There are some impressive courses in Brazil deserving to be in any golf player’s bucket list
When thinking of golf, Brazil is not really the kind of place that comes to one’s mind. But the appetite for the game has been rapidly increasing over the past few years in Latin America’s biggest country, and there are some impressive courses deserving to be in any golf player’s bucket list.
And with a favourable exchange rate, at a three Brazilian Reals to one Canadian dollar, plus some great golf facilities, it’s the perfect time to visit Rio de Janeiro and other beautiful Brazilian locations for some top golf courses with spare change to enjoy the country’s other attractions.
Here we have three options in very different areas of the country: the Sao Paulo megalopolis, the iconic Rio de Janeiro and the stunning Bahia state south coast, where the Portuguese first landed in Brazil just over 500 years ago.
PLAY IN A TROPICAL “CANADIAN” COURSE
The great Canadian golf designer Stanley Thompson went on a construction spree in Brazil in the 1930s, signing five different projects. One of them is the São Paulo Golf Club located in the southern region of South America’s megalopolis with more than 12 million dwellers.
Almost 100 years later, Thompson’s work is still shining there in a course that is entangled with the history of golf in Brazil. The club was the first of its kind in the country, the result of the drive by railway builders who came from Scotland and England in the early days of the 20th century and were missing a spot to play.
Today the club is a members only and their guests, however the Brazilian golf community is not that big and it’s not impossible to get to know someone who can vouch for a visitor, although the course likes to keep an aura of prestige and exclusivity in the air.
The green is usually bustling with global companies’ CEOs and well known individuals such as George Bush Senior, Alice Cooper and Formula 1 pilots like Nigel Mansel and Rubens Barrichello. The club has also hosted some big shots of the “golfsphere”- people like Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Roberto de Vicenzo, Padraig Harrington and Mario Gonzalez, just to name a few.
The classic design is located in an urban oasis in the huge business hub Sao Paulo. But besides some tee time, there is much more to do in the city. Museums, architectural masterpieces, sophisticated restaurants, theatres, concert halls, soccer games, dance clubs, jazz spots and even a Japanese neighbourhood… Sao Paulo has it all.
- All the basics are there: a clubhouse, locker rooms, a pro shop, a restaurant and a bar plus golf cart rentals and caddies. As an extra nice touch, the club also has a sauna.
- A driving range, a putting green and a chipping green are available for practice, plus a six hole course for kids.
- The terrain is gently waved, with some depressions and small bodies of water. It’s an old classic design and it has a more conservative play style.
- Some hotels (Palacio Tangara, Renaissance and Sheraton WTC) have a special deal that grants access to the Club’s facilities as part of their guest’s stay (green fees are an extra charge).
- The restaurant is well known for its great food and fair price. It is especially enchanting by night.
Holes: 18 Length: 7,621 yards Par: 71 Weekdays green fee: $115.00 CAD Holidays, Sat & Sun green fee: $200.00 CAD No visitors on Mondays. It’s imperative to book in advance.
PLAY LIKE AN OLYMPIC ATHLETE
There are 80 million golf players in the world keeping more than 30,000 facilities open, but there is only one tailored exclusively for the Olympic Games and is located in the iconic city of Rio de Janeiro. This means that a visit to play Gilbert Hanse’s unique golf course brings together the opportunity to play like an Olympian with a side bonus like no other: a chance to hang around Copacabana, Ipanema, Sugar Loaf, Christ the Redeemer and a plethora of beautiful beaches — from every angle and distance, this can only be described as a win-win situation.
- Plan your play for the end of the afternoon to be amazed by the sunset.
- The Olympic facility has a driving range, chipping green and a three hole putting green.
- For first timers, it might be a good idea to get a caddy. The design has some blind spots and you will benefit from the insights of a local.
- There are golf carts, golf trolleys, club rentals, a pro shop, a bar, a restaurant, a locker room and even a heliport available — though some players come by boat and walk for five minutes to hit the greens!
- Temperatures can be on the high side in Rio during the Brazilian summer and there aren’t enough trees to provide shelter around the course. Bring a hat and a water bottle, give preference to play in the early morning or late afternoon, or visit during the Brazilian winter, between July and September, when temperatures tend to be around 26C.
- The course is just beside the ocean and, although there are no views of the oceanfront, be prepared to deal with some gusts of wind. They help maintain the players a tad cooler while playing the game and become more interesting and challenging.
- Keep one eye on the ball and another on the charming capybaras and the shy sloths who inhabit the area. This course is built within the Marapendi Natural Reserve in the Barra da Tijuca zone of Rio de Janeiro in 2016
Holes: 18 Length: 6,616 yards Par: 71 Green fee: $140.00 CAD Open everyday. Guests are welcome. It’s recommended to get in touch in advance.
PLAY IN PARADISE
In 2017, Golfscape included Terravista, a resort and golf course complex in the state of Bahia, among the 20 most beautiful places to play golf in the world. And they were absolutely right. Nestled between the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean and a national rainforest park, Terravista is a paradise for those looking for a great course surrounded by a luxurious level of comfort and astonishing views.
The course, designed by North America’s Dan Blankenship, makes very clever use of the natural topography, letting players of all levels to fully enjoy their time with their clubs. The landscape is magnificent from hole #1 till the end, but the highlights are the four holes located on the edge of the seaside cliffs, with #4 inviting players to stroke from one cliff to another.
The resort complex has its own airport, a theatre, exclusive beaches, gourmet food and everything in between. People can stay in villas or the hotel, or even buy their own slice of heaven right there, with properties for sale at Terravista Villas and Terravista Golf.
There is plenty to do in the area besides playing golf, an advantage if not all travellers in the party are into the game. Within a ten-minute drive, it’s possible to reach the nearest city, Trancoso. The place has a historic area populated by quaint shops and fine restaurants. A stroll there at night is a must for all ages.
Visitors usually land in Porto Seguro and travel to the resort by car for one hour. There are regular domestic flights between Rio de Janeiro and Porto Seguro that take about one hour and a half; flights from Sao Paulo take half an hour longer.
- The facilities are available for guests and residents of both condos. They enjoy a 20% discount at the Terravista Golf Course.
- While at the top of the cliffs, take some time to look down at the sea water as giant turtles are often spotted in the area.
- International pop stars are often seen relaxing in the condo villas
- Caddies, golf carts, golf trolleys, club rental, pro shop, bar, locker room and heliport are available.
- For practice, there is a driving range, a chipping green and a putting green.
- Don’t feel bad if the game gets a bit slower. Everybody understands that people simply can’t resist the photo opportunities and stop here and there to take some breathtaking pics.
Holes: 18 Length: 7,212 yards Par: 72 Green Fee: $115.00 CAD Open everyday Guests are welcomed It’s highly recommended to contact the club in advance