really makes you feel welcome. This is a place you can escape to and be anonymous without constantly digging into your pocket trying to figure out whom to tip.
Practice facilities at Rancho Viejo are generous if not spectacular. The range is plenty large, and there are also a practice bunker, practice green and chipping and pitching green located across from the first tee of El Diablo.
Lessons are available from the professional staff. Call the golf shop at (956) 350-4359 for more information.
Stay-and-play at Rancho Viejo Resort & Country Club
The resort offers a variety of golf packages and golf schools during January through April.
This past winter, rates were as low as $149 per person per night for double occupancy, including golf and breakfast. Guests can stay in one of the 50 rooms for rent in the condos that surround the courses and the Resaca.
Condos, which have complimentary wireless Internet, are available with one, two or three bedrooms, and some include full kitchens.
March 10, 2009