Jockey Club Golf (Cancha Colorada)
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Twelfth hole, 175 yards; Though handsomely framed by trees at the perimeter of the property, the golf architecture student senses the influence of the Eden hole on this design. The front left and right bunkers are separated by the green’s false front.

Thirteenth hole, 445 yards; Mackenzie writes again in The Spirit of St. Andrews, ‘There is a great fascination in playing a shot with a maximum of topspin and seeing one’s ball climbing over hillocks, through hollows, curving right to left, or left to right, and finally lying dead at the hole. There is the feeling suspense in wondering whether it is going to climb the last rise, followed by a feeling of intense relief when it just makes it and rolls down the final slope towards the hole.’ As anyone knows that has played The Old Course, that sentiment summarizes the timeless appeal of golf at St. Andrews. Mackenzie instilled that same sense of fun and anticipation into both courses at The Jockey Club, a feat worthy of great recognition.

Fifteenth hole, 510 yards; A fascinating fairway, as its rippling contours appear to have been there for ages. The random nature of the mounds and swales is in stark contrast to the use of mounds employed by many modern American architects, especially during the period of 1985 through 2005. The American architects erred by lining their fairways with parallel mounds while leaving the fairways themselves with minimal contours. The result is painfully artificial and lacks any strategic or playing merit. Mackenzie in the meanwhile focused on contouring within the confines of the fairway where it matters most (i.e. where the game is supposed to be played!). One day, one’s ball may be slightly above one’s feet; the next day, the ball slightly below. Having to make minor tweaks to one’s stance and set-up from round to round has helped keep this hole – and the course – fresh for generations of well-heeled Argentines.

The random movements created within the fifteenth fairway are a thing of great beauty – and skill.

Sixteenth hole, 400 yards; In a field, three enormous mounds emerge to ring the sixteenth green. The sensation created is of hitting one’s approach shot into a punchbowl green more commonly found in the United Kingdom. This unexpected turn in the course both surprises and delights the golfer. Tom Doak in The Life and Work of Dr. Alister Mackenzie calls the effect ‘a bit like bumper pool.’ The long green is narrower in front and bulges out beyond the mound along the green’s right side. Played round after round, year and year, all kinds of stories emerge regarding approach shots being caromed this way or that off these tightly mown mounds. Plus, one’s imagination is the only limit to how one uses the mounds in recovering from a missed approach. The stark artificiality of the green complex is everything that Mackenzie stands against as an architect; conversely, the amount of fun and the way the green complex encourages one to invent never before tried shots is pure Mackenzie.

Even from 400 yards back on the tee, the pronounced mounds surrounding the sixteenth green are evident.

The blue flag is between the two mounds – having to drop one’s approach shot between the mounds is one of the most fun shots on the course.

The sixteenth green is slender in front before widening toward the back. Congratulations to The Jockey Club for continuing to commit the resources to maintaining the mounds as short grass. Without doing so, many of the recovery options would be lost and the joy of the hole would be snuffed out.

Seventeenth hole, 170 yards; Even more so than the one shot third, the pushed up green makes for an extremely exacting target. The first third of the green is a scant eight (!) paces wide with bunkers left and a tightly mown bank right. Mention has been made of this hole being a Redan but the author doesn’t see it.

The view from the tee of the narrow seventeenth green does little for the golfer’s confidence.

Golfers that miss the seventeenth green to the right must manufacture some sort of nervy recovery, never easy on the penultimate hole.

Eighteenth hole, 355 yards; For many traditionalists, The Old Course at St. Andrews sets the perfect tone with its closing two holes: an exacting penultimate hole followed by a Home hole that allows the golfer to finish on a positive note. Such is clearly the case here and there is no way it wouldn’t be given how much the Old Course was in the forefront of Mackenzie’s mind throughout his dealings at The Jockey Club. Straight from St. Andrews, the Home hole here is bunkerless with its own version of the Valley of Sin. This hole perfectly captures the essence of Red Course at The Jockey Club: not overly long and within reach of everyone yet it requires care and thought in playing it well. Somehow, an extra stroke is taken more times than one wishes. In every respect, this is the perfect closing hole for a course so full of pleasurable excitement and charm. Pity more modern architects don’t have the courage to so end their courses.

Apart from acknowledging The Jockey as being one of – or perhaps the – great sporting club, how can one summarize the golf offering only? The greatest golf course architect of all-time borrowed a number of design attributes from his favorite golf course and successfully translated them into the dirt at San Isidro. His features remain well preserved to this day. As one walks down the fourth and fifth fairways listening to horses thunder past on the Club’s adjacent track, one realizes this is a unique place in world golf. Polo has long been referred to as the Sport of Kings, which is exactly how one feels regarding golf when fortunate enough to have a game here at The Jockey Club.

The End