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The São Paulo Area Golf Scene

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

Looking for a place to play golf in São Paulo, but not sure where to start? I’ve compiled an overview of the general golf scene in the greater metro region, with a focus on courses open to the public.

Golfer taking a putt shot

I’ve been a golfer since a very young age. I started playing with my parents in my hometown of Rockford, Illinois, playing on the many municipal golf courses in the area. Golf quickly became my favorite sport; I played for my high school golf team, and briefly for my college team as well. When I moved to Brazil in the mid-1990s, I got the urge to return to the game, but there were very few courses open to the public, and only a handful of exclusive, private courses in any case.


The Brazil golf scene began to change in the early 2000s, and I witnessed the accelerated development of the sport during that time. While golf has been around for over a century in Brazil, most of the time it was restricted to private country clubs, which were usually established by expat communities with business interests in the city—first the British, later the Americans. Although private clubs continue to account for a large percentage of golf courses in Brazil as well as the São Paulo metro area, many now allow limited public access at the minimum. Today, there are a substantial number of public access clubs and courses within a couple hours of the city. Over the last 20 years, there has been substantial growth in the number of private clubs, usually as part of gated community condominiums, within a 90-minute drive of São Paulo.


The number of golf courses and developments with courses continues to grow. Those I’ve played and have more detailed knowledge of are included in the following list.


General Notes on Golf in Brazil and São Paulo

Most clubs in Brazil are usually booked in advance for weekend mornings, and in some cases they are pre-booked through the early afternoon. Typically, green fees are lower during the week (and some courses only open to the public during the week). Weekends and holidays have a more expensive morning rate (until 11am or noon) and a lower afternoon rate.


Many of the courses have a caddie policy; even if you are using an electric cart, you will be required to have at least one caddie for the group. (It’s also a way for the clubs to monitor new players on their course in the absence of rangers.) Check ahead of time to see if this policy exists and inquire about the rate for the caddie—tipping is expected, though there is no standard percentage.


Most courses now have electric and push carts for rental, but the quality and availability can vary greatly. If you wish to rent a cart, make sure to call and reserve one ahead of time.


Course profiles

The following is a summary of the courses grouped by type and location. I’ve played at nearly all of them—though in some cases it has been a while—and have endeavored to get updated information from each club. Detailed information is provided on the public access clubs, and a basic summary is provided on the private and member-only clubs. I strongly suggest contacting the course/club ahead of time to confirm the rate, and if the course is open to the public at your desired time—even the public access courses are closed for general play when they have tournaments. Websites are provided for the course when available, and phone numbers for the few who do not have one.


Full public access

Most of the courses mentioned in this section are located outside of the São Paulo metro area, within an hour and a half of the main highways. They are freely open to the public, as well as offering nonexclusive memberships at monthly rates. They all have driving ranges, putting/short game areas, restaurants, and locker rooms with showers—though be sure to bring your own towel.


One of the first courses with public access, Terras de São Jose provides a challenging parkland experience of 18 holes. Located in Itu, about 90 kilometers (56 miles) from São Paulo, it was established in the early 1980s. Relatively short by today’s standards, Terras de São Jose puts a premium on accuracy with its narrow fairways and firm greens. While the course is very walkable, it can also be very hot and dry; electric carts are available for rent. Terras de São Jose has an open membership policy and is set in a gated community; most of the real estate is weekend, secondary housing for the homeowners. A relatively new Novotel is located nearby and can be a good base for a weekend away from the city.


Located a bit closer off the Castello Branco highway is Vista Verde, which opened in 2007 in Araçariguama, around 50 kilometers (30 miles) from São Paulo. Designed by American architect Dan Blankenship, and set amid a very hilly but beautiful area, the course is a mix of parkland and links styles. An electric cart is recommended, given the substantial elevation changes and distance between tees. The course is very challenging, with several carries over water and low-lying vegetation, making it less recommended for beginners or those with limited mobility.


Aruja Golf Club is around 65 kilometers (40 miles) from the city, off the Dutra highway near Guarulhos. It’s a challenging track: most holes are heavily tree lined, demand accuracy, and have a substantial number of water hazards and significant elevation changes. Membership is open and reasonably priced. The course also allows for non-members to easily play, and offers a discount voucher system.


Lago Azul Golf Club is located off the Castello Branco highway in a residential housing condominium outside Sorocaba, about 110 kilometers (68 miles) from São Paulo. The original 9 holes feature tight fairways in heavily treed parklands, laid out on a relatively flat area; the other 9 holes—added more recently—are more links in style, with few trees and wider fairways, but significant elevation changes. The course is open to the general public from Tuesday to Friday, and on the weekends after 11am. Unfortunately, they do not reserve tee times—call ahead to get an estimated waiting time.


The Paradise Golf course is associated with and next to the Club Med in Mogi das Cruzes. An 18-hole course built in the early 2000s, it’s around 90 kilometers (56 miles) from São Paulo via the Trabalhadores highway. The course is relatively flat with a parklands style layout—although the trees are smaller—with rather generous fairways. There are a number of water holes, including an island green. Play at the course is available for those staying at the resort, with a wide variety of other activities available, which makes it an interesting option for a weekend or longer getaway. Phone: (11) 4721-8926 / 99938-1339


Villa da Mata Golf Club is a relatively new 9-hole layout in a hotel and housing condominium, located off the Raposo Tavares highway in São Roque. The course is laid out in a very hilly area; while relatively short, it puts a premium on accuracy, especially off the tee. Electric carts are readily available.

Phone: (11) 4714-1091


São Francisco Golf Club is the closest golf course with public access, located in Osasco and part of the São Paulo metro area. The 9-hole layout dates from the 1930s and was originally established by the Matarazzo family. The course has a layout characterized by tight fairways, relatively small greens, and some substantial elevation changes. There are different tees and a few different greens, making for a unique 18-hole round. The course and clubhouse feel like they are from another era and have a certain charm. Caddies are required for all players.


Rounding out the public access courses is the Honda FPG Center, in the Jabaquara neighborhood of São Paulo, literally right next to the Congonhas Airport runways. The center features a short 9-hole pitch and putt course, designed for beginners of all ages. It also has 2-tiered driving range, a putting green and a short game area. The course has a lighting system which allows for rounds at night, plus a bar and restaurant.


golf greens edged with trees

Metro São Paulo Country Clubs

The traditional country clubs in the city of São Paulo were mostly established by the British—and later American—business communities which were important to Brazil’s industrialization. They are mostly member-only, so you will need a member to invite you to play, but many of these courses also sponsor charity tournaments and can be played that way as well.


Among the most exclusive are São Paulo Golf Club, located in the Santo Amaro neighborhood, and São Fernando Golfe Club, located in Cotia about 40 kilometers (25 miles) outside São Paulo off the Raposo Tavares highway. Clube de Campo, one of the oldest courses in São Paulo, is located off the Guarapiranga reservoir and features stunning views of both the city and the lake-like reservoir. While a private club, Clube de Campo is relatively open for non-members during weekends. Similarly, the Guarapiranga Golf Country Club is in the same general region as Clube de Campo, and is similarly welcoming of non-members for weekday play. Finally, PL Golf Club, located in Arujá, is a challenging course and features 27 holes. Though mostly for members, weekday play is possible by paying a green fee.


Home Owner Country Clubs – Interior

Courses such as Quinta da Baroneza, established in the early 2000s, is one of a number of residential country home developments with golf courses located 90 kilometers (56 miles) or less from São Paulo. Membership is usually limited to home/lot owners. Quinta is located in Bragança and can be reached off the Bandeirantes highway. Fazenda da Grama, in Itupeva and very close to Campinas off the Bandeirantes highway, is exclusively residential. Boa Vista, the most recent development, is much larger, with several different adjacent development modules and 36 holes, including courses designed by well-known golf architects. The easiest way onto these courses is through a member invitation, or through a corporate golf event.


Other Courses

Two other clubs should be mentioned for their proximity and ease of access to non-members. Campinas Golf club, located in nearby Sumaré off the Bandeirantes highway, is one of the furthest courses by time traveled (90+ minutes), but is a pleasant 18-hole parklands style track. In a completely different direction is the Guaruja Golf Club, located near the beach and near the Acapulco Guarujá housing complex. Though only 9 holes, several of the holes have substantially different routing, and the setting is really beautiful. Farther into the interior is Damha Golf club, which is located in São Carlos, nearly 3 hours from São Paulo. It is a modern, challenging course, and holds many events and tournaments.

 

This list of courses is not exhaustive. You can find a complete list of courses that are part of the São Paulo State Golf Federation (Federação Paulista de Golfe) on their website. Be aware that some courses listed there are purely private (owned by individuals), and the information on the site is not always up to date. A list of courses in other states can be found on the site for the Confederação Brasileira de Golfe.


Best of luck on the course!


 

Images from Pexels. Photos by Jopwell and 10 Star.

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