By Timothy Scott
When you picture golf courses in Mexico, your first thought is probably not a colonial city at 6,500 feet above sea level, smack in the middle of the country. But San Miguel de Allende has year-round sunshine, a relatively wealthy population of locals and foreigners, and plenty of tourists coming through. So there are actually some surprisingly good golf courses here.
Golf in Mexico gets plenty of accolades in resort areas, both on the Caribbean coast and the Pacific coast. Only a few interior cities have courses worth talking about, however. San Miguel de Allende has gotten on the golf course map lately with the recent Las Ventanas golf course joining the original Malanquin Golf Club. There's also a surprisingly nice par 3 course outside of town called Zarandaro.
Both of the full courses are 18-hole ones with a clubhouse, pro shop, restaurant, bar, and locker rooms. They are open to non-members most of the time they are open and are full-service facilities with carts, driving ranges, and caddies. Here's a rundown on what you can expect at each option.
Malanquin Golf Club, San Miguel de Allende
You have to look past the poor first impression when you pull up to the hulking, boxy clubhouse building here that is showing its age. San Miguel's original golf club looks much better when you get out to the tee boxes. Plus the owners were putting big bucks into new construction when I visited, with buildings going up for a new restaurant, bar, and other public areas.
You'll be matched up with a caddy when you play, which I'll admit I haven't experienced often. It's a bit strange at first to feel so lazy, while someone else is carrying your clubs and cleaning them off when needed. But it does make the whole affair more relaxing once you get into the swing of it and it's nice to have guys along who know the course and can provide advice. They can converse and advise in English comfortably in this expat-heavy city.
The par-72 course has some hills, water features, and sand traps to make it challenging to experienced golfers, but it's not so daunting that you're going to spend the whole day frustrated. The original first nine holes start you out easy, with relatively wide fairways divided by trees and some gentle hills.
The back nine gets more challenging, with tighter fairways, more water to avoid, and sand traps you have to work around to get to the fast greens. You can adjust your ability to the challenge with your tee box choice: there are three of them behind the women's red tees. The total yardage is 7,206, 6,410, or 5,591 from those tees, 4,962 yards from the red.
The aesthetics are nice along the way, with defined cart paths that are sometimes stone-laid and well-maintained fairways that present a carpet of green. There are houses along the way too, though none so close to the tee-off areas that they're going to make you nervous about slicing a drive onto someone's patio. Some of them are mega mansions for extended families from the capital or Queretaro, looking like they could sleep a dozen people or more. Others are occupied by retirees from the USA or Canada.
Malanquin Club de Golf sells monthly or annual memberships that are quite reasonable—there are also tennis courts, a fitness center, and a pool. Or you can roll up and play 18 holes for under $70 including the cart and caddies, prices varying by day of the week. We were able to rent clubs to play with for a reasonable price and there's a driving range for warming up. They're usually open from 7 a.m. to sundown, then later in the bar and restaurant. There's a dress code here: No shorts, jeans, or shirts that don't have a collar.
This golf course is located in a suburban area on the road to Celaya, about 15 minutes west of San Miguel de Allende proper. There are usually houses for rent around here on Airbnb from vacationers who aren't around very much, or there's a nice 5-room guesthouse that's practically walking distance called Oasis San Miguel. The website has a habit of going down regularly, so try their Facebook page for more info or call 415-152-0516 locally. You don't have to reserve more than a day ahead and can usually just show up and play, especially on weekdays.
Las Ventanas Golf in San Miguel
This is San Miguel's newest and most expensive golf course, breaking the $150 barrier per person on weekends with the required caddy. For a while only nine holes were finished, but now all 18 are playable on a course designed by Nick Faldo.
Las Ventanas has some nice views, including the church towers of the historic center five minutes away by car in the distance, though you have to look at that through giant telecom towers. In other directions you can see the mountains, a lake, and the many water features here. New homes surround many of the fairways, with some lots still available.
This par 70 course is more challenging than it looks at first thanks to tricky slopes, difficult water and sand obstacles to avoid, and inconsistent greens that are not always easy to read. It will likely take a few rounds here before you get a feel for the course, so make use of the required caddies to pick your line and approach to the greens. Some of the houses here are close to the fairways too, so you have to drive accurately off the tees, which range from 5,267 (red tees) to 7,141 yards. Many of the fairways are quite wide though and there aren't a lot of trees in the way on this one.
A lot of the main complex was still under construction when I visited at the end of 2019, but when finished the place will be spacious and filled with natural light, including a large ballroom for events. Already open when I visited though were a full bar, the nicest pro shop in town, and a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating.
San Miguel de Allende has a reputation for good restaurants and El Bunker here doesn't disappoint. They have a brick pizza oven, for starters, and a few Mexican classics are joined by panini sandwiches, burgers, and seafood. You can also grab breakfast here before hitting the course. They have some wines by the glass and local craft beers. See the restaurant menu here.
Tee times are from 8 a.m. to 3:00 or 4:00, though of course the restaurant and bar are open much later. The course website has some broken links, but will provide most essential info in English. In theory you can rent one of the homes lining the fairways from them and put together a golfing package, but you may have to call e-mail via the reservation info on the site to set it up. Eventually there will be a hotel on site as well.
The course is open to the public, but members get priority on tee times, so it's best to reserve ahead since this is the hot new place to play in town. To get the best value, go on Monday or Tuesday when the greens fees are 2-for-$120. Or go as a guest of a member and get a reduced rate. Dress in slacks and a collared shirt.
Par 3 at Zirandaro Golf San Miguel
Want to work on your short game or just go have some fun on the golf course for a couple hours? Head to Zirando Campo de Golf on the road to Queretaro on the outskirts of town.
Zirandaro Golf Club has impressive mountain views you can enjoy while you're playing, plus some housing lots if you like it so much that you decide to move to San Miguel de Allende. There are a few dozen houses right on the course, but most are in a much larger planned community with larger spaces to build on.
© Zirando Golf Course
Prices to play golf here are a la carte. To play 9 holes is 700 pesos including the cart, or around $37. To go around again and play 18 holes is around $53. No required caddies here and you can rent clubs for less than $12. See the website (Spanish only) at zirandaro.com.mx.
While San Miguel de Allende does not present the kind of golf choices you can expect in Los Cabos or the Puerto Vallarta region, you can play all year in this temperate climate without getting soaked in sweat, plus you won't have to drive more than 20 minutes to get to any of these courses if you are staying in the center of this popular city.
Article by editor Timothy Scott, photos by author except where indicated.