Winter Golf Escapes
By Peter Hellman
Classic GOLF Tours
Have you noticed the cooler nights, a bit of white on the mountains or that your 6:00 a.m. alarm awakes you to a dark morning? These are all signs that winter is soon upon us and if you are like me, you probably feel a bit sad that your favorite fairways may soon be under snow. Well, here are a couple of ideas to help you over your sorrow and to keep those irons and woods flexing instead of hibernating this winter.
Take Arizona with its cool mornings, balmy afternoons and lush green over-seeded fairways. It is sure to bring summery smiles to any snow bird golfer. One of my favorite places, the Wigwam Resort, lies just outside Phoenix in Goodyear. Originally, a cotton farm supplying this raw material to the tire industry and a retreat for Akron based Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company executives, the Wigwam grew into a world class resort for golfers and sun lovers from around the world. The resort includes three excellent courses -- the Red, the Blue and the signature Gold. Recently renovated, all three get excellent marks for interest and playability. Other courses in the area include Pam Valley and Falcon Golf Club. I suggest that you stay in the Casitas, although multistory condominium style units are also available. The one-storey Casitas are large, well appointed and private. I particularly like the ones along the golf course. A cool drink, a private patio and a view over acres of green will surely cure your cabin fever. There is also an excellent Spa, good restaurant choices and tennis courts.
If you have more time, I would skip the cool of Arizona's winter and fly to Argentina and summer. Being south of the equator, Argentina enjoys seasons opposite ours. So while we slog through snow, they improve their tans and golf games. My first visit to Argentina was in the fall of 2007 and I can't stop talking about it. Argentina has everything. In addition to its world-class golf courses, some of the world's best flying fishing, dove hunting and vineyards, the dollar goes far in Argentina. The scenery, particularly in the area of Patagonia called Bariloche, is the most dramatic I have ever seen. The mountains are steep, rugged and include some of the tallest in the Americas. Deep natural lakes are plentiful and reflect the surrounding beauty.
Argentina has three major areas for golf -- Buenos Aires, Patagonia and Cordoba. The area around Buenos Aires has the most courses and the English influence is pronounced. Clubs such as Los Olivos, the Jockey Club and San Andres (St. Andrews in Spanish) have the look and feel of established English clubs. Newer clubs such as Pilar and the Buenos Aires Country Club have all the virtues of modern design. Spending a few days in Buenos Aires is a must. It gives you easy access to many courses while still enjoying the beauty and fascination of this most European of South American cities.
Patagonia, two hours south of Buenos Aires, has fine hotels and excellent golf courses. Llao Llao, see photo, is stunning and suffers only from the fact that your attention is drawn away from your golf ball to the views. Nearby, is the small resort of Arelauquen. Its course twists and turns its way through dramatic forests and open valleys. There are many accommodations to choose from, but I recommend either the Lloa Lloa for its views and amenities or Arelauquen for its rugged seclusion.
About four hours by car northwest of Bariloche is San Martin de los Andes. The drive is worth it because it takes you through a region called Seven Lakes. Take time for pictures and a picnic along the way. The scenery is superb. Just outside of San Martin de los Andes (named after the George Washington of Argentina), is a new resort called Chapelco. The course is Jack Nicklaus' first in South America and it is a delight. The resort is part of a massive ranch that has excellent accommodations, fishing and other amenities that will soon put Chapelco among the top world golf destinations. The nearby town reminds me of Aspen twenty years ago. Like the area around Bariloche, San Martin de los Andes is known for winter sports such as skiing.
Finally, we have Cordoba home of US Open Champion Angel Cabrera and long time pro Eduardo Romero. Cordoba has virtually everything a world player wishes for -- six first-rate golf courses, each of them with its one charm, challenge and amenities. Cordoba is in the heartland of the country, has a strong colonial history and vast lands with Argentinean cowboys called gauchos. Some of the better courses are Cordoba Golf Club, Jockey Club Cordoba, La Cumbre and Las Delicias.
Well, whether you have but a long weekend or a week or more, the Wigwam Resort and Argentina will surely bring summer fun to your winter gloom.