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The Lost Mackenzie

Courtesy of Jamie Zuberbuhler The Lost Mackenzie

Photo: Courtesy of Jamie Zuberbuhler

"A couple of things interest me about that hole from a player’s standpoint," Edel says. "It has the only curving play line that he drew on these plans, which I take to mean it’s a short four. But it also has the aspect of running downhill, and on the original property it would have played into a left-to-right crosswind. All of those things factor into the risk-reward equation." To that end, he’s determined to find a site where the prevailing wind works in a similar way: "Without it, the plans don’t make nearly as much sense."

Edel also points out that the compact nature of the routing, with its abundance of shared playing areas, would have a bearing on the atmosphere of the club. "The way the holes link together, the Boquerón would have a really great social element. It wouldn’t be the type of course where every hole is off on its own. That makes a lot of sense given that it was a design for a private estate course—it was meant to entertain and to bring people together.

"I want to create a club where you’d drive all the way across town just to have lunch, and when you enter, you feel your past," he says. "A place where you show up and say, ’This is my home.’" One might find sentiments like these fairly commonplace for someone seeking to develop a new golf property. But for Edel a concept like "tradition" must be grounded in reality, because it’s all around him—at the San Telmo market, at the Jockey Club, at El Boquerón. Fifteen years of cultivating friendships and immersing himself in the culture of Argentina has brought him the chance of a lifetime, and he is determined to reward those who would entrust him with an artifact of such significance.

At the celebratory asado at El Boquerón, all the principals are in festive moods. Edel—who would take possession of the plans the next day in the men’s grill of the Jockey Club, beneath a portrait of the Good Doctor—reflected on how everything came together. In his view, once he realized that he might use his savings to acquire the drawing and then commit a major part of his life to getting the course built, it all came down to Zuberbühler. "The important decision was Jaime’s to make," says Edel. "I just had to be ready when he was. And sure, this is a lot of money [a mid-five-figure number] to me, and my wife asked questions that I didn’t have all the answers for. But it was always enough to think about how I could be connected to the history of Alister MacKenzie. That’s something that can be passed down through generations of my own family—that I was involved in something great."

For Zuberbühler, although he wanted a respectable sum for this piece of his family’s history, it was never about the money. What intrigued him about Edel was the American’s genuine interest in Argentine golf, history and culture, as well as his track record as a true craftsman. Also, before they even met, Edel had turned to golf course architect Dr. Michael Hurdzan—who has one of the world’s largest collections of golf artifacts and has played every MacKenzie course in existence—to write a letter putting the item in perspective, both historically and financially. Impressed, Zuberbühler then invited Edel to visit him in Argentina, where the two hit it off like old friends.

Their contract is a relatively simple document, governing use of the plans and the Boquerón and Anchorena names. The most notable aspects of the agreement reflect Zuberbühler’s abiding goal: to play golf at El Boquerón. At sixty-eight, he still owns a respectable game. A nine handicap, he’s been making noise lately in senior competitions at the Jockey Club—but he can’t wait forever. To that end, Edel has a five-year window of opportunity to break ground on the project, or the plans can revert to Zuberbühler’s control. (The contract also establishes founding memberships for Zuberbühler and Enrique Anchorena III, plus private cottages for their use when visiting.)

Now that he is on the clock, Edel has begun his search for an architect, and Hurdzan is a leading contender. "It would be a fantastic project to work on," Hurdzan says. "There’s lots of design information even though it’s a fairly simple plan, so it’s basically a gigantic paint-by-numbers [drawing]. It doesn’t have a scale on it—which in some ways lends a bit more freedom—but it would need to be paired with another of his plans that has elevations and green details." A key to unlocking this piece of the puzzle could be found in the plans (which still exist) for the Golf Club of Uruguay. That course was designed a mere two months after El Boquerón, making them sister courses, stylistically.

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