Home to one of the greatest natural wonders of the world, the Amazon, Brazil now has something to offer the golf traveller too
On the map, Brazil’s vast expanse dominates the South American continent: a face-shaped land of powdery white-sand beaches, bird-filled rain-forests and rolling plains. As South America’s only Portuguese-speaking nation, Brazil boasts plenty of fine colonial settlements and relics. It also contains some of the world’s most extraordinary landscapes, from red-rock canyons and magnificent waterfall cascades to one of the world’s greatest areas of biodiversity – the mighty Amazon. Home to the biggest collection of plant and animal species found anywhere on earth, the Amazon is otherworldly. It’s responsible for supplying over half of the planet’s oxygen and for hosting over 30 per cent of all known plant and animal species, including an estimated 1,800 types of birds, 250 different mammals and more than 2,000 species of fish.
Beyond the rainforest, no visit to Brazil is complete without some beach-time on Rio de Janeiro’s iconic sands, where skimpy beachwear, volleyball and cold glasses of caipirinha – Brazil’s national cocktail – go hand-in-hand. Watch crowds celebrate Carnaval in Rio underneath the spread-armed statue of Christ the Redeemer amidst sassy samba processions and outrageous costumes. Sway to powerful drumbeats through the streets of Salvador or revel in Sao Paulo’s DJ beats. Five different climatic regions ensure there’s something for every sports fan, from beach soccer to fishing to golf at 75 courses.
Brazil has a strong, if relatively recent golfing history with the Brazil Open (Alberto do Brazil) founded in 1945 and Brazil remaining a firm PGA fixture today. It was almost 10 decades ago that British engineers working on Brazil’s railways sweet-talked some Benedictine monks into setting aside a patch of land for the game on a monastery near Sao Paulo. Today Brazilian golf continues to ramp-up its modest pro golf circuit with homegrown talent Lucas Lee as the game’s inspirational poster boy. The Brazilian golf federation recently trained 50,000 physical education teachers as part of a Golf Para Vida (Golf for Life) campaign to encourage a whole new generation of schoolchildren to pick up a set of golf clubs. As a nation, it needs more courses; it seems unfathomable that a land nearly 300 times larger than North Dakota has the same number of golf courses. The good news is there are new golf courses slated for development in 2018/19, and the Brazilian Tourist Board is working hard to seduce travelling golfers into combining sunshine, samba and super-slick greens, an enticing prospect that has certainly attracted a growing number of golfing groups.
Golf’s return to the Olympics took place in Rio: the host of Olympic golf for the first time since 1904. The brand new Rio 2016 Olympic Golf Course, opened to commemorate the occasion. Designed by Gil Hanse, it has had a shaky start as Brazil’s legacy for sports development but this top-notch facility is one to watch in 2018. The Terravista, on the east coast near Trancoso, is a firm favourite with travelling golfers. Designed by Dan Blankenship, the course sits atop imposing cliffs where the Portuguese sailors arrived over 500 years ago. Sao Paulo’s Santapazienza is Tom and Logan Fazio’s first golf course design in Brazil, and the dramatic drops and rises in elevation make this unlike any other Brazilian 18-hole.