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The Lost Mackenzie

Courtesy of Jamie Zuberbuhler The Lost Mackenzie

Photo: Courtesy of Jamie Zuberbuhler

Neither did Anchorena’s family make a fuss over the plans. Toward the end of the 1990s, Enrique Anchorena Jr. sold his portion of the Boquerón property, including the clubhouse and grounds of the old course, out of the family (and to the family’s disappointment). He would spend the last decade of his life in a hotel in Mar del Plata, where he died last year, a few months shy of his one-hundredth birthday. Before he moved out of his home, however, fate intervened.

One day in 1998, Anchorena’s nephew, Jaime Zuberbühler, was visiting his uncle in his clubhouse home. In passing, he expressed interest in making a color copy of the MacKenzie plans, still hanging over the fireplace, for his home. Much to his surprise, Anchorena gave him the framed original. "At the time I wasn’t even thinking about the value," Zuberbühler told me when I met with him. "I thought I’d put it in my home in Buenos Aires, and I’d be very proud to have it."

As a Jockey Club member, Zuberbühler daydreamed, of course, about bringing the course to life, but he couldn’t picture it being anywhere other than on his family’s land, where he still had his summer home. And his uncle’s sale of the clubhouse and the design’s intended acreage had made this an impossible dream. So he safeguarded the plans for several years, discussing them occasionally with friends—including Hernández’s Jockey Club pal, Pedro Cossio. Eventually Hernández sought out Zuberbühler with some news: Having heard about the plans and after turning it over in his head for several years, Edel had had an inspiration. He wanted to acquire the drawing, but not as another flea-market trophy to decorate his mantelpiece. Edel wanted to buy the plans and have the course they depicted built—in the United States.

The idea of a "new" MacKenzie course—one based on a routing that, with its nine double greens, manages to put even the Old Course, which has seven, in the shade—is irresistible. What would El Boquerón look like?For one thing, there would be plenty of quirks: With its crossing shots, tees in front of bunkers and gigantic greens, the course was not designed to handle the masses. It would also probably be fairly forgiving off the tee. The architect advocated economy in construction to such an extent that he declined to draw a single fairway bunker, even on an estate course where money was no object (though those squiggles on the plans represent curros, Argentina’s steroidal answer to gorse and surely no picnic for ball hunters).

To say that El Boquerón would defend par primarily around the greens, in classic Alister MacKenzie fashion, would be an understatement: The architect who takes on this project will have the chance to build some of the wildest putting surfaces ever realized. The greens bear more than a passing resemblance to those at the Golf Club of Uruguay, which according to Tom Doak, James Scott and Raymund Haddock’s biography, The Life and Work of Dr. Alister MacKenzie, had as much as six feet of relief in certain places before the club softened them. So El Boquerón would likely need to disregard today’s quest for lightning-quick greens to keep those contours playable.

The design itself is precisely rendered in colored ink on a two-by-three-foot drawing board; the distinct lettering, a common feature of MacKenzie’s work, speaks to the architect’s attention to detail. The best point of reference when studying them is the clubhouse (represented by the rectangle at the bottom of the plans). Imagine a broad hillside gently sloping down from it—the original clubhouse overlooked the entire course—and one begins to get a sense of how the various holes work with or against the inclination of the land. For example, the par-five ninth would be a tough uphill trek, and the tenth, which appears to be almost as long on paper, could be a classic half-par hole in the 480- to 500-yard range.

MacKenzie’s intertwined loops, with no two consecutive holes running in the same direction, made ingenious use of a piece of land that, while attractive, was not especially large. Situating the par fives on the perimeter opened up possibilities for the interior, where all kinds of entertaining features await. "I love the intimacy of those inner holes," Edel says. "That part of the course is all about finesse." The heart of El Boquerón features great moments, such as back-to-back one-shotters at numbers four and five, each guarded by its own jagged expanse of sand; the approach to the crescent-moon green of the sixth; and the wonderful fourteenth, which appears to be a drivable par four that tempts golfers to thread the needle between its two fronting bunkers.

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