Garzon Tajamares Golf Club
Hidden in the hills of Uruguay
You won't find this course on any "best of" lists - either in South America or Uruguay - yet. The key word is yet. It has been the backyard playground of one of South America's richest men for years. It grew from 3 holes all the way to 21 before two-time major champ, Angel Cabrera of Argentina, redesigned it from 2013-15.
The club has changed its name from Los Tajamares to Garzon Tajamares and last May became the world's first "PGA Tour Preferred Golf Course," a designation similar to the TPC (Tournament Players Club) brand. That could open the exclusive club to more outside play from TPC members and others.
I played it on back-to-back windy days and marveled at its solitude. It's truly hidden in the hills (you can't see owner's house). A tent set up on a pond near the 15th green serves as a temporary clubhouse.
The rolling landscape and 10 ponds give the course its character and shot-making. For example, the signature 12th hole features three different ponds where you can lose a ball - off the tee, in the landing area of the approach and the massive lake guarding the green. This par 5 bends right as it drops in elevation to an intimidating peninsula green. I lost a ball in the second pond each time, and I'm dying to play it again to conquer it. That's the kind of course this is. It's straightforward in its presentation, yet the subtleties are hard to master without more than a couple rounds. There are so many tricky tough holes that are fun to play - the short par-4 third with a waterfall feature near the green; the narrow par-5 fourth that doglegs hard left at the end; the blind tee shot at No. 8, leading to a long approach over a pond from a downhill lie; etc.
The second round morphed into a battle for a made-up version of the 'Presidents Cup' between a twosome of American writers against two Garzon team members. This is where the course really shined. It delivered great match-play thrills, where every hole provided the opportunity for a heroic birdie or an agonizing bogey (or worse).
It will be a great members course for any golfer lucky enough to join The Garzon Club, a partnership offering the best of food, wine and golf with the nearby Bodega Garzon Winery.
I'm certain once enough raters, writers and influential golfers play Garzon Tajamares, the word will spread. This place is special.