Golfing Amazon Style, From The Fringe

by Captain Bill

Jeff Sutherland, publisher of Inside Golf Magazine, and www.insidegolf.ca, sent Mike Collis an email saying in part, “…I have taken the liberty of visiting your site and then written a piece about your amazing achievement. Please note we ran this in our 5,000 subscriber newsletter and in the summer issue of our magazine…”

Golfing Amazon Style, From The Fringe

I'm going to dine on this forever. What other golfer can claim to have lost a finger tip to a piranha while playing golf.

I'm going to dine on this forever. What other golfer can claim to have lost a finger tip to a piranha while playing golf.

In the campy British “Carry On” movies of the 1960s, there was a scene where the explorers emerge from a jungle trail to find themselves in the middle of civilization. Little did Birmingham, England native and past Vancouver resident Mike Collis realize that he would write his own golfing version when he decided to move to Iquitos, Peru. “Iquitos was then a town without a golf course.” Collis recalls. “Other expats like me missed our golf so much that in January 2004 we decided to found our own.”

Mike Collis, visionary of the Amazon Golf Club

Mike Collis, visionary of the Amazon Golf Club

Given that this was the world’s largest city without any road access, this might seem a tough undertaking, but Collis had already proven that he could get things done. In 1999 Mike had come up with the idea of a rafting race down the Amazon River, an annual event that now attracts teams from around the world. So the idea of putting a golf course in a community where virtually no-one had ever held a club might not have been as daunting as first thought.

It started with getting more than 60 “Founder Members” from 14 different countries to buy shares and fund construction. Once they had the financing in place, a site was selected and work started on the Amazon Golf Club. Volunteers and workers carved holes out of second growth jungle taking every precaution possible to limit ecological disturbance and, four long years after breaking ground, the first official golfer, Johan Ohrling of Sweden tee’d it up May 1st, 2008 on the 2,500-yard, 9 hole layout that included 4 par-threes, 4 par-fours, and 1 par-five.

Still if you plan to follow in Johan’s foot steps you should remember this is not your mother’s golf course.

At the Amazon Club, it’s not so much about birdies and eagles; it’s more about the boas, ‘gators and piranhas.

Greens here are elevated for a reason

Greens here are elevated for a reason

This is likely the only course in the world where golfers are provided with a machete before they tee off and warned about the wildlife.

“We always, always tell golfers not to retrieve balls from the water traps unless they really are intent on feeding the local wildlife,” says Collis.

One visitor who did not heed this advice will have a reminder of his indiscretion for the rest of his life.

In 2008, David Parry from Wales, a 7-handicapper, tried to retrieve a ball from the pond near to the 2nd green. He recalls, “I could see my ball lying in about 6″ of water and decided to lift it out rather than lose a ball. As I put my left hand in to grab the ball, in an instant, a piranha came out of the shadows and bit off the tip of my little finger. It didn’t hurt at first but it did later, and as blood dripped into the water a whole shoal of the blighters appeared.”

Still David Parry was fairly sanguine about his loss, “I’m going to dine on this forever. What other golfer can claim to have lost a finger tip to a piranha while playing golf?”

Collis observed, “Mr. Parry was very lucky. The fish could have easily taken the whole finger…or more.”

This is not the only time that a tourist has had a run-in with a Amazon sized animal. Collis recounts the story of American Ron Shores who, while hiking was attacked by a 420 lbs, 22-foot Anaconda in a small creek. Luckily he was strong enough to remain standing while his companions came to his aid. His experienced guide wanted to shoot the snake but Ron insisted it be released.

American Ron Shores, with 420 lbs. anaconda

American Ron Shores, with 420 lbs. anaconda

One group of people who would not need to be given advice about the dangers of the jungle would be the locals…and getting local Peruvians to play is also a major goal for the course. There are special discounts for Peruvian players age 25 and younger to encourage them to get involved.

There is a mandate to get locals to start golfing

There is a mandate to get locals to start golfing

Green fees for guests are $25 for 18 holes and that includes 12 balls, clubs, and machete. Additional balls are $1 each. They ask that if you can, to bring extra balls to leave as they are hard to come by.

View from the recently built clubhouse

View from the recently built clubhouse

If coming to the Peruvian jungle might be a little too far to go just to play golf, they have also put together great 6 to 9 day packages where they arrange everything from flights from Lima to accommodation to golf at the course to a 3-day river tour down the Amazon. Prices start at a very reasonable $900 USD for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. As Mike Collis puts it in an understated English way, “Perhaps one day you might ‘nip’ over for a round of jungle golf.”

The Amazon Golf Club has a very entertaining blog on their website where you keep up with developments at the course. Visit www.amazongolfcourse.com to find out more.

Golfing Amazon Style, From The Fringe

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