Boating, Golf and Polo: living the dream in Buenos Aires
Boating, Golf, and Polo: living the dream in Buenos Aires
In the River Plate edge of the great Pampas, Buenos Aires allows polo, golf, yachting, and motor boating enthusiasts to literally live steps from their playgrounds.
Numerous modern megalopolis dwellers move into central areas to reduce commute times to their workplaces. Come their free time, they recur to ingenious exercises: urban bicycle lanes, rooftop running trails, indoor gyms, skating rings, or simply walking the cat around the block. Yet many others yearn for the great outdoors and choose to have nature, sport and open spaces at their very doorstep. Initially, only the owners of the big ranch (“estancia”) had enough land to include a sports field. Still, some years ago, many closed neighbourhoods (“countries”) were planned and built around facilities, spreading a lifestyle closer to nature less than an hour´s drive from city comforts.
Polo is the second most popular sport in Argentina (behind soccer), attracting numerous spectators to the games and players all sex and ages. Introduced by the British in the late XIX century, it was readily adopted and thrived, fueled by flat lands, temperate climate and the extended culture of horse keeping and horsemanship. Today the mythical all-pro September to December season is considered the best in the sport, boasting Triple Crown championships Tortugas Open, Hurlingham Open and Argentine Open in Palermo. Most handicap 10 players are from Argentina, and for the last 40 years, there have even been 80-goal (perfect handicap) exhibition matches for the national superstars in Buenos Aires.
Polo match on the Asociación Argentina de Polo fields in Pilar municipality: Source diario resumen
For generations, traditional polo families (Heguy, Pieres, Cambiaso, Novillo Estrada and others) lived in estancias. They taught their children to ride and play almost from the age they could walk and on to professionalism. With the sport’s popularity, real estate developments started to be organized around polo fields and clubs. Almost a hundred registered clubs in the Buenos Aires province are localized mostly in Pilar-Tortugas, with others scattered near villages such as Cañuelas, Vicente Casares, General Las Heras, San Miguel del Monte, Brandsen, Lobos or Canning, all within a 70 km radius from Buenos Aires City.
Enthusiasts may opt for equestrian estates with their own polo field, dedicated compounds with individual lots facing the practice fields, membership, and horse keeping in a club, or even staying at Polo hotels catering to players and international polo tours.
Those wanting a less physically challenging sport to turn to another British- introduced one: golf, often within the same country developments. In a radius of 90km of central Buenos Aires, there are about 90 courses registered in the Argentine Golf Association. At least 15 of these golf clubs are high-quality ones with unique characteristics, such as San Andrés (1892, oldest course in Argentina), Buenos Aires (1994, host of World Championship 2010), Olivos (1926, best park design and #1 in Argentina in Golf Digest ranking), Pilar (1992, only par 6 -665 yards- in South America), Pilará and Nordelta (2008 & 2012, designed by Jack Nicklaus).
Courses are designed to be walked the traditional British way, though the more modern ones adopted the modern American style with service lanes for carts. All offer circuits of varying difficulty, classes and clinics for all ages, expertise levels and commitment to the game, often dictated by Argentine golf superstars.
Most clubs are run by the owner’s associations with very different policies, so tee-time booking for non-members is best made through specialized tour operators offering booking, transport, clubs, snacks and English-speaking guides and caddies to foreigners and locals.
In golf country developments, lots with a view of the course are at a premium, but many owners opt for smaller houses or apartments (“dormies”) in collective buildings with the right to use the sports facilities. Clubs and courses are associated with exclusive hotels, while some have no lodging.
Buenos Aires also offers live-the-dream options for another quintessential lifestyle sport: boating in all its forms thrives in San Isidro, San Fernando, Tigre and Escobar.
Satellite view of marinas in San Fernando, at the confluence of Luján and Plate rivers. Source: google maps
On the coast just north of the capital city, the Lujan River marks the beginning of the Tiger Delta, thousands of islands in a maze of quiet waterways that drain the Paraná into the River Plate. At the mouth, the Lujan right bank lowlands have been modelled into marinas, yacht clubs and closed compounds (boating countries) where each house or dormie apartment has its own boat slip. On weekends, sail and motor boats by the dozen leave for regattas, cruises to Uruguay across the River Plate or just around for a “doggie walkabout”. On working days, owners benefit from land access through good highways.
The country clubs continue upriver past the National Rowing Field and into Escobar, most organized around lagoons where small craft water sports are practised.
On the left bank, the area nearest to Tigre Port up to Paraná de las Palmas River concentrates the tourism, recreation, and water sports options. Dwellings range from individual lots to whole private islands, including small farm (“chacras”) complexes, boating villages of individual lots or apartment buildings and hotels. Each one has some sort of dock and water transportation: rowboats, sports launches, motor yachts, sailboats or enormous catamarans.
Further into the Delta, the big houses and private parks are outnumbered by willow, pine and poplar tree farms. The inhabitants rely on their own boats plus a public transport system (“colectivas”) that may be booked with the same intelligent card as urban buses and even on floating grocery stores.
Sporting life certainly has a different pace than Wifi in the living room.
Research: Alice Bonet
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