GCA met architect Tom Fazio at Comporta in Portugal, the site of the country’s proposed Ryder Cup course.
With decision day approaching in the competition to host the 2018 Ryder Cup, the Portuguese bid is ramping up a drive to attract attention and win back ground lost by its late start.
GCAtravelled to Comporta on the Alentejo coast, around an hour south of Lisbon, recently, to view the site and meet key people behind the development. The Herdade da Comporta development is an ambitious new resort project, involving two planned golf courses, hotels and associated real estate. Owners the Espirito Santo group, who control Portugal’s largest private bank, have committed to building both courses whether or not the Ryder Cup bid is successful, but do concede that the timescale will be shifted if the Cup is not won.
Veteran American architect Tom Fazio is designing the proposed Ryder Cup course. Comporta represents Fazio’s first project in Europe after nearly forty years in the business, a result of his long-held determination to stay close to home while his six children were growing up. One of those children, son Logan, is now president of Fazio Golf Course Designers, and the elder Fazio said, was responsible for the firm taking on the Comporta project.
“There are some people who will tell you that the land is the most important factor when it comes to building a golf course but that’s simply not true,” Fazio said. “We have a great piece of land here but that wasn’t the reason why we chose Comporta to build our first course in Europe. The number one factor is who you work for and the Espírito Santo family tick all the boxes. Right from the start, we’ve been impressed by the stability, the commitment, the dedication and the support of the Espírito Santo family. When Logan came back from his first visit he said, ‘Dad, that’s the group we want to work for.’”
Nonetheless, the Comporta property is undeniably impressive. Pure sand, it lies less than a kilometre from the Atlantic, although the high seawall dune that separates it from the ocean means the water will be in view from only a few places on the site. Undulating rather than hilly, the property contains a number of substantial valleys, enabling the designers to create golf holes that with large natural viewing areas around them. The last four holes in particular will be located in one huge natural bowl, creating a stadium effect should the Ryder Cup bid be successful. The site's pine trees, though, are less impressive than might have been the case had a parasite forced the cutting down of most of the best specimens.
European Golf Design, the firm that created the Twenty Ten course at Celtic Manor, host to the most recent Ryder Cup, has been working with the Fazio team to create a staging plan as part of the bid document. The course is designed to accommodate up to 50,000 spectators per day.
Comporta is the first stage in the planned development of the Alentejo coast, which could eventually include eight golf courses and up to 32 hotels.
A decision on which of the five bidding nations will win the Ryder Cup is expected in the spring.