A number of golf courses have laid claim to be the highest in the world. The now abandoned Tuctu in Peru was over 14,000 feet above sea level and a rough 9-hole track run by Indian Army engineers in the Himalayas was said to be over 11,000 feet in elevation.
In the USA, several courses in Colorado are over 9,000 feet in height whilst Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in China stands very tall at 10,000 feet. These layouts can boast impressive altimeter readings but none of them quite come up to the 10,650 feet highest point of the La Paz golf course in Bolivia.
Founded in 1912 by British railway workers employed on the construction of roads, bridges and tracks through the Andes, the La Paz Golf Club members built a 9-hole course in a suburb of the city named – appropriately enough – El Alto.
That course is now long since gone (swallowed up by the international airport) and the club has been playing on property 10 miles southeast of El Alto at Mallasilla since the late 1940s. Here, in plush country club surroundings, golfers play on a well-manicured course – much of it maintained by hand – two miles up in the air.
Luther Koontz, an American engineer who accompanied Alister MacKenzie on his 3-month visit to Argentina in 1931, remained in South America after the two Jockey Club courses were completed in Buenos Aires. Over the following thirty years, he’s credited with involvement in around two dozen Argentinean projects, along with a handful of designs in Chile, Brazil, Uruguay and here in Bolivia at La Paz.
The dramatic Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) site of the modern day course is unlike any other as the sandstone mountains have been eroded over time to produce a lofty lunar landscape that has been described as an “odd work of art, like a desert filled with stalagmites.”
This remarkable terrain is best encountered up close at the 12th hole, where the island tee box is reached by not one, but two bridges. With an enormous canyon to the rear of this precarious position, the tee shot requires a 180-yard forced carry across a mass of beige and brown coloured rocky outcrops to a welcoming verdant fairway in the distance.
The topography of this course is very unique. Having played some very exotic courses around the world this one definitely ranks up there. The course condition was pretty good and local caddie was very friendly. On the day that I played there was pretty much nobody on the course so the pace was great. The course is tight with some carries of the tee. Definitely recommend it.