Forgive Americans if they appear a little conceited lately in respect to golf.
European pro Paul Casey has famously sounded off on the subject. And when it comes time for Americans to consider international travel for golf, one thing comes to mind: Scotland. Or maybe Ireland. Or if they want a little beach time too, the Caribbean.
The question is: Where does South America fit in all this?
Maybe no one from the southern hemisphere is ruffling any Yankee feathers up north. Consider this: when we watch the PGA stars every weekend, they're from the UK, Spain, Australia, maybe a few from South Africa, but we rarely see any pros south of Mexico.
Even two of the most famous Hispanic players, Lee Trevino and Chi-Chi Rodriguez, hail from just a few latitude lines south of the U.S., not quite below the equator. The most noteworthy pro from South America would have to be Angel Cabrera, who coincidently enough captured his first win on the European Tour at the Argentine Open in 2001.
So maybe that's why hardly anyone has ever had a golf trip to South America cross their mind.
Maybe it's time you took a peek. This isn't some new marketing push or scores of courses and resorts invading the land, either. Scores of travel-worthy courses lay there, ripe for the picking.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, located south of Brazil on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean boasts more than 50 courses in the surrounding area, making it the hotbed of golf on the continent.
The city as a destination is complete. Safe, relatively inexpensive compared to Europe (especially now with the strong Euro) and the festivities are uncanny. Play 18 holes in the morning and then tango until sunrise.
The golf roots of Argentina date back to the early 1900s, when the British colonized and built a railway network and golf courses at every stop. If you see a train station on the outskirts of town, chances are a golf course isn't far away.
Here's a sampling of the area's top courses. None cost more than $50 on the weekdays, but most are closed for public play on weekends unless accompanied by a member. Caddies are available at every course for usually $10 more.
Jockey Club: The area's most noteworthy course and the must-play of them all is the Jockey Club in San Isidro, which hosts two full-length courses designed by the great Alister Mackenzie in his prime in 1930.
The Red Course is the longer and more difficult, and was the host of the 2001 Argentine Open on the European Tour circuit. The Blue course is no pushover, about 300 yards shorter at slightly more than 6,200. Straight shots are necessary at both in order to navigate through tight fairways.
The Jockey Club has hosted numerous golf greats, including Bobby Jones, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Gene Sarazen, Arnold Palmer Seve Ballesteros, Tom Watson and even youngster Sergio Garcia has stopped by.
Olivos Golf Club: Olivos is located 25 miles north of Buenos Aires and is a 27-hole club and is the regular host of the Argentine Open and even outranks the Jockey Club, according to Golf Digest.
The club was founded in 1926 and is a classic course with narrow fairways lined with towering trees. The course is well-bunkered with plenty of water and out of bounds which can make a good round turn sour in a hurry.
Pilar Golf Club: Pilar is relatively new compared to the storied Jockey Club. The design and feel of the course is significantly different than the older courses in the area.
It could even be described as more "American", with manicured greens, man-made ponds and wide fairways. The bunkers and swales are large, deep with signs of bulldozers and land movers everywhere. A stark contrast compared to the older courses, but effective nonetheless.
Pilar has three nines: Azul, Blanca and Colorada. Colorada is the longest at 3,748 yards from the tips, but the other two nines still stretch to 3,500 yards.
Mar del Plata Golf Club: Mar del Plata is one of the most popular coastal cities near Buenos Aires and is home to one of the country's most storied courses, the Mar del Plata Golf Club. The original 18 opened in 1900 and the second 18 opened up 50 years later.
The course is a links-style design and is built on a seaside sand dune. The course is short at slightly less than 6,000 yards and has a handful of tricky short par 4s. Deep bunkers, tricky greens and swirling wind from the ocean, however, mean scoring low on this par-70 course may be trickier than the scorecard indicates.
Despite being relatively short, the course's three par-5s are hefty challenges. The third hole is straight away, but at 563 yards it requires a lay-up, followed by a target third shot to a well-protected green.
The seventh, by comparison, features six bunkers around the green. The final par-5 is a 570-yard monster that doglegs slightly to the left, and once again, features a bunker-protected green.
Martindale Golf Club: Built in 1989, Martindale hosts 27 difficult holes about an hour's drive from the city. It's one of the most popular courses in the area among locals and tourists alike (President George Bush even played Martinsdale - twice).
Any combination of the nines will add up to just under 7,000 yards. Ponds and bunkers make hazards a strong presence.
The U.S. dollar stretches a long way (the euro even further) in Argentina. Golf is reasonable as well as leathers and meats. A steak dinner can run for less than $10, and leathers that may run upwards of $500 in the states can be found for half that here. Currently a little less than three Argentine Pesos equal one U.S. dollar.
Travel to Argentina in July and the elements will hit you. It's just an average of about 40 degrees during the day. The summer months of January and February are just right, with afternoon temps topping out at less than 85 degrees.
Along with the wind blowing in off the coast, the air is extremely comfortable. Rainfall is more frequent in fall and spring, and summers are dry.
The Hilton and Marriott Plaza are the two most recognizable American brands, while the Claridge is located smack dab in the middle of busy downtown. If you can withstand a little noise during the night, this is a very appealing option.
And if you are looking for a place a small trek from the hustle and bustle of city life, the Llao Llao Hotel and Resort is your best bet. Located on a small hill between two lakes at the foot of the Andes, the Canadian-style architecture is one of a kind.
Golf at the Llao Llao club is above the middle of the pack in the area. Skiing in the winter and a slew of available outdoor activities for the summer, make the trip to the all encompassing resort appealing.
February 22, 2005
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours.
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