Set out in Montevideo’s residential suburb of Punta Carretas, the course at Club de Golf del Uruguay was redesigned by Alister MacKenzie in the summer of 1930, following a visit he had made earlier that same year.
With only three short holes on the card (at the 6th, 11th and 17th), the course plays to a par of 73 and its rather narrow, tree-lined fairways are somewhat restricted, bounded as they are to the west and south of the property by the mighty Río de la Plata.
The long par four 2nd, with out of bounds to the left, serves early notice in the round of the challenge ahead and the 531-yard 14th, with a water hazard sitting in front of the green, is rated the most difficult hole on the back nine.
The 337-yard 16th was included in a book published in 2000 by Golf Magazine entitled “The 500 World’s Greatest Golf Holes,” and was described thus: “The skyline of Montevideo becomes more and more visible as this hilltop fairway climbs from tee to green. Despite playing longer due to the terrain, this hole lulls players into trying to drive the green, however minimal the chances of success.”
The following article was written by author David Wood and is an edited extract from Volume Five of Golf Architecture: A Worldwide Perspective. Reproduced with kind permission. To obtain a copy of the book, email Paul Daley at [email protected]
Oh what fun it must have been to be Dr Alister MacKenzie in the 1920s! Having gained fame for his revolutionary golf designs, he had assembled a mighty resume in his chosen profession. Offers for his time and services poured in from all over the globe. The golfing world was truly his oyster. From England to points beyond – Scotland, Ireland, the new world of North America, New Zealand and Australia – MacKenzie left a trail of golfing ems in his brilliantly creative wake that he designed from scratch, revised or co-designed. Other times he merely advised. MacKenzie was the Michelangelo of his trade; and on his palette was some of the most conducive golfing turf the world had to offer.
In those roaring twenties, Lahinch, Royal Melbourne, Pasatiempo, Royal Adelaide, Titirangi and New South Wales were all glittering examples of the joyous galaxy of his works. Cypress Point – golf’s Sistine Chapel on the Monterey Peninsula in Califonia – had just been completed in 1928. In 1930, with the depression in the United States gathering steam, MacKenzie was asked to travel to the economic boom land of Argentina to bring golf to The Jockey Club in San Isidro – the most chic suburb of flourishing Buenos Aires. He travelled to Argentina via steamer through the Panama Canal, and designed what were to become the Red and Blue courses at The Jockey club.
Two hours by ferry across the tremendously wide Rio De la Plata from Buenos Aires, Montevideo had long suffered in the shadow of fashionable Argentina. Not wanting to be outdone, the Club de Golf del Uruguay sent their vice-president, Jose Pedro Urioste, to visit MacKenzie in Buenos Aries and ask if he would visit their course to see if he might be interested in turning the existing 9-hole layout into the full complement. MacKenzie agreed and immediately was taken to the property.
With downtown Montevideo grandly in view, the Club de Golf sits on a headland standing sentinel over a picturesque beach on the long gradual harbour of the Rio de la Plata. Because the bluffs slope toward the river, it affords grand water views from numerous points. MacKenzie felt he had the chance to build something special. At 6, 653 yards and a par of 73, you immediately know you’re on a Mackenzie course, courtesy of the sloping greens and camouflage bunkering. The layout is both aesthetically pleasing to the eye and punishing to the foolhardy golfer without a plan of attack.
The greens that MacKenzie designed featured common Bermuda grass, but when sand-based bentgrass was installed in the 1990s many of the severe contours were, in essence, shaved down. Mackenzie would not have been overly pleased with this development. The greens and bunkering at Club de Golf del Uruguay have the feel that they were hiding undiscovered for centuries and just needed someone to come in and remove the dustcover sheets and open the windows. One naturally doesn’t think of golf and Uruguay in the same sentence, let alone a world-class course designed by the renowned Dr Alister MacKenzie.