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​Top 20 Golf Courses of Brazil 2018

24 July, 2018

Top 20 Golf Courses of Brazil 2018

Two years ago, golf returned to the Summer Olympics for the first time in more than century when 120 male and female golfers from 41 National Olympic Committees competed for six individual medals at the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, more commonly known as Rio 2016. A new course, designed by Gil Hanse, was constructed to host the two 72-hole stroke play tournaments within the Reserva de Marapendi coastal nature reserve near Rio de Janeiro and this 18-hole legacy layout is now available for public play.

When we last re-ranked Brazilian courses, just before the start of those Olympics, the Rio 2016 Olympic Golf Course was listed at number 2 and it remains in the runner-up position in this revised edition of the Top 20 chart. Some commentators were worried the course might not survive too long after the Games ended but, as far as we know, it continues to thrive, even though golf is very much a minority sport in the country.

At the end of last year, our Argentinian Correspondent Javier Pintos visited the course and had this to say about its conditioning: “it was rumoured that the course was not being taken care of (but) it didn’t show today. The paspalum grass all over the course is healthy and pure with no weeds. Despite the greens being aerified some days before, they rolled perfectly, just a little bit slower than usual”.

Our Brazilian Correspondent Alexandre Vasarhelyi has since verified the course is in rude health, posting the following: “fairways were seeded with a secret weapon, a brand new grass called Zeon Zoysis, developed by David Douguet at Bladerunner Fams in Poteet, Texas. The grass and the sandy soil are the base for perfect turf conditions (and) when I say perfect it is not a figure of speech, as long as you find the fairway the ball sits up like it’s on a tee.”

Alex has been in touch with Nico Barcellos of Brazil Golf Management, the company appointed to operate the Olympic Golf Course facility last year. Nico, an ex-professional and former member of the Brazilian Golf Federation, told him the number of rounds per month had risen from only 250 to 1,350 per month, which is very encouraging.

So, according to our trusted contributors on the ground, the scuttlebutt regarding the imminent demise of the Rio 2016 Olympic Golf Course might just be a little bit wide of the mark but we’ll still be keeping tabs on how things progress with this flagship development in the weeks and months to come. Hopefully, the latest monthly visitor figures at the club are a good indication that the course will continue to act as an important catalyst in attracting new golfers to the game.

Returning to our newly updated listings, the ultra-private course at Santapazienza near São Paulo retains the number 1 position. Our International correspondent David Davis has been around the world a bit, playing many very exclusive tracks like Ellerston in Australia and Hirono Golf Club in Japan, and this Fazio design features very high in his personal list of golf adventures, as he indicated in his review last year: “Santapazienza is a truly wonderful golf course and on top of that as an experience one of the best I have ever had. It is a true labor of love not only from the Fazios but also from the family that owns it, the realization of a long-term dream that will only get better over time as the facilities expand.”

A couple of Stanley Thompson 18-hole layouts make solid gains within the Top 10 chart positions.

At number 4, rising two places, the famous Canadian architect’s course at São Paulo Golf Club is one of four Brazilian projects his design company worked on during the early 1930s. Tree-lined holes which have recently had their greens re-grassed are routed around an aesthetically pleasing property in Santo Amaro, with water coming into play most prominently at the 9th and 18th holes. The European Tour scheduled a couple of events here at the start of the new millennium to mark the discovery of Brazil by Pedro Alvares Cabral in 1500 but the tournament was short-lived, lasting only two editions.

At number 5, climbing four spots, the 18-hole layout at Gávea Golf & Country Club in São Conrado dates back almost a hundred years to when the club was formed by a group of British expats in the mid-1920s. Originally set out by a young Scottish professional, the course was modified soon after by Stanley Thompson during his short excursion to South America. Gil Hanse worked on the layout when he was waiting to construct the Olympic Golf Course for the Rio Games in 2016 and that renovation project has continued since then, with several new greens built and new irrigation equipment installed.

The only new Brazilian chart entry appears at number 19 and it’s Eric Larsen’s redesign of a course at Iguassu Falls Golf Club, which occupies a clearing in the rainforest close to the city of Foz do Iguaçu in the state of Paraná. The Iguassu Resort was purchased in 2011 then the hotel was more than doubled in size and Eric Larsen (formerly with Arnold Palmer Design) hired to rebuild the course, allowing the new owner to develop the real estate potential of the site. With the course located very close to both Argentina and Paraguay, the club now finds many golfers from those two countries participating in tournaments which it organizes.

Another Stanley Thompson course at Itanhangá Golf Club, close to Gávea, is currently being renovated so it’s taken a bit of a tumble in this revision but we look forward to reviewing the upgraded course next year.

Many thanks to our man on the ground in Brazil, Alexandre Vasarhelyi for keeping us right up to speed with golfing developments around the nation. Once again, he’s proved that nothing beats local knowledge when trying to keep abreast with what’s going on in any particular country and we’re grateful for all his efforts to keep us ahead of the game.


Click the link to see full details of our latest Top 20 Golf Courses in Brazil.

We’re delighted to receive feedback when we update national standings so don’t hesitate to contact us if you have anything to say about our newly revised Brazilian listings. Whether it’s to notify us of a course we’ve missed, a layout that doesn’t deserve its current ranking position or something else, please use the “Respond to this article” link at the top or at the bottom of this page to share your views with us.

Jim McCann
Top 100 Golf Courses


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