How would you like to play the new Gil Hanse design in Brazil that will host golf's return to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio?
Most American golf travelers turn their focus east to Scotland and Ireland or west to Australia when they're looking for an amazing international golf destination.
Why not south -- as in South America?
Kalos Golf and TCS World Travel, a luxury private jet tour operator, have teamed up to create "The Best of South America Golf Tour," a 20-day, 10-course, six-country extravaganza set to take flight in October 2017. The tour -- which includes the Olympic venue as one of its marquee draws -- is believed to be the first of its kind on such a grand scale.
The high price tag of the tour -- $94,000 per person -- hasn't been a deterrent. It is already 75 percent booked with only 14 spots left.
"The overall makeup of the golf courses is what makes the itinerary great," Kalos Golf Vice President of Marketing Casey Oliver said. "Having the Olympic course in there (helps).
"There are clearly quite a few golf courses in South America that should be on everyone's must-play list. They just don't get the publicity."
That won't be the case with the Olympic course in Rio. NBC and The Golf Channel will provide more than 300 hours of Olympic golf coverage from August 8-20. The 60 Olympic men will tee off on Aug. 11 with the 60 women following on Aug. 17. The winners of each 72-hole, stroke-play tournament receive exemptions into each of the 2017 majors, along with a gold medal.
Golf already boasts a rich history in parts of South America, even if it's somewhat of a black hole for American bucket-list chasers. Major champions Angel Cabrera and Roberto De Vicenzo grew up in Argentina. The 2016 launch of the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica, a year-long series of pro tournaments in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America, could eventually help develop more players like them.
Golf Digest's Planet Golf rankings for 2016 don't include a single South American course among the world's top 100. Is that because of subpar conditioning, design and facilities of the roughly 670 courses on the continent, or merely a case of so few course raters visiting, and inferior marketing tactics?
Travel in style
Whatever the case, one thing is certain: Anybody lucky enough to afford this trip will be much more comfortable than Dr. Alister MacKenzie. The famous golf architect's journey to South America took two weeks by boat in 1930.
TCS World Travel has chartered a private Boeing 757 jet, which is custom-fitted to the highest specification with 52 180-degree Italian leather flatbed seats.
The trip starts (Oct. 1) and ends (Oct. 20) in Orlando. After two nights at Sandy Lane in Barbados with a round on Tom Fazio's Green Monkey course, the next stop isn't only for golf. A flight into Cusco, Peru, precedes a train ride and hike to the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu.
Next, three nights at the Ritz-Carlton Santiago in Chile includes a round at Hacienda Chicureo Golf Club. Playing the Green Course and Yellow Course at Buenos Aires Golf Club, and Carmelo Golf Club, the top course in Uruguay, highlight the three-night stay at the Four Season Hotel Buenos Aires in Argentina. MacKenzie worshippers won't get the opportunity to play the two courses he designed at The Jockey Club while visiting Buenos Aires in 1930. They aren't on the itinerary.
The Llao Llao Hotel & Resort, Golf – Spa, a golf getaway surrounded by the majestic Lake Nahuel Huapi near Patagonia, Argentina, will host a round on its resort course and another one at the nearby Chapelco Golf & Resort, home to a highly regarded track by Jack Nicklaus. After two rounds in Rio, the trip concludes with a round and two-night stay at the Four Seasons Peninsula Papagayo.
Various excursions and off-course adventures along the way will immerse golfers in the local culture at each stop.
"We really tried to insert the culture throughout the program," said Afrodite Pastroumas, director of product development for TCS World Travel. "There's the tango (dancing) in Buenos Aires, and the opportunity to see various sites and city tours."
For more information on The Best of South America Golf Tour, click here.