When you venture far to the north and far to the south on this planet, the landscapes begin to grow more similar the closer you get to the poles. If you end your journey a little farther from those extremes, where golf courses can take root, the environments—and the golf experiences—are altogether different.
The terrain that some of the northernmost golf courses traverse is rugged, and the golfers who venture there for memorable rounds should embody a similar spirit. Turn yourself around and venture to the southernmost courses on the planet, however, and the land, the layouts, and the very experience of playing golf changes significantly.
Here, I spotlight six of the southernmost courses on the planet. Which one would you play first?
Patagonia Virgin Club de Golf—Frutillar, Los Lagos, Chile
When the front nine at Patagonia Virgin Club de Golf in the lakes region of Patagonia first opened for play in 2015, local Chileans were introduced to Jack Nicklaus’s interpretation of links golf. Comprised of wide fairways that spill over gentle contours, the first nine holes at this club deliver dramatic vistas with views of several of the area’s six nearby volcanoes. Some of those holes were also designed around giant, native trees, which reflect the region’s inherently dramatic landscape.
The back nine, which opened shortly thereafter, offers an entirely different landscape through which to play. Covering 3,457 yards, those inward holes meander through a native forest on the west side of the golf club’s property and challenge players with significant changes in elevation. Fortunately, poor shots or high scores are easily forgotten given that the back nine delivers views that are as stunning—maybe more so—than the outgoing holes on the front. – golfpatagonia.com
Club de Golf del Uruguay—Montevideo, Uruguay
A visit to Club de Golf del Uruguay in the southernmost section of Uruguay’s capital city is primarily motivated by two factors: 1.) It allows you to play golf in a South American country home to only a dozen courses; and 2.) It provides access to an Alister MacKenzie layout that is open to the public—one that still transports you to the golf’s Golden Age, even as the city’s high rises have grown up around it.
“You’ll find some of his signature designs here,” Carlos Crispo, a former captain of the club, once said of MacKenzie’s revered architectural work, explaining that the club has invested resources over the years to safeguard the layout, keeping the course as authentic as possible. “We don’t want to lose the MacKenzie design. It’s very interesting and important to us. We want to preserve that.”
Built during the early 1930s, the urban layout stretches to a maximum length of 6,680 yards and features many tree-lined corridors, some of which are home to relatively narrow fairways. Small putting surfaces—some defined by bold contours—sweeping greenside bunkers, and bulbous green complexes with false fronts and notably pitched run-off areas are the primary characteristics that defend against low scores. Simply put, it’s easy to imagine golfers in shirt sleeves, ties, and plus-fours walking these fairways, which is quite a statement given the far-flung nature of the golf club’s destination. – cgu.uy
Chapelco Golf & Resort—San Martin de los Andes, Argentina
More than a decade before Jack Nicklaus completed the front nine of his Chilean course, Patagonia Virgin Club de Golf, he and his son, Jack Nicklaus II, were carefully carving out the playing corridors for this 7,168-yard layout that stretches across the foothills of the Andes Mountains in western Argentina. The course is punctuated by deep greens and plays alongside and around numerous species of conifer trees. In fact, when Nicklaus and his son tackled the project, they aimed to manipulate the land as little as possible with the goal of creating a course that not only was surrounded by the mountains, streams, ponds, and native fauna of the area, but in the end looked as if it had existed in that setting for the better part of a century.
In the second volume of The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, Tom Doak and his co-writers described the course as “a solid design on fairly gentle terrain.” Though they criticized the layout for its lack of holes “that will get your blood pumping,” they did point to strong winds that routinely gust through the valley as a likely explanation for Nicklaus’s desire to keep the architecture gentle. – chapelcogolf.com
St. Francis Links—St. Francis Bay, South Africa
First-time visitors to St. Francis Links on the southern coast of South Africa would be wise to read the opening page of the 7,191-yard course’s yardage book. “The Milkwood [tree] is protected throughout the course and the development,” it states. “Play over her, under her, or around her. If you try to play through her, she will win. She always does!”
As a true parcel of links land, St. Francis Links serves as a modern interpretation of a course that embraces a game played between the dunes and the bush, where players are subjected to the wind and the rain. Those familiar with the layout will point to the bunkers as the course’s defining feature. Similar to classic links designs from centuries past, St. Francis also succeeds for leading golfers in all different directions, meaning they must constantly adapt to the wind and the changing angles at which it impacts them.
Most notable of all, the putting surfaces at this 16-year-old course are a true reflection of the site’s natural, wind-blown topography. Some are more undulating than others, which only reveals that some areas were more exposed to the wind. According the resort, Nicklaus allowed the shape of the greens to change during construction as he saw how the property’s sand-based terrain shifted with the wind. – stfrancislinks.com
Clearwater Golf Course—Christchurch, New Zealand
Built upon ground that was once farmland, this 7,124-yard layout, conceived by course developer John Darby and celebrated designer Sir Bob Charles, meanders its way around and across numerous manmade lakes and trout-filled streams. For that reason alone, the course seems a good representation of the American parkland style. Yet, golfers here can expect links-like weather—especially the wind—which makes avoiding those aforementioned water hazards all the more challenging.
At the Old Course at St. Andrews, a prudent strategy is to always aim (or miss) to the left. At Clearwater, it’s just the opposite, as more than a third of the holes feature sprawling water hazards that run almost the entire length of the playing corridors. Needless to say, if you can keep your ball dry during a round at Clearwater, you’re one big step closer to posting a good score. – clearwatergolf.co.nz
Geeveston Golf Club—Geeveston, Tasmania
Unlike the other courses on this list, Geeveston Golf Club is the closest to replicating the ruggedness of some of the planet’s northernmost layouts. Comprised of nine holes, which stretch out 2,704 yards (or just over 5,400 yards, if you play a full 18), the course is set on the outskirts of Geeveston—a small town in southern Tasmania that is home to fewer than 1,500 people (based on 2021 census data). Given its location in Tasmania’s southern forests, which can be cool throughout the year, the club urges all players to “make sure you have a warm jacket and wet weather gear.”
The course, itself, may also be a bit rugged from time to time, which is understandable once you learn that the grounds are cared for by the club’s members and also volunteers from the local community. As for the playing experience, the fairways are treelined but wide, and the course meanders across mostly flat terrain. Don’t expect much in the way of dynamic course architecture or signature holes. Instead, a round at Geeveston is one that’s played for the bragging rights (and the experience) of teeing it up beyond the southern hemisphere’s 43rd parallel. – geevestongc.com.au
What is the furthest flung golf destination you have visited?