It’s just after noon. I have just arrived from the jaw dropping splendour of seven lakes road from Bariloche, at the five star Loi suites in Chapelco, St Martin De los Andes, and before I know what is happening I’m in the back of an anonymous Toyota sedan.
Two burly Argentines, swarthy and muscular are in the front seats. Quick fire chatter passes between them as we are waved passed a security check point onto the main highway. Shortly after, we dive off the tarmac, lurching onto a dirt road. We are waved through another checkpoint, they know the plan but I’m none the wiser. I just glimpse the barrier lowering through the dust cloud behind us on this stony road. Up, up and Up. Where are they taking me?
Ten minutes of twisting track and slithering road and we grind to a halt outside two shipping containers set back from the road, hidden in the woods. This is it. I’m only 43. What about the children?
The doors open and I’m blinded by the sunlight streaming in. I hear the metallic clunking of my fate.
Fortunately, It’s my clubs being loaded onto a golf cart. You can’t walk El Desafio, the nine world class holes are laid out on the side of a mountain. Strictly carts.
Well, I’d like to hand out some awards. Let’s call them the Jimsters. The first Jimster goes to the best nine hole course in the World, The second Jimster goes to El Desafio for being the most improbable and surreal Golfing experience of my young life. 1200 meters up in the Andes, miles from anywhere, this young course has been executed to the highest standards. It’s Babylon. It is a new born Golfing Machu Picchu. You just stand there. Jaw open in wonder. The guy who built this is the best kind of lunatic. The genius in a room of fools. Is it folly? Time will tell.
Built to lure second home owners to buy plots, it is not a green fee reaper. Therefore, on the two occasions I played it, I was virtually alone. Trillionaires golf.
The fairways are necessarily generous. The thin wind at this altitude is always a factor. The pictures say it best but the nine holes there are here, currently represent the very best of what can be done in modern architecture and I think it is pretty rare and as good as anywhere. Anywhere. Add to that the epic visitors of Andean volcanoes on the horizon and the immediate pleasure of launching drives over grisly ravines and then threading shots down avenues of pine from carpet like fairways to simply exquisite greens is nothing short of intoxicating.
Whilst it is only nine holes, I would say its best to play it like a wasp. Black tees and yellow tees and then vice versa. Every hole is magnificent. Stunning. This is heavens doorstep. Unique and other worldly. If you make time. If you make the journey. You will find a reward without parallel in this incredible landscape. Peerless. Don’t tell everyone but Argentina has it all.
From my fireside Sofa here in darkest Surrey, I can’t recommend it highly enough. The cities, The people, the culture, the tradition, the golf. It’s a world in one country. And what value. It’s closer than you think. Just make sure you speak to Javier of Wegolfargentina. His team will look after your every need. Argentina is off of the beaten track for golf holidays. But it really shouldn’t be. That’s up to you now. Sincerely.
Huge thanks to Mariano and Hernand for showing me around.
JCB LAY Instagram: the_barefoot_golfer
Date: December 27, 2018