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The Lost Mackenzie

Courtesy of Jamie Zuberbuhler The Lost Mackenzie

Photo: Courtesy of Jamie Zuberbuhler

Anchorena was in the midst of developing 750 acres of the Boquerón property into one of the finest private parks in South America. He hired top talent for every aspect of the project. For the landscape design, he turned to the prominent German Hermann Botrich (famous for the Llao Llao hotel in Patagonia). Top Argentine architect Alejandro Bustillo was hired for the homes and buildings, and, on or about that March day, Alister MacKenzie was recruited for the golf course.

The course that the Good Doctor drew up for Anchorena turned out to be something special, even by MacKenzie’s standards. Though it would bear many hallmarks of other great courses he designed, it was in one way compellingly different: It features nine double greens of the sort that distinguish the Old Course at St. Andrews. The routing was an ingenious intertwining of two nine-hole loops, somewhat similar to that of Muirfield. MacKenzie apparently scouted the grounds, drew up the plans, handed them over and presumably collected a fee—but then the course was never built.

Why MacKenzie’s design for El Boquerón wasn’t executed remains a mystery. Instead, Anchorena hired Dentone to build a nine-hole course on the estancia grounds that, although situated in the location that MacKenzie had in mind, was only loosely based on his design. It too was called El Boquerón, it had a clubhouse, and golf was played on it for a generation by the Anchorena family and their friends. But after the patriarch’s death in 1951, the property was divided among his heirs, and the course gradually disappeared.

One of those heirs was Enrique Anchorena Jr., who turned the clubhouse into his permanent home and kept the original MacKenzie plans in a frame above the fireplace. There the document languished for the rest of the century, a faded star in the Englishman’s glittering career.

David Edel strides along the cobble-stones of Calle Defensa, moving purposefully through the crowd. It’s Sunday at the San Telmo market in Buenos Aires, a head-spinning indoor-outdoor antique fair set amid the splendid colonial architecture of one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. You can find practically anything here, from ornate silver maté gourds to stained-glass Art Deco doors to a vintage Bugatti racer just perfect for a spin at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Edel is a forty-year-old PGA professional from Reedsport, Oregon, a depressed timber town that lies about an hour north of Bandon Dunes, and a protégé of Ben Doyle, the sage of Quail Lodge and one of the nation’s foremost interpreters of the instructional treatise The Golfing Machine. But Edel only teaches the full swing on occasion, instead focusing on expanding his trade in the custom-made putters he sells at such places as Pebble Beach and Barton Creek (see "Fitter Flatsticks," May/June 2007), as well as on his side projects in watchmaking, fly-fishing reels and hand-tooled leather goods. Nothing gets him going more than good old-fashioned craftsmanship, whether it’s a putter, a racecar, or an exquisite pair of polo boots from Casa Fagliano, the 115-year-old family-run workshop in suburban Buenos Aires.

With Enrique Hernández accompanying him, Edel has a couple of items on his San Telmo wish list. For one, he’s trying to corner the market on medallions from the Jockey Club—silver tokens, stamped with the year, signifying the bearer’s membership at one of the world’s great sporting clubs. San Telmo is awash in them, it seems, and Edel scores at least ten in excellent condition. After a few detours, he finds the second part of the day’s scavenger hunt—a set of leather-bound volumes containing well-preserved issues of El Golfer Argentino. An entire generation of the nation’s golf history, from 1931 to 1960, lives within these pages.

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