It might not be your first choice for golf in the summer: Temperatures in south Texas can reach well over 100 degrees, which can make golf more than a bit challenging. But if you’re looking to avoid a repeat of the cold winter of 2014-2015, now is the time to start planning your Texas golf vacation for 2015-2016.
Once the temperature dials back a bit in autumn, the Rio Grande Valley (the Valley) turns into a wonderful, cost-effective golf destination for ‘Winter Texans.’ Winter Texans flock in from northeast U.S. and Canada, injecting millions of dollars into the local economy every year. According to recent research by the University of Texas-Pan American, Winter Texans come to the valley for as many as 11 consecutive years for an average of 133 days per year, totally bypassing harsh northern winters.
The Valley extends from the mouth of the Rio Grande in the Gulf of Mexico, up the river for a distance of approximately 100 miles, and includes Starr, Cameron, Hidalgo, and Willacy counties. Most of the concentrated golf course population stretches from Mission in the West, along Highway 83 to Harlingen, then south along Highway 77 to Brownsville. In this same area, there are about 20 golf courses, plus numerous hotels, motels and RV parks, providing inexpensive accommodation for Winter Texans.
The lower Rio Grande Valley is a significant agricultural area, hosting farms varying from ranchland to citrus groves, particularly grapefruit. Sugarcane and vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, potatoes, beets, corn, green beans and onions are also produced in large quantity, as evidenced by the fruit and vegetable stands that dot the Valley, offering fresh, inexpensive produce. A flood plain, the Rio Grande contains many oxbow lakes or resacas formed from pinched-off meanders in earlier routes of the Rio Grande. This gives Valley golf courses much more water than some would expect, when thinking of Texas.
Most Valley courses can be characterized by flat open land, dotted with low scrub, cacti, and the ubiquitous mesquite trees. Many still maintain majestic palm trees, with fronds moving in the ever-present breezes. With the network of irrigation systems that crisscross the Valley, most golf courses stay reasonably green, although the underlying soil can be hard, helping golfers gain as much as 10 to 20 yards on their drives. Rates for 18 holes of golf can range from approximately $17.00 to $50.00, depending on the course and time of year.
Aside from golf, the Rio Grande Valley provides a diverse set of activities for tourists. The nearby South Padre Island on the Gulf Coast hosts beach lovers and sports fishermen. Bird-watchers can spot a wide variety of exotic birds in the many World Birding Centers located throughout the Valley. And Mexico is only a few miles away, with major centers such as Reynosa, Matamoros and Nuevo Progresso just across the border, and Monterrey, Nuevo Leon only 180 miles away.
For more information on golf courses in the Rio Grande Valley, visit http://www.texasoutside.com. For information on activities and accommodations, visit http://wintertexaninfo.com/ and http://riograndevalleytx.us/tourism/.