Located in the ancient foothills of the Sierras Chicas to the north of Cordoba, Pueblo Estancia La Paz is a lifestyle and residential property that extends to more than 500 hectares. The development naturally includes dwellings, but also polo fields, stables, football pitches, tennis courts, fishing lakes and, of course, a golf course.
Designed and built by Bunge Golf, the course is routed through the estate’s ancient parkland, alongside the Ascochinga River, up and over the foothills of the Sierras Chicas and down through the valleys.
Architect, Frankie Bunge, kindly provided the following exclusive article for Top 100 Golf Courses in January 2016:
“I started to become familiar with the property in January of 2011. The area has three different scenarios for the lay out of the golf course. The first holes and the finishing holes were designed inside the park, built and designed for Charles Thays (the renowned French-Argentine landscape architect) in the beginning of the nineteenth century. The next holes were laid out in the Cordoba foothills, with some native species of trees, shrubs and bushes from the area. The remaining holes were designed along the Ascochinga River area close to the riverbanks, which gave a scenic and natural setting.
It took me almost a year to find the best 18 holes that fitted the landscape, taking full advantage of such a rich piece of land and the history was always in my mind.
Estancia La Paz was owned by Julio Argentino Roca, who was twice the president of Argentina at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. There were a lot of historical features close to the main mansion, and around the twenty-acre artificial lake to preserve and use as an asset.
It was impossible to create two loops of nine holes that returned to the clubhouse as there were so many interesting areas to pass through, so we created an out and back conventional design.
The idea was to mix golf holes of the three types of architectural design. You will find strategic, heroic and penal holes on our golf course. Twelve holes are strategic and the other six are either heroic or penal. We tried to create risk and reward holes as much as we could, but the park that we wished to preserve and the natural features of the Ascochinga River and the Cordoba hills made us design some penal holes.
Estancia La Paz is a very difficult golf course for the advanced players but also very friendly for the beginner. The greens are big and have all the features for interesting putting. The putting surfaces within the park have less movement to marry with the smooth shaping of the surroundings. Whereas the greens in the other areas have more movement and character which presents a real challenge for players of all levels.
The bunkers also change from one area to another. We have more conventional show up bunkers with clean sand lines, with shapes that remind us the type at Augusta National. The hill areas have the same bunkers but we introduced some Scottish revets and one with a railway sleeper wall. When we came to the Ascochinga River the landscape started to change so we built some waste areas and waste bunkers, which in our opinion fitted perfectly well with the riverbanks and the landscape of the surroundings.
Most of our tees are elevated to show as much of the amazing views as we could. Some were built using rock retaining walls. There are at least four teeing areas for each hole and from the back tees the golf course plays more than 7,300 yards and almost two thousand yards less with easier angles from the front tees.The shape of the fairways favours the draw on some holes and fades on others. We have ten holes with water features such as artificial streams and rivers. The greens also tilt from the line of play, so you have to manoeuvre your shots to reach the spots for easier putting. The distances change a lot through the holes to make you use all the clubs in your bag. The maintenance is immaculate and surprised players, who couldn’t believe that the course only opened a few months ago.”
Climbing out of the city to the North you will find the rolling landscape, tangled shrub and wild flora of the low sierra for as far as the eye can see. Nestled in amongst the beautiful and wild terrain is an oasis of elegance that was the former home to one of the early presidents of Argentina. He built his Estancia on the site of a former Jesuit community. He created a wonderful parkland with lakes and trees around his colonial style house that now forms the centerpiece of the estate. If you like everything to be understated 5 star. This is your club.
This is number one for me of the big four in Cordoba. But they all offer something wonderful and different to each other. There is not much between them. Very strong courses.
Estancia La Paz has it all. It is an amazing facility. It has timeless panache that marries the brave, the bold and the new to exquisite history and quality. A Celebration of all that Argentina can deliver. A unique offering that is worthy of your journey here. Come and stay here and time stands still. I wish I had but my whistle stop tour brought me here for one ephemeral round.
Sprawling across the estate, never hemmed in, the winding golf course manages to pull off a rare trick. It blends into the landscape. Never dominating it. It cuts through the wilderness without ever intruding. You begin in the landscaped parkland and journey out into the feral and wild bush land beyond and back again. So, it is a course that has two distinct parts, non-identical twins but always consanguineous.
You never look back as each hole leads you further into the scenery, on expertly manicured fairways generously laid across the rolling undulations of the bush, inviting shots to greens that are thrilling in execution and tees that serve as vista points for the world class challenges ahead. Each hole is distinct from the last and it is a voyage of discovery that is sympathetic to the location. There is a wonderful languid flow to it all. Effortless harmony.
It’s a young course but feels like it has been here forever. Always aesthetically pleasing to behold with stark bunkering with crisp definition that I have not seen before. Very different form the modern fashion of bunkering, evocative of a bygone age, that eschews the lines found here for a more rugged dunes style. Eloquent in form they make no allusion to nature. Always purposeful. In addition, there are vast waste bunkers flanking some holes guiding your lines. You have many options from most tees and can choose a strategy.
The tumbling River that bisects the property is crossed several times and is in play on a few holes on the back nine, then we turn for home and back into the parkland where lakes and streams border fairways and greens on the flatter ground.
The two massive par 4’s of 16 and 17 are where this course might need attention. The 16th Doglegs too short from the tee, forcing a carry over towering mature trees or an Iron tee shot leads to a longer second than the tee shot. Maybe a risk reward narrow avenue to glimpse the green from the tee and perhaps create a carry across a waste bunker within that narrow avenue to the fairway beyond giving the hole new temptation?
From 17 I want to see that magnificent Estancia built in 1830 from the tee, The 17th green sits majestically in front of it. Currently there is a dogleg to the left and a straight tee shot slips into the trees on the right too easily. Straighten the hole first and then perhaps add some fairway features if required. I want to drive toward the Estancia not into nowhere. A small fix.
One thing is for sure, there is palpable passion in this project and they are rightly very proud of what they have achieved here. I have no doubt they will always look to the future and cherish the rich history of property and improve it year upon year. It is only a matter of time before the top 5 has a new entry.
The 18th brings us home in fine style to a simple club house that is a temporary but stylish modern affair. You can sit and have a beer overlooking the 18th green and lake beyond or, as I did, sit and enjoy a fine meal on the president’s veranda soaking up the atmosphere of this wonderful unique place, with a glass of delicious Malbec and of course, a wee steak.
JCB LAY Instagram: the_barefoot_golfer