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La Paz Golf Club tops list of world's highest courses

Andrew PennerBy Andrew Penner,

CALGARY, ALBERTA - Their fairways flirt with the clouds and their greens lay covered in snow and ice for much of the year. What the world's highest golf courses lack in oxygen, they make up for in, well, altitude.

So where is the highest golf course in the world? Interestingly, the past champion no longer exists. Swallowed up in clouds and dense vegetation at 14,335 feet above sea level, the Tuctu Golf Club in Peru has now been abandoned. At its nose-bleeding altitude, a sign at the club should have read (no joke): Acclimatized Golfers Only.

Robin Seiger and Neil Laughton, golf philanthropists and adventurists, are winding up a journey that saw them play "The Awesome Eight" (the highest, lowest, toughest, most northerly, most southerly, hottest, coldest, and greatest courses in the world). Apparently, all their research led them to Tuctu, Peru when choosing "the highest." But, as Seiger explained, Tuctu was not in playing shape.

"No one seemed to have any details of Tuctu. We eventually made contact with the mining company who owned the course. They told me it was abandoned 10 years ago and is now completely overgrown. We asked if we could play on its site, but they said it was a dense mass of bush and vegetation, so it would be impossible and nothing remotely resembling a course exists."

They continued searching.

"We then heard of a course in the Himalayas built and run by Indian Army engineers. Again we were unable to make contact or verify, but a mountaineer said it was a rough cut nine-hole event, and he thought it to be around 11,000 ft.

"Later we discovered a course in Bolivia, La Paz Golf Club, which is at an elevation of 10,800 ft. It is an old, established 18-hole venue that makes a formal and legitimate claim to the highest in the world."

Whew. Finally, a record holder we can all agree on. But wait. There are other courses that also make the claim. On an internet search for the "highest golf course in the world," the Gulmarg Golf Course - which is located in the mountainous, war-torn region of Jammu & Kashmir - comes up numerous times. Interestingly, though, there is some discrepancy in the actual elevation of Gulmarg. While some sources have it pegged as high as 9,000 feet, most sources place it only around 7,000 ft., which doesn't even come close to matching La Paz and other lofty layouts in China and the United States.

Sadly, due to the ongoing violence and unrest in the area (India and Pakistan are fighting over ownership of the land) this course is also nearing closure and is in horrible playing condition. In fact, according to Faisal Ahmed, a reporter for The News-Times India, "Gulmarg is a living - no a dying - witness to the tragic reality of Kashmir."

Golfers in the United States are fortunate enough to play what is likely the highest collection of golf courses above 8,500 feet in the world. The state of Colorado, and most specifically Summit County, is home to numerous courses over 9,000 feet. Mt. Massive, a 9-hole course in Leadville, stakes a firm claim as being the highest course in North America. It hits the altimeter at 9,680 feet. The highest championship course in North America? That would have to be Copper Mountain. Its clubhouse is at 9,500 feet but portions of the course climb to nearly 9,700 feet. And you thought you could only ski at that height.

But, the La Paz Golf Club, laid out at a dizzying height of 10,800 feet, appears to be the undisputed champion, and it's very much open for play. The course, in fact, is a terrific test of golf and is considered to be the best in the country. Although it's possible golf might be played at slightly higher elevations on rugged 9-hole tracks (like the Leh Golf Club in Pakistan, which is said to be laid out over rocks and dirt) this writer will go on record stating that there is no 18-hole championship course in the world higher than La Paz. If you so desire, check out www.lapazgolfclub.com (it's in Spanish).

But, keep in mind, operating at high elevations can be dangerous. The air starts to really thin out over 5,000 feet and engaging in recreational activity can be challenging. Bruce Keith, the Executive Director of The Alpine Club of Canada, offers some words of wisdom if your intentions are to play golf in "nose-bleed" country.

"I certainly wouldn't recommend a quick trip from sea level to play golf above 14,000 feet at Tuctu. But, without acclimatizing, people could still experience problems at 11,000 feet at La Paz. Headaches, nausea, edema, and even death can occur when people are not acclimatized to high elevations."

Thankfully, there have been no reports of golfers - in any country - dying from edema. Of course, the Mt. Everest Golf Club hasn't been designed yet.

Here is a brief list of some of the world's loftiest layouts. La Paz Golf Club, La Paz, Bolivia: elev. 10,800 ft. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Golf Course, Yunnan Province, China: elev. 10,000 ft. Copper Creek Golf Club, Copper Mountain, Colorado, U.S.A: elev. 9,700 ft. Mt. Massive Golf Course, Leadville, Colorado, U.S.A.: elev. 9,680 ft. Telluride Golf Club, Telluride, Colorado, U.S.A.: elev. 9,500 ft. Breckenridge Golf Club, Breckenridge, Colorado, U.S.A.: elev. 9,324 ft. The Lodge Golf Course, Cloudcroft, New Mexico, U.S.A.: elev. 9,200 ft. Gulmarg Golf Course, Jammu & Kashmir: elev. 7,000 ft Vialatta Golf Club, Sestriere, France: elev. 6, 677 ft. Incline Village Golf Course, Incline Village, Nevada, USA: elev. 6,500 ft. Tignes Golf Course, Tignes, France: elev. 6,300 ft. Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, Lake Tahoe, Nevada, USA: elev. 6,200 ft. Kananaskis Golf Course, Alberta, Canada: elev. 5,000 ft.

Andrew Penner is a freelance writer and photographer based in Calgary, Alberta. His work has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout North America and Europe. You can see more of his work at www.andrewpenner.com.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • La Oroya

    A de Lucio wrote on: Jan 8, 2015

    As a kid in the 1970s I belonged to the country club La Planicie in Lima, Peru. I remember going on a trip up to La Oroya in the Andes to play in a tournament against other clubs from Lima. I was about 10 years old. I believe we played at Tuctu (course only had 9 holes). The tournament was cut short after 9 holes because most of us could not breath due to the altitude. After 9 holes, most of the kids ended up laying down in cots with oxygen masks! Very funny. And this was without having to carry our clubs, since they provided caddies. Anyway, it was amazing being able to hit the ball well over 200 yards due to the thin air.


  • La Paz golf course

    D.Y. Gilfillan wrote on: Feb 4, 2014

    Hello Andrew, I just stumbled on your fine article. Around 1958-59, I played the La Paz golf course with a fellow 8th grade teenager. We would take turns carrying a single bag with our clubs, hiking over a mountain trail from La Florida, a southern suburb of La Paz. The hike took about an hour. The trail was quick yet arduous compared to the lengthy road that meandered around the mountains. When we got there and checked in, we would play nine holes and then hike back to La Florida. We only played nine because the fairways were almost double the length of a sea level course. The altitude enabled long drives and we knew we had a hike back home.
    This is my only claim to golf fame: Played on one of the highest, if not highest, golf courses in the world. I will never forget it. But I hadn't thought of it in years. Thanks for a fine article.


  • Highest golf course in the world

    s vasudevan wrote on: May 10, 2013

    I have played in the yet environmental park golf course at kukup sikkim om oct4 2011 .the guiness book of world records has certified this as the worlds highest golf course after makin two trips there to certify it.i am holding a certificate with guiness endorsement that i have played in the worlds highest golf course as on that date.


  • Highest in Himalyas

    Karan Sood wrote on: Feb 7, 2013

    Hi Andrew,
    One of the highest is Naldhera Golf course in Shimla city in Himachal Pradesh province in India. It's a province on the foothills of the himalyas. It was built by the Britishers when they were in India. The altitude is 7700 ft I guess and it's commercially viable. I mean you see a lot of traffic in the resort and it's a tourist attraction as well. The only people allowed to play now are high ranking administrative office, army and few more I guess.


  • highest Golfcourse

    terrence glennon wrote on: Jan 10, 2013

    The highest 18 hole golf course in the world is in Peru. It is situated in La Oroya, 12,375 ft. a.s.l. (3,750 m.) three hours east of Lima, by car, in the central Andes. Originally built by the Cerro de Pasco Corporation to entertain its foreign mining engineers and visitors back in the 1940's, it continues as an active course and is open to the public. With the thin air at this altitude, even you would exceed Tiger Woods' best drives, for sure. They originally named it Club El Soroche, which means, “high altitude sickness”.


  • highest Golfcourse

    Frank Goegel wrote on: Jan 7, 2013

    just today I was playing at the Limuru Golfcourse northern from Nairobi/kenya
    It is around 6450 feet
    dont forget it
    best regards


  • Highest golf hole

    Alastair wrote on: Dec 3, 2012

    The 5th hole at La Cima golf course in Bogota, Colombia is 9,807 ft.


  • Highest Golf Course in the World

    Grant wrote on: Nov 13, 2012

    The Highest course is indeed in Bhutan, its locted at an Indian Army base in a town called Haa. Their is another golf course even higher up the road in a village called Damthang.


      • RE: Highest Golf Course in the World

        Subhro K Basu wrote on: Mar 9, 2014

        The highest Golf Course in the world is Yak Golf Course situated at Kupup, East Sikkim, India at an altitude of 13025 ft.


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