Dallas based Hicks Trans American Partners develops new mountain resort in South America
by Larry Olmsted
Many travelers put Patagonia near the top of their wish list for a vacation. Now some are considering the naturally gorgeous destination for a vacation home.
El Desafio mountainsEl Desafio is the first serious real estate development in Argentinean Patagonia, a project of Dallas-based Hicks Trans American Partners, aimed at an outdoor, equestrian and golfing clientele. While the facilities are impressive, the most compelling asset is the unique location in the Lakes District of Northern Patagonia, where a seemingly endless series of incredibly clean, crystalline lakes wind through valleys in the heart of the Andes, the world’s second highest mountain range. This area is home to innumerable species found only here, some of the best fly fishing on earth, and endless hiking, biking and horse trails through vast expanses of totally untouched land. For all practical purposes, Argentinean Patagonia extends from here south to the end of the earth.
Befitting the incredible natural setting, the project includes massive reserves of protected land, stunning views and a brand new Greg Norman designed golf course – the Great White Shark’s first venture into South America.
El Desafio mountain golf courseThe El Desafio mountain resort community is slated to include a luxury hotel, and spans an impressive 1000+ hectares, or about 2500-acres. The local response among South American buyers has already been strong, with about 150 lots sold despite limited facilities finished. Home sites are large, and only 740 of the acres are slated for residential development. Plans also include a limited number of low rise luxury condos in addition to custom homes. The first phase, just completed, includes all the underground sewer, water and electric infrastructure for residential construction, along with the first of two world-class polo fields. The Argentineans are mad about polo, and buyers are already training and playing while the first houses are being built (5 homes are under construction). One El Desafio shareholder is John Muse, a top player and the recent winner of three important polo tournaments in Santa Barbara, CA, who will be on hand February 5-6 for the grand opening celebration, the first El Desafio Polo Cup. Extensive equestrian facilities also include training areas, stables and riding for all abilities.
El Desafio peakOf the 2500 very natural acres, 600 are set aside as a nature preserve, and the lifestyle will have an emphasis on the great outdoors, with trekking and mountain biking, including trails and mountain shelters throughout the property. Owners have access to some of South America’s best skiing in winter, which is summer in North America. This reversal of seasons is also tempting for winter golf and fishing getaways from the colder US climates – besides horses and now golf, the area’s traditional appeal is its fly fishing, something Patagonia is world renowned for, long attracting serious anglers from around the globe.
The new hotel will include a substantial spa available to owners, plus two clubhouses, one for golf and one for polo, and work has already begun on the 7,100-yard Greg Norman Signature course. Being in the Andes, it will feature dramatic elevation changes, and is routed through two very different environments, a dense pine forest at lower altitude and the open meadows of a mountain plateau with sweeping vistas of some of the tallest peaks on earth, snow covered year round. Norman has taken special care to use his par-3s to frame this natural setting, and each one promises to be a stunner. With 5 sets of tees, the course will offer enjoyment and challenge for golfers of all abilities.
Greg Norman”It will be my first ever course in South America,” said Norman. “I have designed mountain courses before, but this course will be unique with its dramatic backdrops and rugged beautiful terrain. We spent a lot of time trying to ensure the best routing for this beautiful piece of property, we wanted to use a least disturbance approach and create great golf at the same time. It’s going to be a spectacular golf course.”
In keeping with the overall aesthetic of the development, the course will be eco-friendly, and more than half of its acreage is preserved native areas, with the routing carefully planned to avoid removal of any significant trees or disturbance of important habitat. It also uses a brand new type of gravity fed sprinkler system to provide irrigation without power consuming pumps. In the past 12 moths all eighteen fairways have been cleared and construction is well underway.