It was 6:30 a.m. as my Brazilian golf adventure began. Dressed for the course, golf bag in hand, there was no doubt as to my mission — I was off to spend a day on the links at the Guarapiranga Golf and Country Club. My driver, all 5 feet of him, was waiting for me in the hotel lobby, ready to negotiate the cost of the trip to the course. “120 for real trip,” he said. “Round trip?” I asked through the concierge who was acting as our interpreter. “He say ok,” came the reply.
Negotiations concluded, off we went for a magical tour through the graffiti-covered streets of São Paulo. I had arranged my tee time at the suggestion of associates who advised “the earlier the better” in order to avoid the massive traffic jams for which São Paulo is known. After hearing scores of terrifying crime stories, I was pleasantly surprised by Brazil’s most populous city.
After a good hour of navigating city streets that go on forever in a never-ending maze, we hopped onto what I’ll call a “quasi-freeway” for the last few miles to the course. My associates were right. By setting out early in the morning, we had managed to avoid the steady stream of traffic that was building up as we neared our destination. We turned onto a dirt road that meandered through urban, suburban and finally rural landscape.
Fascinated, I wondered, “What’s a golf course doing way out here?” as we passed humble homes and rustic shacks. This was obviously a place where people worked the land. Children were walking barefoot along the road; chickens squawked at every home, and the dirt road kicked up dust that covered the jungle foliage with a layer of dry earth.
Our average speed never exceeded 10 mph during this 30-minute stretch of our journey, as my driver stopped to ask directions along the way. Clearly, he had never been to this course before. We encountered children playing and adults walking along the road, but rarely did we meet up with another vehicle. When we did, we had to pull over, because the road was only wide enough for one car at a time. Finally I began to notice signs — a small picture of a golfer on a wooden post.
At last we arrived at the iron-fenced enclave and approached security. Stepping into the clubhouse, I announced, “Here to play golf,” but the beautiful women staffing the front desk didn’t understand English. Fortunately, the golf pro, Danilo, was on hand to expedite communication. Charismatic and eager to make my day enjoyable, he asked “Where are you from, New York?” as he proudly showed me the clubhouse and practice range. On this particular day, I was the only American, in fact the only foreigner, on the course.
If you’re not a walker, this course may not be for you. With sufficient advance notice, many foreign courses, including this one, can arrange a golf cart, but be prepared to hear comments like, “Only old women use carts.”
My caddie, Carlo — a boy of about 15 — and I communicated through a series of gestures and modified sign language. The course is not the most prestigious in the city, but it is in very good shape. Truth told, it’s a pretty long trek even for residents of São Paulo.
I particularly enjoyed playing hole No. 7, a 565-yard par-5 dogleg right. I hit a magnificent drive and, of course, decided to use the driver again on the second shot, much to the dismay of my caddie. For the record, he was right.
The course features six par 3s, one of which is an extraordinary 192-yard hole over a small pond. The finishing hole is a long par-4 uphill; even with a good drive, you’ll still have about 180 to the green.
Throughout the game, whenever we encountered another group, they waved us through. In my experience, golfers overseas are much more likely to wave other players through without the delay you may experience in the United States. Speeding throughout the course in record time we finished the entire 18 holes in 2 1⁄2 hours.
After paying and tipping my caddie, I headed out in search of the golf pro, who opened the pro shop so I could purchase a few caps and shirts at bargain prices. He also showed me the restaurant. The clubhouse has a large informal dining room — just right for an end-of-game snack and drink. I ordered a local dish that consisted of a steak with a fried egg on top — perfect accompanied by a few Brazilian beers as I watched groups I had passed make their way to the finishing hole and putt out at 18.
Guarapiranga Golf and
Estrada do Jaceguava
Parelheiros — C.P. 12428
São Paulo, Brazil
tel 55 11 5979-2366, fax 55 11 5979 2250
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