The golf course at La Estancia de Cafayate is located idyllically in the Salta province between the Andean foothills and the vineyards close to the town of Cafayate, which is Argentina’s second centre for quality wine production.
Bob Cupp laid out the golf course at La Estancia de Cafayate where the front nine play west, into the vineyards and the back nine is routed in an easterly direction against the spectacular backdrop of the deep red Andean mountains highlighted by the afternoon sun.
Frankie Bunge of Bunge Golf, kindly wrote the following article exclusively for Top 100 Golf Courses:
“I started the La Estancia de Cafayate project in 2007 as Project Manager for the architect and owner. The intention was to help to develop 18 holes, a putting green, and practice facilities. The area is delimited by the Loro Huasi River in the south, Santa María River to the east, Etchart Vineyards in the north, and the 40 National Road to the west. The entrance gate is also very close to the Cafayate city limits.
There were few trees in the lay out area because a big fire took place a few years before we started the construction. The designer’s idea to develop a heath-like golf course came from his devotion to British courses, with few trees and far from the sea.
The natural land was sandy and almost dead flat, so he designed swales to take the water away from playable areas and burns to carry water from one hole to the other. Those burns were built to keep the water at the level to which the architect planned.
All the bunkers were rounded and in some cases deep. They were filled with local sand to look natural and match the surroundings. The fairways have interesting movements with fingers and bumps from the hilly areas that separate the holes, while vineyards separate others.
The greens are generous and tilt from the line of play to make the approach shots more interesting. They are surrounded by hills, swales and depressions that make the recovery shot more creative. The putting surfaces are tricky with different platforms, delimited by steps and undulations. Some include optical illusions that make it difficult to read the line and manage the speed.
Risk and reward is present in most of the holes and Cupp kept most things strategic, even the smallest detail. Some afternoons the wind comes across strongly, especially from August until November and this makes play tough.
The course is more than 7,500 feet above the sea and the ball gets more flight distance. That’s why the designer stretched the course to almost 7,800 yards from the back tees, but there are also tournament, members, and front tees to cater for players of all levels. The course is friendly for beginners with wide fairways and bail out areas that give a wide margin for error. The natural landscape is very impressive and the views through the vineyards to the amazing red mountains are astonishing.”
Played this course in an early morning last spring (November 2018) and I had a really very good time. It is set in a valley in between the mountains but the piece of land is quite flat with some elevated tees and greens created by bulldozers. With this I am not saying the level changes produced are not good, but yes they are man made and not natural.
It is said and known that this course suffers strong winds during mid to late afternoon, so it is always better to do it in the morning.
Flagsticks are shorter than usual due to wind, as regular ones go broken often at the beginning. It is good to say the setting is between luxury boutique hotels and in the land of the best Torrontés White Wine in the world.
Front 9 are maybe more ordinary with only one or two holes out of "just good" ones: short par 4 4th which you can drive over the tall grass to the green and par 3 8th to a big elevated green.
On the back 9 par3 14th to a super elevated green usually playing downwing with the mountains on the back is just great. Next par 4s 15-16 going towards the mountains from elevated tees makes you watch your ball flight for many seconds. Par 5 17th is the best hole on the course with a forced carry over bunkers before another one over a stream to get home in 2 for maybe the very long hitters. Home hole is a good 4 with water on the right side and a small green close to the Club House.
Greens except a couple of them are big, constructed with USGA Specs and kept all year in excellent condition.
Is it worth? Yes! A lot of people found in Cafayate their permanent home with a very good course, amazing gastronomy and a very peacefull place.